Is Harm and Suffering Evil?

Is Harm and Suffering Evil?

imageIs fallibility and mortality wrong? Is harm the enemy of safety? Are all accidents preventable? Are mistakes bad? Is it wrong to be human? Is risk essential to learning? Can people learn without risk? Is ‘trial and error’ a problem? What does it mean to be human? What is personhood? And what creates an educated person? Is it wrong to suffer? Why do we suffer? Is the suffering the trade-off for fallibility and learning? Is movement and process essential for learning?

All of these questions and many similar, are challenges one cannot consider without the language, thinking and hermeneutic of metaphysics and theology. These questions require a hermeneutic (theory of interpretation) that can speak about being (phenomenology and ontology) and about transcendence (non-material existence). Disciplines that are materialist and pragmatist like safety don’t have a hermeneutic to even consider such challenging questions nor is it something Safety practices or has the language to explore. This is why when the safety worldview seeks answers to these questions it ends up talking about matters of faith and the symbolism of zero. Ah, we will be perfect one day.

The study of hermeneutics and transcendence have a strong tradition in the interpretation of biblical, wisdom and philosophical texts. Wikepedia states ( ):

‘Modern hermeneutics includes both verbal and non-verbal communication as well as semiotics, presuppositions, and pre-understandings. Hermeneutics has been broadly applied in the humanities, especially in law, history and theology’.

Hermeneutics was originally applied to interpretation or exegesis but the transliteration of texts is also known as eisegesis. This is the free adaptation of text without a hermeneutical methodology. Eisegesis is a form of speculation from a position of reading a text without a context or grammar for understanding.

When it comes to the industry of safety one looks at the constant struggle against fallibility and mortality in the discourse of zero. This is because safety has no hermeneutic with which to understand the questions of suffering. The language of science, regulation and engineering has no hermeneutic to even tackle these challenging questions. So where would one start? Well certainly not with the idea that fallibility is evil or that mortality is wrong? Indeed, the very notion of what it is to be a person and to human is framed on the necessities of being. This is why safety without a hermeneutic talks about fallibility as some kind of ‘defilement’, using religious language seeking salvation in countering ‘human error’. Reason’s classic model of ‘violations’ and ‘acts’ is founded on an assumption of the symbolism of blemish, stain, sin, missing the mark, trespass and evil, symbolically represented in the Bradley Curve ( ). The Bradley Curve is simply a reconstruction of the Augustinian construction of original sin. Have a look at the emphasis on ‘natural instincts’ to commit error and how safety is the savior from all harm.

The study of human ‘being’ was first tackled by the school of Phenomenology founded by Husserl, Heidegger and Ricoeur. Ricoeur’s work ‘Fallible Man’ (not for the faint hearted) is an excellent piece on the symbolism of evil and the necessity of fallibility. In reading Ricoeur one steps out of the masculinst theological constructs of binary power so common in safety symbology and the construction of god as some kind of dominant oppressor. When one moves into the vocation of ‘saving lives’ one embarks on a discourse of salvation or what theologians know as soteriology ( ). It is no wonder that so much of safety is consumed by perfectionist, religious, fallibility-denial, religious symbolism and language.

safety theologyThe trouble with safety in trying to tackle the big questions about suffering, being and fallibility is that it seeks to discredit the non-scientific assumptions of transcendence. Science has no understanding of semiotics, the cosmic, onerific and poetic dimensions of thinking and being. Non-scientific methodologies are often thought of as ‘primitive’ by science yet, in our post-scientific age and post-texual age so much of secular culture is infused with transcendent signs, symbols, narrative and thinking. One only has to observe the many movies in popular culture like the blockbusters of the Matrix, Star Wars, Avatar, Inception, Batman, Ghostbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, and Lord of the Rings to see that the post-text world is infused with a fascination with the sacred, being and fallibility.

So, without some kind of transdisciplinary study ( in philosophy, metaphysics or theology, it is not likely soon that safety will know that it is trapped in its own making of zero and the fixation with counting, hoping one day for immortality. Meanwhile in the real world, where wisdom and discernment are the marks of maturity in Real Risk, safety remains silent because it has framed its worldview on an alternative religious mythology.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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