Is Risk and Safety Perfectionism a Disorder?
A VERY thought provoking article from Dr Rob Long from www.humandymensions.com
The quest for absolute certainty and claims for absolute control by advocates of the perfection of zero is the foundation of the absurd claim that ‘all accidents are preventable’. The denial of fallibility and human finiteness has no place in a human approach to learning and living with risk. The elevation of hindsight bias as some form of intelligence for determining risk is simply nonsense. Only perfect people achieve zero, only perfect people achieve infinity. Zero and infinity are one and the same.
People have always been suckers for those who tell us they can know the future. Plenty of fortune tellers still exist, exploiting the vulnerability of those that wish to know and control the future. If one can predict the future then one must be either superhuman or god. The quest for absolute predictability is an absurd quest that denies the free will of humans, the randomness of events and the realities of uncertainty. Nothing blows apart the delusion of perfection and infinity ascribed to humans more than randomness and luck.
Taleb (“The Black Swan” – see his video below – very enlightening, technology, efficiency and complexity is extremely fragile! Random events can hurt you more than predictable events etc etc) describes the condition that claims predictability as a ‘disorder’, a kind of risk and a safety psychological state. He says: ‘The mental block about the future has not yet been investigated and labelled by psychologists, but it appears to resemble autism … Autistic people cannot put themselves in the shoes of others, cannot view the world from their standpoint. They see others as inanimate objects, like machines, moved by explicit rules. They cannot perform such simple mental operations as ‘he knows that I know that I know,’ and it is this inability that impedes their social skills.’ People with autism struggle to manage uncertainty and yet have remarkable intelligence when it comes to mathematical and technical subjects. It reads like Taleb would put the love of zero ideology on the DSMIV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV Edition)
The ideology of zero must take a trajectory of zero tolerance, any philosophy of absolutes and perfection must not accept the mistakes of humans. Zero tolerance is a simplistic concept imposed upon the complexity of what it means to be human. As sure as zero tolerance is enacted as a policy, people will suffer from its enforcement, usually metered out devoid of compassion, understanding and appreciation of complexity. Zero tolerance may sound great in tabloid news but things don’t operate that way in the realities and maturity of the court. However, tabloid thinking likes zero tolerance, especially when it is delivered to ‘other’ people. Zero tolerance is never good for us, we prefer understanding, tolerance and forgiveness when we make mistakes. The amputation of hands for stealing or appendages for adultery demonstrate the brutality of zero tolerance. Have we learnt so little from history?
I was browsing the net the other day and came across an organization that proudly promoted themselves as ‘zero risk’. How on earth can this make sense? How can one live without risk? How can one learn without risk? How can the aversion of risk lead to healthy social outcomes? The fear of risk and punishment for imperfection can only drive a toxic culture not a mature culture.