-Ism or -ist, Does it Matter?

When you visit Old Parliament House in Canberra you will see signs telling you not to hold the handrail. (https://www.moadoph.gov.au/).

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These signs have been put in place because people have had severe burns to their hands. The structure is heritage listed and the handrails will not be changed.

In Safetyism (https://safetyrisk.net/the-sickness-of-safetyism/), compliance is King. One cannot interpret a rule, one must obey all rules and if the rule is hold the handrail or be sacked, then handrails must be held. When safety becomes a habit, thinking stops.

Of course, there are other public places now in my city that warn people not to hold handrails because of Covid-19 (https://safetyrisk.net/dont-hold-the-hand-rail/).

Usually when we refer to an -ism we identify an ideology, an idea that has been made an all encompassing methodology eg. capital-capitalism, conservative-conservativism, Marx-Marxism, feminine-Feminism, pagan-paganism, race-racism and safety-Safetyism.

Ideologies tend to take on a life of their own like archetypes, and the -ism becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, ideologies often take on the absolute such that life and living is perceived through the lens of the –ism. When an ideology is an –ism it becomes a movement and gathers those who share support for the ideology as an ingroup. The ingroup use the ideology and its language to define who belongs and who is in the outgroup. This is often done by knowing and accepting ingroup language and rejecting outgroup language. You know who is in the ingroup by what language they use and what they chose to be silent about.

It is possible however, to be part of a movement or a group and appreciate aspects of the movement without buying the whole ‘box and dice’. For example, one can be a Catholist but not be committed ideologically to Catholicism. I know many people who identify as Catholist but don’t accept the ideology of Catholicism. Similarly one could be a safetyist without being into safetyism (https://safetyrisk.net/its-the-ism-that-matters/ ).

The ideology of safetyism views the world through the ideological lens of technique (Ellul), positivism and behaviourism. Safetyism is most easyily recognised when the word ‘safety’ is used as adjective before everything or the anchor in text. Safetyism is easily recognised when models and language of safety are used without critical thought.

Safetyism is focused on ideological territory, power through safety, persons as objects and sub-sets of systems, science and engineering such that people are made objects to control and thinking about safety is considered a problem (safety is a choice you make).
One of the best indicators of Safetyism is the defining language of zero and this is because ideologies want absolutes. –isms want an ethic of absolute compliance, all or nothing, black and white. This is the ethic of duty, what ethicists call deontology. This is what the AIHS BoK on Ethics is about, a perfect foundation for the growth of compliance to Zero.

The difference between an –ism and an -ist is not one of semantics or linguistics but rather about the approach one takes to decisions as an ideology or an outcome. Safetyism views life through the lens of safety and the a safetyist views safety through by the lens of life. Safetyism doesn’t think and complies, whilst the safetyist thinks about whether complying makes sense. The dilemma for Safetyism is context, when breaking a rule is the best way to keep safe. This is the problem with Cardinal Rules.

The question now is whether you are into Safetyism or are you safetyist?

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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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.

4 Replies to “-Ism or -ist, Does it Matter?”

  1. Dear Matthew,

    Why not go the whole nine yards and take out AIHS membership and register for the forthcoming virtual conference. It has nothing to do with safety.

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