It’s the –ism That Matters

It’s the –ism That Matters

safetyismThere’s nothing wrong with wanting to be safe but Safetyism is a psychosis (see: The Sickness of Safetyism). There’s nothing wrong with Science but scientism is dehumanizing. There is nothing wrong with being rational but rationalism warps a sense of human ‘being’. The notion of an ‘ism’ infers taking political sides, and making an idea political.

When something becomes an ideology it enters a new dynamic with hidden political power and distortions in trade-offs and by-products. When a good idea is made the ‘only’ idea or ‘an all governing idea’, an absolute, then it takes on a whole new ‘politic’ and social imbalance (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13569317.2018.1502941).

It is often under the power of an ism that abuse is normalized for the power of the ideology.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be communal but commun-ism is toxic. There’s nothing wrong with being social, but social-ism takes on a whole new meaning for how the Ideology expects us to live and behave. (Ideologies are like Archetypes, they take on a life of their own).

There’s nothing wrong with believing in some fundamentals but fundamental-ism commands total unquestioned compliance. Fundamentalism knows only black and white, you’re in or out. We know something has become an Ideology because it ushers in political fear and any sense of dialectic or balance is demonized as an anti the ideology. Any criticism of the ideology is then symbolized as taboo and thus strengthens the religious power of the Ideology itself.

Unfortunately, sometimes the power of the Archetype in an Ideology promotes ideological attraction eg. Capital, Safety. In such things even by name there is no neutrality. It seems like the power of Capital drives to Capitalism and the power of Safety drives to Safetyism. We see this with the ideology of Zero. There’s nothing wrong with wanting no one to be harmed at work but when Zeroism takes hold in an organisation it becomes an all encompassing political/religious force that will accept no debate or dissent. All ideologies demand total compliance and as an Ideology demand blind following as an ‘all governing idea’.

The power of Safetyism can be observed in recent moves in Australia to bring in facial recognition into several of our cities. (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jun/12/perth-councils-facial-recognition-trial-accused-of-blanket-surveillance). Despite the fact that facial recognition technology is not neutral and is only a tool, it is justified in the name of ‘safety’, regardless of trade-offs and by-products. When safety is used to justify a social political you can quickly recognize the Ideology of Safety at work because it uses fear and propaganda as a weapon.

Interestingly, in the place where the many tech industries developed facial recognition technology it has been banned because of its unhealthy by-products and trade offs! (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html). Ideology abuses and absolute ideology abuses absolutely, because it develops a life of its own. It seems only in dumb Australia that we worship Safety.

Sometimes people who don’t understand ideology or social politics get this strange idea that I don’t want or like safety. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it’s more likely that they have been captured by the ideology and don’t know it.

Understanding the nature of ideology and archetypes ought to be foundational for anyone in safety. Because, in the end Safetyism doesn’t care about safety, it cares about political compliance.

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.

3 Replies to “It’s the –ism That Matters”

  1. It’s not only in Australia. In the UK. The leading OH&S body is canvassing for. Health and Safety leader of the year!
    One of the leading contenders proudly boosts of her crusade in promoting zero harm.
    This is the same body which lead a poll asking the readers of its magazine to rank the five concepts of teaching the health and safety message. By far the biggest response was the necessity of a “big stick” approach if people do not respond.
    You couldn’t make it up. It’s so frustrating that this nonsense has enormous traction.

    1. Hi Andrew. Strangely I’m not sure which UK OH&S body you are referring to. Since it is always important to keep an eye on who is doing what (!), please could you clarify?

  2. Thanks Andrew. The singular ideology of positivism plagues the industry which is why it resists anything outside of its solo. The mythology that punitive action works is founded on this. And so, despite all the evidence to the contrary the industry remain committed to the same course of action regardless of the fact that such an approach doesn’t work. The big stick just fills the jails and starts wars.

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