If you want to know about culture it’s best not to read mythology peddled by Safety. There is no better example of this than this a recent piece in the SHP Practitioner (UK). One thing is for sure, when Safety spins out nonsense like this you know the opposite is the reality. First some context.
The Australian Legend was written by Russell Ward (https://archive.org/details/australianlegend0000ward_o1p5) in 1958 based on concocted myth. The myth proposes nonsense cultural qualities as ‘Australian’ that have more to do with Ward’s imagination and Indigenous nomadic workers of the 1950s. When I studied History in 1970-74 Ward’s work was already being ‘trashed’ by respected historians best exemplified by the published PhD of Rob Pascoe (The Manufacture of Australian History). Pascoe deconstructed works like Ward, Clarke and other Histories at the time as, cultural myth making. A good deconstruction of the myth of the Australian Legend is here: https://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/13239/2/02Whole.pdf
Whilst this is not the place to discuss Historiography, one can be sure that Safety has no interest in such nor any interest in reality, when a good myth will do. Similarly, to trot out these myths as somehow culturally relevant demonstrates an amateurish approach to both history and culture.
There is simply not enough space to cover all of the nonsense in this article but let’s start with a few.
The first classic is this: ‘Aussies have been punching above their weight’ of course a metaphor regurgitating myth to ‘pump of the tyres’ of cultural insecurity. The metaphor conjures up this idea that somehow Australians, more than other culture, achieve more with less. (If I was to apply this myth to another culture I think there is greater applicability to Finland).
Then to couple academics like Dekker and Hopkins as evidence of this is just anchored jingoism. Neither Dekker or Hopkins exemplify any of the myths that follow, nor is their work more than a collection of concepts. In Hopkins case, mostly borrowed from Weick. Neither propose a methodology or method.
The next myth in the article is the notion of ‘fair play’ or ‘fair go’ as if this sense of justice is uniquely Australian, which it is not. Just more jingoism and mythology. What is most comical is this stuff isn’t even regurgitated by an Aussie!
Those who know neither culture nor psychology use the expression ‘subconscious’, a pejorative expression for the unconscious dating back to the split between Freud and Jung. The use of the term indicates a lack of expertise in the nature of the human unconscious. To then attribute this ‘subconscious’ to perception shows a lack of knowledge about research into cognitive neuropsychology. Never mind, the mythology suits the purpose of Safety.
The idea that there is an ‘Aussie Mentality’ such as ‘the fair go’, is the stuff of Ward’s legend. If you want to look at the lack of ‘fair go’ in Australian over the past 10 years, just explore the realities of the Indue card and Robodebt (https://robodebt.royalcommission.gov.au/) – the opposite is the case. Typical of Safety. Hey Safety, why let reality get in the way of a useable cultural myth?
How amusing then that the article uses a Kiwi story (The World’s Fastest Indian) to exemplify an Australian myth. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Surely a dose of Gallipoli or Breaker Morant might have been a better anchor? Never mind, we soon get to the inevitable reference to Crocodile Dundee as if Paul Hogan’s fictional character is somehow typical of an Australian ‘mindset’ (whatever that means). Then contradict the comment by reference to Borat as a myth of Kazakhstan.
In the end I couldn’t work out the purpose of this mythological article into faux Australian History or the connection of mythical jingoism to safety. Neither have much to do with Australian culture, reality or safety. Then again, when it comes to the project of Behaviourism, nothing seems to make sense except the power of compliance to systems and the focus on behaviours. So, throwing about some ahistorical mythology and concocted ideas about culture is consistent for an industry that is yet to be professional, engage in critical thinking or consider an ethic of risk.
Of course, central to an understanding of culture is understanding myth (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329992241_MYTH_AS_A_PHENOMENON_OF_CULTURE) and so this article serves as a great example.
The centrality of myth (symbol and ritual) to culture is of no interest to behaviourism because it cannot be quantified because it is understood through experience. Yet myth is exemplified in this article by what is believed and this tells us a great deal about the culture of safety. So, the article serves a useful purpose for deconstructing the culture of safety.
In a SPoR study of culture we explore the centrality of myth and symbol to culture and use some practical tools (Figure 1. Myths and Symbols and, Figure 2. Symbols and Myths)Ó
Figure 1 Myths and Symbols
Figure 2. Symbols and Myths
We use these simple tools in SPoR to help deconstruct the perpetuation of mythologies like exemplified in this article. These are just two of the tools used in SPoR in understanding culture that help in tackling culture as a wicked problem, you just won’t get anything like this in safety that is practical, positive and constructive that can help tackle the realities of what culture is about.
Brian Edwin Darlington says
Dear Rob, as always a fantastic and insightful blog, hanks for sharing.