Loathing Fallibility and Rituals of Safety
I was in the Post Office yesterday and despite the markings on the floor, some people didn’t maintain the appropriate social distance. There were 3 people at the counter and one person was asked to wait while the attendant searched out back for an order. One of the people behind then walked up to the counter making it 4 and then came this loud outburst, ‘stay away from me’, ‘what do you think you are doing’ and ‘get back, get away’. As there was no movement they then withdrew themselves to an isolated place in the store and waited.
COVID has amplified a range of feelings and emotions connected with pollution, disgust, taboo and uncleanness. Touch has not just been made a taboo but a whole new set of greeting rituals have been created to compensate for no touching. The fear of contamination has been normalized by COVID and our mortality, fallibility and vulnerability to has been amplified. We when stand apart in a store, wear a mask or sanitise our hands we confirm our fallibility, vulnerability and mortality.
In ancient civilizations many laws, taboos and rules/rituals were created to ensure purity from contamination. The Book of Leviticus in the Bible lists hundreds of rituals/rules to maintain purity. This included rules/rituals about what animals to eat, what diseases to avoid, how to clean, rules for sacrifice, who your neighbour could be, rules for menstruation, festivals, worship, sexual behaviour etc. Other ancient cultures have similar rules/rituals for purity and taboo. Many rules and rituals concerned basic bodily functions like: eating, food types, social rules, defecating, eating and sexual rules. Across history groups have amplified the motion of disgust as a means of social control. Segregation, racism and discrimination are based on the emotion of social disgust and contamination.
I remember as a little kid playing games about being infected with the ‘germs’ of the opposite sex and of racist slurs on others who didn’t fit the dominant worldview. These kinds of ‘games’ are part of the indoctrination to accept discrimination and an ideology of purity. Similarly, Bettelheim (https://www.nytimes.com/1976/05/23/archives/the-uses-of-enchantment.html ) shows that many of our fairy tales and childish narratives embed prejudice, fear of contamination and impurity from an early age. Later when we are more further indoctrinated by similar narratives eg. harm is evil, such messages resonate and ring true.
When it comes to the loathing fallibility none do it better than Safety. When your ideology is zero then the enemy is fallibility, vulnerability and harm. When your language is ‘drift into failure’ then mortality and fallibility are the enemy. This was amplified by Augustine’s concoction of Original Sin, so deeply embedded in the DuPont Bradley Curve (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-curves-and-pyramids/ ; https://safetyrisk.net/nonsense-curves-and-pyramids/ ). It is from Augustine’s concoction that we get a church that despises the body and human embodiment. It is from here we get the elevation of the Mind over body and despising of the body as the source of evil. This is where we get the focus on brain-centrism.
Focusing on fallibility as a problem is foundational to the preoccupation of safety with zero. Rather than focus on the joys of fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/shop/ ) such as the experience of learning, discovery, creativity, risk and love, Safety demonises fallibility and risk as the enemy. When your ideology is zero, risk doesn’t make sense (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/risk-makes-sense/ ). Hmmm, ‘all accidents are preventable’ and ‘safety is a choice you make’ further enable the mythology of the corruption of fallibility.
You can see how this plays out in the global safety space with the appalling video ‘Spirit of Zero’ (https://safetyrisk.net/the-spirit-of-zero/ ). When your ideology is zero then deficit thinking and language are your gateway to loathing humanity (https://safetyrisk.net/the-deficit-focus-and-safety-balance/ ).
No wonder that safety is so attracted to the principles of eugenics (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-eugenics-and-the-engineering-of-risk-aversion/ ), heroics and transhumanism. In these philosophies, the enemy human is saved by robotics and AI, again the loathing of fallibility. Rather than understanding humanity and fallibility as a gift and joy, Safety becomes the work of the superhero who saves lives (https://safetyrisk.net/no-gurus-no-stars-no-heroes-needed-in-safety/ ). In these ideologies and associated ritual, we are indoctrinated to understand the ordinary and everyday activity of tackling risk as ‘wrong’ as ‘failure’. Moreover, such a state is insidious because we ‘drift’ into it unaware and unconscious of its evil. Similarly, suffering is also demonsised, hey but one day science will save us from the primitivism of theology.
All of these outcomes of loathing fallibility lead to unethical outcomes constructed by an industry consumed with purity and, rituals for purity because perfection is the goal and fallibility is demonised and never spoken (Mary Douglas – purity and danger)
This is what the quest for ritualized purity sounds like:
- So, if you follow these processes, thou shalt be ‘saved’,
- If you listen to the safety advice thou shalt be ‘saved’,
- If you wait for the hero thou shalt be ‘saved’,
- If you do these things eg. cardinal, golden, ‘life saving’ rules, thou shalt be ‘saved’,
- Safety ‘saves’,
- If you fill out the form to formula or some theory of useability thou shalt be ‘saved’,
- Just believe in zero, because zero ‘saves’.
- The more you repeat the same paperwork, the more you will be ‘saved’.
- Volume in paperwork, demonstrates being ‘saved’.
The more safety ritualizes itself (most often in ineffective paperwork), the more it anchors itself to soteriology, religious language and the quest for purity. No wonder the industry dehumanizes humans, feeds on blame and focuses so much on failure in its quest for righteousness. Despite the best of intentions any anchoring to zero makes Safety subculturally xenophobic, risk averse, psychotic, bigoted, fearful and delusional. If this kind of Safety is the savior, I’d rather not be saved.