Memorials and Monuments, A Lesson in What is NOT Said
One of the essential skills in critical thinking is being able to ask critical questions. Questions such as: what can I NOT see? What is NOT being said? What can I NOT hear? What text is omitted? What language is NOT spoken? Are all critical questions to help discern loaded political bias and what is being silenced. It is easy to absorb what is present but much more difficult to discern what is being intentionally pushed to the background. Zero ideology is a classic example of how numeric and metrics are privileged in discourse and how silence about persons, helping and community are pushed to the background.
I live in a city of monuments. Canberra as the National Capital of Australia has about as many monuments, statues and memorials as there are people. A semiotic walk of these is revealing, especially when considering what is normalized politically and culturally. For example, the memorial to peace is hidden away from thoroughfares and hard to find and is about the size of a double bed. Its fountain has been broken for 10 years and you can walk all over it (https://www.nca.gov.au/attractions-and-memorials/peace-park). If I asked many Canberrans ‘where is Peace Park?’ they couldn’t tell you.
However, when it comes to war, spare no expense. The Australian War Memorial is elevated and dominates the Parliamentary Triangle and is about to have an extension at the cost of about $500 million. This is what I mean by what is said and not said. This is how populations normalize attitudes, values and beliefs. Indeed, the whole of one side of the Parliamentary Triangle is committed to the advancement of war. This is not some pacifist assessment, it’s just the pure geography of size and attributed significance. If this is what our society values and accepts then this is what it normalizes. It doesn’t matter whether one agrees with this fact, it is what Australian political culture normalizes.
In risk and safety the same is abundantly clear. Just look at what dominates the safety skyline, PPE. Go to any safety site online and see what is emphasized and symbolically normalized, PPE. Go to any zero vision organization and see what is amplified, counting.
There is no doubt about the culture of safety, it normalizes and amplifies the importance of objects such as PPE and attenuates the importance of: people, persons, helping, community and caring. There is nothing more important to safety than care of objects. So if you like counting, just have a look at the AIHS Body of Knowledge and see what gets prominence and then ask what doesn’t make its pages. This is how safety normalizes the importance of objects over subjects.
Another fascinating observation about monuments and memorials is the amount of myth and symbolism invoked by non-existent creatures and Greek legend. If you go into the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial (https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/visitor-information/features/hall-of-memory ) there are goblins, unicorns, centaurs, Egyptian mythology, Roman mythology and a host of religious symbols throughout. We all happily accept this conflagration and consider it normal to the memorial of war. Safety does the same with the deification of safety heroes and similar indoctrination of children (https://www.ergon.com.au/network/safety/safety-heroes). How interesting that normal day-to-day risk is not the concern of safety, it’s the super heroes that are promoted as anchored to the management of risk. No wonder you need an encyclopedia of paperwork to manage slips trips and falls. If you promote safety as the domain of heroes, you devalue the everyday and normal process of tackling risk. Perhaps this is why many safety people are overpaid compared to the professions of: teaching, nursing, childcare and community work.
When it comes to memorials and monuments size and elevation is of great importance. Size and height are always a fundamental way of saying what is important and what is insignificant. This is how we immortalize things so they are larger than life.
I’ll leave you with one memorial that is in Fremantle on the main boardwalk on the foreshore, a tribute to Bon Scott, lead singer of AC/DC well known for debauchery, alcoholism and drug abuse. Bon died at age 33 in the back of a Renault in 1975 of a drug/alcohol overdose. Bon has his own gate entry at the Fremantle Cemetery.
There is nothing in Bon’s memory that tells the reality of his life other than online . This is how we immortalize myths and legends, cultural normalizing values and beliefs.
The dynamics that normalize values and beliefs in monuments and memorials are exactly the same in risk and safety where heroes, saviours and myths are normalized and symbolized in the cult of zero. When your global mantra is the denial of fallibility, your only way forward can be to deify the hero, use religious language in the promotion of safety (https://safetyrisk.net/heaven-n-hell-and-the-safety-religion/) and create symbolic perfection, where there is none.