On a Hiding to Nothing

imageOne of the aphorisms associated with despair and hopelessness is said to ‘be on a hiding to nothing’. To be on a hiding to nothing describes the pointless pursuit of something that cannot be attained. The saying comes out of the gambling industry first mentioned in the novel Mop Fair. The saying beautifully captures the trajectory of any organization that choses to identify with the ideology of zero.

This week we heard about Rio Tinto blasting a 46,000 year old Aboriginal site (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-29/ken-wyatt-says-traditional-owners-tried-to-stop-rio-tinto-blast/12299944 ). Zero harm indeed!

There’s nothing quite like bragging and parading an ideology in front of everyone and then being crucified by it. We witnessed it recently with the exposing of the sham of DuPont’s fake ideology (https://safetyrisk.net/dark-waters-the-true-story-of-dupont-and-zero/). Nothing quite like abject hypocrisy to bring down the credibility of an ideology.

The fraudulent claims of organisations anchored to zero, is so easy to expose, because zero is impossible. If you chose zero you’re on a hiding to nothing. Workers with half a brain will be able to ‘pick you off’ like scabs on an infected sore.

What we saw with DuPont in Dark Waters was breath taking. Here is an organization for decades bragging about safety, STOP and zero and all the time knowing harming people, families, community and the environment! And yet the global mantra for safety is zero (http://visionzero.global/node/6).

Of course in zero there can be no vision or Hope. When you are ‘on a hiding to nothing’, all Hope is lost. Of course you will find no discussion or an Ethic of Hope or an Ethic of Risk in the AIHS BoK. Yet Hope is the key to resiliencing (https://safetyrisk.net/ecological-resiliencing/).

A world renowned archaeologist described the actions of Rio Tinto as equal to the Islamic State’s destruction of Palmyra. Such is the ‘belief’ in zero.

In Australian terms it would be like blowing up Uluru because there was an ounce of gold underneath.

Of course, you only entrap yourself in the language and discourse of zero because of a worldview fixated on numbers and a dumb binary question. There are plenty of valid worldviews about safety they neither need the language of and hypocrisy of zero or, the dumb binary thinking associated with counting the absence of something to prove the presence of something else.

Fortunately, there are some organisations that get it. I am working with one global organization at present that has finally realized they are on a hiding to nothing! When zero is gone, conversation starts. When zero is gone than learning can start. When zero is gone vision returns and new possibilities and Hope can be realized.

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.

8 Replies to “On a Hiding to Nothing”

  1. The Rio Tinto web site……..”We see ourselves as long-term stewards of natural resources including land and water, and continually look for ways to improve local natural resource management practices and contribute to the conservation of sensitive ecosystems. We have robust standards that clearly articulate what is required from our sites in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem services management, emissions control and waste management. This ensures that our sites act as responsible stewards of the lands and waters where we operate. For example, in Australia, we are working with Indigenous people to rehabilitate land using ancient seeds.”


    The Australian Human Rights Law Centre claims the mining giant Rio Tinto remains responsible for multiple human rights violations caused by pollution from the Panguna mine on Bougainville.



    1. There’s nothing quite like rank hypocrisy to erode a message and put petrol in the tank of cynicism. Most workers know that zero etc is BS, most workers simply tolerate the noise from above and the nonsense of orthodoxies, including safety orthodoxies like zero, and just get on with real life knowing that safety is no help and doesn’t come near them unless something goes wrong. The last person they are going to confess to in Rio is a safety person.

      When you frame your sense of care through zero you can be assured, there is no care.

  2. It is most intriguing how the forthcoming online national conference from our peak safety body with an alleged focus on power and politics fails to disclose or discuss such systemic issues, despite providing a collective voice for the profession and advocating with courage on policy to improve legislation, regulation and standards.

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