Safety’s Garden of Eden Complex
One of the enduring myths of the risk and safety industry is the naive belief in paradise. Paradise is that mythical place where no-ne will be harmed. We see this nonsense yearning for utopia demonstrated in the Bradley Curve and the ideological nonsense of zero harm. The yearning for a place of no harm (u-topia mean ‘no place’) is known as the Garden of Eden Effect. The opposite of utopia is called dystopia.
Most theological scholars acknowledge the myth/symbolism of the Garden of Eden narrative as a method for explaining suffering, pain, and knowledge of good and evil. Of course there is no Garden of Eden where there is no learning and movement indeed, the biblical story itself is founded on such a contradiction. Adam and Eve were not perfect neither were they infallible. The story is about the profound humanness of the Adam and Eve not some idealist utopia called ‘paradise’. The construction of Utopia/Paradise and the Eden myth is the work of Reformed theology. The same reformed theology is embedded in the Bradley Curve and Dekker’s theology on suffering (The End of Heaven, Disaster and Suffering in a Scientific Age).
The vision for u-topia (no place) was first articulated by Thomas Moore in 1516 in his book Utopia, a fictional island in the South Atlantic. At about the same time Thomas Muntzer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_M%C3%BCntzer) was preaching and politicizing in Germany about creating a real utopia in Europe. Muntzer’s utopia came all terribly undone resulting in The Peasants War (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Peasants%27_War) and the rise of Martin Luther and the Reformation.
The yearning for utopia is the craving for zero, the craving for zero is the yearning of utopia. A place where there is no pain and suffering, no harm or risk. Utopia is a place where everything must be known and foreknowledge eradicates risk. Of course, Utopia can only be real for infallible humans. The eradication of risk is the eradication of all movement, motion and learning. In the myth of Adam and Eve they were not perfect infallible beings nor was the Garden a static place.
Utopianism creates a political paradigm, this is the dynamic of zero vision which we learned recently was proudly supported by that professional organization the SIA (http://visionzero.global/vision-zero-partners; https://www.sia.org.au/events/safety-governance-how-informed-your-board-about-managing-damage). There can be nothing professional in an organization that may be branded ‘professional’ but denies fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/). Governance under the rubric of Zero is anti-human, anti-learning, anti-risk and must have a political trajectory of brutalism. Muntzer discovered this the hard way resulting in his own execution.
In rejecting the necessity of human ‘being’ and fallibility, Risk and Safety has concocted this false consciousness for Utopia (https://safetyrisk.net/false-consciousness-and-perception-in-risk-and-safety/ ). How strange that one’s anxiety about risk and one’s delusional fear of harm should engineer such a fiction. How fascinating to watch Risk and Safety align with fundamentalist theology constructed about ‘the fall’, the Adam and Eve myth and the denial of fallibility. This is why Safety has now taken on such a religious and political discourse (https://safetyrisk.net/no-evidence-for-the-religion-of-zero/). Hardly the look for a profession?
Of course, there can never be a total system (Amalberti), there can never be utopia (Rothstein – Visions of Utopia) or paradise because this implies the eradication of fallible humans. Fallible humans under the rubric of zero must become the new political enemy. The key to effective governance is; understanding, trust, care, listening, empathy and reflection, there can be none of this in zero. When the ungodly stand in the way of the pious, they have no right to live, this was Muntzer’s method. There can be no tolerance in zero.
If you want to have a laugh about the dream of utopia and the ideology of total systems just watch an episode of ABCs Utopia (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACpFryexkOo&list=PLyrBgJwBduC_a6bgpVicqdRxw2DEfl92B&index=3&pbjreload=10). In this episode one learns about the failings of utopian dreaming. In reality where humans live, there are no heroes, no saviors and no ‘engineered’ resilience. It was Reinhold Neibuhr who described the quest for utopia as the manufacture of the ‘divine laugh’. Like Pope’s ‘erring human’ (https://safetyrisk.net/to-err-is-human-to-forgive-divine/) only complete forgiveness can be divine.
The key to being fallibly human in risk is to learn from failed utopias not promote them. Real professionals ‘help’ and ‘serve’, they don’t ‘govern’. Governance is the language of social politics not profession. What needs to be professed (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/profess) is not the religious language of zero but the language of learning in risk.