SHE’s lost control again
No one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it
She’s lost control again is a track from the rock band Joy Division (Freudenabteilungen), which featured on their debut album entitled Unknown Pleasures released in June 1979. The group hailed from Salford near Manchester and borrowed its name from the sexual slavery wing of a Nazi concentration camp in the House of Dolls novella written by Ka-tzetnik 135633.
In the 1930s, the slogan Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) was used to counteract the scourge of unemployment across Germany and eventually appeared above the entrance gates of Auschwitz, Mauthausen-Gusen and many other death camps during the second world war. It promised liberation but the eventual outcome with its devastating humanitarian consequences was not the kind anyone wanted or envisaged.
The mechanisation of slaughter began with exclusion, dehumanisation, internment and atrocity, which is a biproduct of apathy and the bastard child of a complacent public. An insidious impiety was embedded into language and quotidian transactions until it induced a collective paralysis and the inertia became normalcy. This dehumanisation of others via prejudice, racism, narcissism, solipsism and intimidation sets us on a slippery slope to barbarism.
Many decades have passed since the killing fields of Hawks Nest, Aberfan, Farmington or Moura 4 but cohorts of vulnerable workers including many temporary migrants are toiling in Australian gulags or sweatshops. The precarious employment arrangements are typically mundane McJobs, which are readily available throughout the agricultural, horticultural, retail, health and aged care sectors and often embellished by parasitic labour hiring or recruitment agencies.
Much like most superficial western democracies, the Australian economy is underpinned by a ruthless feudal system of indentured servitude, peonage or serfdom, which is reminiscent of blackbirding. More recently, it is fashionably and somewhat deviously referred to as a gig economy, which disguises many sinister neoliberal features that secure and protect the interests of the powerful over the powerless. A shallow and furtive engagement process obscures and further complicates statutory duty of care requirements and provides many notorious corporate brigands with a malevolent freedom to harm.
The volatile predicament is often antagonised by wages of fear with stagnant remuneration, underemployment, wage theft, escalating costs and declining living standards, which have generated a pecuniary subsistence and deracinated any reliance on job security. Many demoralised and embittered precariats endure a rapidly diminishing range of sociopolitical, cultural and economic opportunities and a miasma of anomie emerges amidst the escalating insecurity, anxiety and despair. It inevitably cultivates alienation and anger with a profound intolerance and distrust towards colleagues and strangers, which destroys communities of practice and extirpates learning, especially tacit knowledge.
In Australia, the current work health and safety structure, which includes the Safe Work Australia strategy, the work health and safety curriculum and the OHS Body of Knowledge is a patriarchal architecture of oppression and merely an extension of F W Taylor’s principles of scientific management.
This is sanctioned via adversarial legislation, which advocates a preventive, systematic and consultative risk management approach. It is often exacerbated by the Deming Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle and black box psychology of behaviourism and places an inordinate emphasis on scientism, objectivism and positivism using stentorian and intimidating language. This focuses on command, control, indoctrination, compliance and enforcement and is reinforced via the notorious hierarchy of controls, which is enshrined in statutory health and safety legislation. It is a binary scientific model borrowed from the field of occupational hygiene and advocates a safe working environment over a safer person and subsequently disregards the inherently subjective nature of risk.
Science and technology often advance knowledge of ourselves and the world we inhabit although they require a sense of humility, which is frequently appears beyond our capabilities. We are not conquerors of our bodies, the planet or the universe and if we imagine we are, we will soon find out that the battle we are waging is one we can never hope to win.
Despite the establishment of many women in safety and health networks occupational health and safety remains an extremely patriarchal discipline and it is far more profound than men just exercising power. It is about the organisation of power according to masculinist discourse, which determines how it is embedded in language and its trajectory. Patriarchy and matriarchy are not about being male or female. Females can be patriarchal and males can be matriarchal regardless of branding or spin. Gender can be used as a source of power to manipulate and dominate others of any sex. The issue of power is how it is enacted and what its abuse does to others, especially when it objectifies and dehumanises people.
Patriarchal safety is addicted to bureaucratic systems, which means it is no longer required to converse, help, motivate or listen to people. Much like the recent Centrelink – Services Australia collaboration it merely administers a system and wields sufficient unaccountable power via behavioural economics or nudge theory to guarantee compliance. This generates a justification of working over people and not with them and it is more about blind obedience rather than questioning, reflecting, learning, discovery embodiment and personhood.
Meanwhile, following recent federal parliament scandals involving sexual harassment and bullying an ecclesiastical Australian prime minister announced the appointment of a Prime Minister for Women to reinforce Australian values:
1) What power have you got?
2) Where did you get it from?
3) In whose interests do you exercise it?
4) To whom are you accountable?
5) How do we get rid of you?
This was also reinforced by the late Michael Foot FRSL who once proclaimed….Men of power have no time to read, yet men who do not read are unfit for power.