Sin-Eaters for Safety
Cemeteries are a treasure trove in semiotics. They not only convey history but also much about what humans think about life and death. In our Introduction to Semiotics (https://cllr.com.au/product/semoiotics-and-the-social-psychology-of-risk-unit-3/) and Advanced Semiotics (https://cllr.com.au/product/advanced-semiotics-masterclass-module-19/) Modules we undertake semiotic walks to learn from cemeteries. The ability to read monuments and memorials artefacts (https://semioticon.com/semiotix/2018/03/monuments-and-memorials-in-changing-societies-a-semiotic-and-geographical-approach/) is a fundamental skill in developing semiotic and cultural sensitivity. When one understands the world as a semiosphere then one envisions risk very differently. Understanding semiotics enlivens one to unconscious messaging and messaging to the unconscious.
One of the key messages one gets from reading memorials, monuments and cemeteries is what humans think about life, risk and death. One of the advantages of living in Canberra is to study the endless National monuments across the city and to read what these say about our National consciousness and what popular culture tells us it means to be Australian. Australia Day is also another time when many monuments and memorials are visited and their significance invoked into cultural folklore. For example, the National Workers Memorial (https://www.nationalworkersmemorial.gov.au/) is worth a study in it’s own right as a testimony to what we think about fatalities in the workplace. This was discussed in my latest book Envisioning Risk (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/).
If I was in England I would love to visit the grave of the last sin eater (https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/grave-of-the-last-sin-eater-richard-munslow). What an insight into medieval superstition and thoughts about death and the after-life.
Sin eating was an insurance policy against condemnation and a ticket to heaven. In this practice/ritual paupers would take on the sins of someone who had just died so that that soul of the deceased could go to heaven. The ritual was undertaken in case the person who died had not had a chance to confess their sins before death. Similarly, the ritual of ‘last rites’ serves as a covering off of all bases for a home run. You can read more sin eaters here: http://www.thelibraryofmyth.com/uploads/5/8/1/6/58166339/geist_-_the_sin-eaters.pdf
Maybe this is akin to organisations that offer a company a pathway to safety heaven (https://safetyrisk.net/heaven-n-hell-and-the-safety-religion/). Don’t you know ‘safety saves’.
It is astounding the superstitious practices humans create in the face of the denial of death (https://humanposthuman.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/ernest_becker_the_denial_of_deathbookfi-org.pdf). Similar superstitious practices/rituals are amplified in the safety sector as if certain practices invoke the prevention of harm. No doubt many complete SWMS, Bow-Ties and a host of other ritual safety practices under the delusion that such rituals are insurance from harm. This is the power of ‘set and forget’ and ‘tick and flick’. Most times when I ask people what is in a SWMS they can’t tell me, they just signed it so they could get on with the job.
It is amazing the number of rituals and processes Safety invents that are unnecessary, ineffective and create new by-products that are dangerous. Indeed, some organisations have now created fourth tier certifications in their business model because satisfying the regulation, legislation and standards is now deemed insufficient, there must be more (see here: https://www.cm3.com.au/; https://www.greencap.com.au/).
This is nothing short of sin-eating lunacy. How much paperwork do you need to complete in order to guarantee safety? Such is the nature of the safety paperwork superstition and ritual delusion. Surely, the legislation, regulation and standards are sufficient? Apparently not. The truth is the more paperwork one fills out the less safe one becomes. Similarly paperwork in itself is not a defense in court (https://vimeo.com/162034157 ).
Nothing is more certain than death and taxes. Similarly there is no ‘guarantee’ of safety – it doesn’t exist. To propose such an assertion or prediction makes as much sense as purchasing eternal life from a sin-eater.