The Binary Barnacle
Binary Opposition and the logic of safety
“How many people do you want to injure today…..?”
A barnacle is marine crustacean that attaches itself permanently to something else. It can be cut off but its attachment is so fused into the object that it damages the host in separation. Binary logic has become fused in safety like a barnacle. Reinforced by a lack of critical thinking in the WHS curriculum, Safety continues to validate immature, unsophisticated binary questioning as sensible. Rather than seeking open questions Safety seeks questions to prove its own binary assumptions. Rather than asking questions of enquiry, safety asks questions of entrapment, seeking the answer it already wants, to what it already knows. Rather than seeking to recognise the complexity of human decision making and fallibility, Safety seeks simplistic human deniability and learning avoidance. Rather than asking questions that open up thinking and discussion, safety wants no discussion just the answer zero. When one starts with an assumption seeking and absolute answer, then the question will always be binary. This is the process of any question by entrapment; it is how all simplistic immature questioning works. Binary questions are really dumb down questions.
Safety needs to resist such questioning because it doesn’t seek critical thinking but denies critical thinking. Binary questions and binary logic annihilate critical thinking and learning. Everything becomes easy – zero. The answer therefore is pre-determined and determines the very identity of Safety as an activity of counting and defining numbers, not thinking.
Mature people who acknowledge the complexities of life know when to be silent and avoid the useless ‘noise’ of binary questions. Mature people know how to ask questions that seek dialogue not monologue; this is the power in silence. This has nothing to do with introversion or personality (although Rob’s discussion of these is valid https://safetyrisk.net/the-power-in-silence/ ) but for me the place where safety needs to be silent is in asking questions that are anti-learning, anti-dialogue and anti-critical thinking. If Safety ever wants to be a profession, it needs to learn to be silent in binary questioning.