The Delights of the Zero Delusion
These days it seems one can spread any lie and propaganda and people will be sucked in by it. Why would people rather believe a lie? Because it satisfies their underlying need to be in control (https://psyche.co/ideas/beliefs-have-a-social-purpose-does-this-explain-delusions). All fundamentalisms work this way. The same fear of uncertainty that sweeps dictators to power is the same fear that feeds the zero delusion. And the key to propaganda is the continued repetition of a lie so that it becomes the new truth.
The latest post from the champions of Zero at the ISSA have launched another delusional promo (https://ww1.issa.int/proactive-leading-indicators-launch) and a re-hash of the 7 Golden Rules of zero delusion. Every time the spin and propaganda comes out they just take the industry deeper into the wormhole.
Of course you have to package delusion and propaganda in gift wrapping like ‘great success’, ‘remarkable growth’ or ‘everyone is onboard’ but none of this is true. There is no evidence for any ISSA claim. There is no zero, nothing has changed, the emperor has no clothes and the 7 Golden Rules are simply what anyone does in safety (http://visionzero.global/guides ). But hey a golden turd looks good on the outside.
Vision Zero is a propaganda campaign that has been running now for several years hmmm, and has zero been achieved of course not. Vision zero is not a vision. Any mantra that denies the reality of life as fallible can only be a delusion. To be visionary one has to offer something with vision that seeks the best for people and offers hope not wishing, trust not noise and practicality not dreams. There is nothing visionary about setting one’s sights by a number and its outcomes of brutalism and unethical deceit. And of course the AIHS and NSCA are up to their neck in this non-visionary delusion, the binding power of the zero cult.
No-one at a grassroots level believes any of this stuff. Results from the zero survey https://safetyrisk.net/take-the-zero-survey/ demonstrates clearly that no one (97%) in safety believes this zero stuff. Most think that zero is unethical and drives dishonesty, shifting data, underreporting and bullying. There is no more unethical mantra for this industry of policing than zero. But here we are with a few crazies at the top who can’t cope with binary opposition, with no sense of leadership and so the industry ends up with this continued delusion that somehow a number is a vision.
Wouldn’t it be good if the industry has a vision for ‘helping’? Wouldn’t it be great if the industry had a vision for humanizing people? Wouldn’t it be visionary if the industry sought to be caring for people and their wellbeing? Nup, give us propaganda and zero, let’s feed the people golden turds and tell them that it’s good for them.
Rob long says
Riskcurious, the idea that the zero ideology might have some rational logical justification doesn’t exist. It’s mostly emotional and doesn’t countenance debate. It’s actually an extremist fundamentalist ideology. So, no granularity. Similarly, there are no publications or research that even try to connect the language of the goal to decisions or behaviours, it’s just an unquestioned ideology and so propagandistic and cultivate. My survey shows clearly that the rank and file of the industry don’t believe it but this is not about evidence or sensemaking. It’s an ideology and needs no evidence and requires no sense making. Just believe!
I guess this was why I tried to narrow down to a more specific question. The arguments on both sides often seem often to be unclear about what they are addressing – zero harm as mantra/symbolism, zero harm as a goal/, the existence of stated safety goals/targets at all, the existence of any stated business goals/targets (including safety and other).
But arguments around “zero” seem to try to be all-encompassing and without some granularity don’t seem to address the problems, dilemmas, tradeoffs associated with each question (nor be explicit around assumptions with respect to wider contexts).
This more focussed discussion, to me, would be far more interesting and perhaps more insightful. But that’s just me.
Rob Long says
Thanks for the question. I think most people understand the zero discourse as a numeric, a goal or a target but that’s about it. I don’t think many think for a second about zero as a semiotic, semantic or linguistic psychology/discourse. Many don’t even know the difference between discourse and language. Similarly there is little thought for what any of this does to the human unconscious or collective unconscious. and again, I know many in safety don’t believe either, such is the materialist behaviorist ideology of the sector. Somehow people think the language and discourse is neutral and that declaring it an aspiration or something else neutralizes it’s unconscious discourse. Again if you believe in neither, how would you understand my concerns with it.
One thing is fairly certain whether one agrees with either side, it is the most divisive issue in the sector and those management have no idea how much they alienate the rank and file by their discourse, mythology etc (read Ricoeur/ Foucault).
I wouldn’t see any difference between the current discourse and zero fatality, it is just the same psychology of goals that is currently being ignored. Once one understands the nature of discourse I would want to know why you have to speak in such a way when we all know how to censor language every day. The industry simply doesn’t know how to be silent about metrics and numerics, objects and behaviorism. At a deeper level the psychosis of perfectionism and the associated discourse of blame can never be avoided if one’s discourse speaks it.
Not expecting Safety to read Wittgenstein, Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Foucault, Ricoeur, Kristeva, Halliday etc very soon. Even just the slightest examination of the language of safety not even discourse evidences a pretty warped view of what it is to be human.
Here is a link to several articles on the Intersafe website, which include some from the late Geoff MacDonald:
I am not familiar with his work but am interested to read – particularly to understand the definitions used and any data on the overlap (or otherwise) between the types of incidents resulting in the two subcategories of Class 1 Damage. Just to clarify, are you referring to articles on here or published? (I am interested in the research bit just did an unsuccessful database search).
Have a look thru some of the articles here and there may be some links. Unfortunately he passed away before his book was published but there are people trying to get that done
I’m possibly not as convinced that the goal is that obvious. Taking COVID 19 as an example, the goal (in terms of deaths) is not obvious without being stated – and it does change the strategy implemented. Most countries have adopted a goal that is not zero fatalities or elimination of the virus (at least for now, with scientific progress or the adaptation of the virus then maybe this will be the aim in the future). There are also plenty of industries/activities where fatalities are accepted (so having a goal of “zero fatalities” would not be obvious).
And then if the it were obvious that we had a goal of zero fatalities for all pursuits (and all the other obvious goals of making profit etc etc), wouldn’t we just essentially end up with infinite obvious and conflicting goals with no real strategy to put resources into achieving any one of them or any understanding of the goal trade-offs? It would seem weird to keep a goal of (e.g.) x increase in profits (which might also be deemed “obvious”) but then drop other goals for being too obvious.
This doesn’t mean that I am in a for or against camp, just some of the questions that it brings to mind.
Did you ever read the work of Geoff McDonald and what he calls “class 1 damage” – engineering focussed but interesting https://safetyrisk.net/safety-myths-and-misconceptions-2/ .
Perhaps an inconvenient truth but deaths are probably cheaper for governments and underwriters to manage?
PS – For the purpose of the question, this is assuming that those creating strategies to achieve goals are not fooled by Heinrich’s Triangle so it doesn’t just turn into a game of suppressing other minor injuries/hazards etc.
So I have a genuine question about “zero” goals. I believe that I am pretty across the arguments for and against “zero harm” goals/aspirations etc (and to be honest, with the exception of the discussion on the Safety of Work podcast, I find most rather repetitive and tedious now).
But through all the debate, I haven’t really come across what proponents from either side think about “zero fatality” goals for very specific events/industries where it may be near to or achievable (e.g. goal of zero fatal regular public transport aircraft crashes for a developed nation airline, goal of zero deaths from starvation in a location in Australia, goal of zero deaths from a specific preventable/treatable disease), or where certain types of deaths may be particularly morally repugnant (e.g. persons murdered by their partners in domestic situations).
Curious to hear your thoughts.
I dont get why something so obvious (for many reasons) needs to be even stated formally as a goal – should some things just go without saying? Would our methododolgy be any different if the goal were zero death as opposed to zero harm? Even if we added a more positive and achievable spin like: “provide adequate food supplies and health care to XYZ region”, “identify early signs of domestic violence and implement effective rapid intervention programs”
Rob Long says
Dave, the warped sense of goal-mindedness of the industry is an indictment of its self understanding and anthropology. Just do a study of what safety is noisy about and silent about and you will soon realize it’s a sick industry. All LTIs and TRIFR etc and so little goals for wisdom, helping, listening and learning.
Rob Long says
Lindsay what is this propaganda about Covid?
‘And the key to propaganda is the continued repetition of a lie so that it becomes the new truth.’ just as governments around the world are feeding us propaganda about covid…
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” – Marie Antoinette (ChOHSP)