When Blame Comes Easy, A Lesson From Job
Blame is the joy of the Justice Cult. The Justice Cult is best explained by reading wisdom literature particularly, the allegory/mythology of Job . Blame in the Justice Cult is when we decide by (undisclosed) moral norm what has been transgressed and assume judgment on that norm.
In the complex story of Job, the notion of suffering, harm, justice and god are turned upside down. What the Justice Cult assumes, is that this literature is about god, Job and the three enquirers (theologians). The purpose of Job is not to focus on these but to reflect on yourself, its about you, the reader. The purpose of Job is to present you to yourself and excites in you a definition of Justice. The story of Job is both a test of your theological method, theodicy, hermeneutic and jurisprudence (Ellul – https://www.contra-mundum.org/index_htm_files/TheoLaw.pdf ).
Under the cloud of the Justice Cult hermeneutic of Job, one can only come to the conclusion that god is a monster (who has a wager with Satan over Job) and that justice is framed by suffering/harm. (Therefore, this is how ‘sin’ entered’ into the world). There are other ways to read the text of Job outside of the assumptions of the Justice Cult. The Book of Job is best read Poetically, Theologically, Artistically (Blake) and as Semiotic Drama.
Why use the language of ‘cult’ when discussing an approach to justice?
A cult denotes a group or sub-culture in a religious-ritualised-type approach to the world. In this case in approach to Justice.
The Justice Cult developed out of the Augustinian notion of Original Sin and the idea that humans were once perfect and had a ‘fall’ from perfection into a ‘fall-ible state. Because of this ‘fall’ one needs atonement (to god) through sacrifice sometimes known as Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA). From this view of the world, everything operates according to a moral (Natural-Deontological) law of retributive justice. We see this economic narrative in the risk and safety industry in the construct in the Bradley Curve that seeks to reinstate perfection through zero (god) and the metaphor of ‘drift into failure’.
The Justice Cult exists in the Augustinian mindset that constructs a notion of god in human image/rationality. The story of Job is therefore a representation of compliance-submission to a retributive god. It is from here that the Justice Cult constructs the personhood of god. Needless to say, there other theologies (eg. Spinoza, Liberation Theology, Feminist Theology, Tielhard de Chardin, Process Theology, Kierkegaard, Girard, Delueze, Poetic-Semiotic Theology, Derrida) that don’t accept the Augustinian construct. In these theologies seeking perfection itself is the problem, and fallibility represents the human person as eternally mortal/vulnerable. Job is a wonderful example of what happens when one applies Natural (Deontological) Law to a theology of suffering. The Justice Cult is shocked, confused and elated by the Book of Job because it frames its view of the world through retributive justice.
Why is this relevant to risk and safety? Because the notion of Justice we adopt is foundational to how we view risk, suffering, injury and harm.
For those interested in a philosophy of suffering, injury, blame, evil, morality and harm, the Book of Job is the starting point. Job’s ethical contestation of the morality of god brings before us an opportunity to examine our own construction of Justice/Ethics.
When we frame the world through the lens of retributive justice, blame is easy and simple. This is the binary opposition model of zero where risk and safety are defined by a number.
One of the things Safety exercises well is an ethic of blame. When the law is made black and white, law as objective and regulation is simple, blame comes easy.
An example of this was recently drawn to my attention. The situation concerns the Kelowna Crane Collapse (https://wsws.org/en/articles/2021/08/15/cran-a15.html). What drew my attention was a video that came out one day after the accident (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlXOYan3jmM ). Watch the video and you will see and hear the voice of the Justice Cult.
In Australia, we can read a similar approach in the Theiss response to the Danny Cheney fatality. At one stage of follow up of this event Thiess released an exemplar Powerpoint (‘Lessons From the Death of Danny Cheney’) boasting their investigation methodology! You can still see that slideshow here: https://slideplayer.com/slide/8998323/
Of course, the Coronial Enquiry didn’t support the Thiess Powerpoint that assumes that Mr Cheney wanted to suicide that day (please check out slide 10 that asserts that Danny made a ‘conscious decision’ to be non-compliant).
This is how the Justice Cult works. Without any knowledge of the human and collective unconscious nor any understanding of heuristics, habituation, wisdom or Socialities, Danny ‘chose’ to be non-compliant that day! This is what you get from the nonsense mantra: ‘safety is a choice you make’ This saying is perhaps one of the most dumb mantras/myths of the safety industry (https://safetyrisk.net/cognitive-dissonance-and-safety-beliefs/ ).
And this is what the Justice Cult loves. Quick to judge, swift in judgment, all based on a profound ignorance of ethics and human personhood. This is the outcome of a deontological ethic embodied in the AIHS BoK on Ethics. Indeed, we learn from the BoK Chapter that it is the ‘duty’ of Safety to blame. How easy it is to blame moral failing when one considers the law/regulation as objective and proposes that morality and ethics are interchangeable. This is the work of the Justice Cult. Thank god the courts don’t think this way (https://www.waylandlegal.com.au/blog ).
Needless to say, the Justice Cult doesn’t err on the side of wisdom. It’s so easy to blame and make the complex simple. Indeed, there is even a course at the moment being advertised by a safety association that praises the idea that the complex can be made simple! KISS in risk is pure mythology and all it does is enable the Justice Cult. When risk is a wicked problem, then wisdom (http://www.robertjsternberg.com/wisdom ) becomes critical in one’s definition and enactment of Justice.