One of the many slogans that have been circulated about during the Covid-19 crisis is: ‘we’re all in this together’. In an interesting take on this slogan (https://www.smh.com.au/culture/celebrity/no-we-re-not-all-in-this-together-20200505-p54q0p.html) we learn much about the power of slogans themselves and the ideology they hide.
Andrew Hornery comments when it comes to wealth, privilege and power, we are not all in this together. He particularly looks at the plethora of celebrities in lockdown and isolation regurgitating pithy statements of hope from their mansions. And now there has been a backlash, as there should be. He comments: ‘Even Prince Harry and camera-shy Meghan copped a ribbing after footage of them “secretly” delivering food to the sick in Los Angeles miraculously found its way into the public domain. Turns out the needy were not in a down and out part of LA, but on the smart streets of West Hollywood, a long, long way from Struggle Street’.
There is nothing more dehumanizing than false and trite hope. If Hope is not ethical, it is not hope.
Hornery comments again: ‘A former regular on Tom Ballard’s now axed Tonightly show on the ABC, Jackson and several of her former castmates teamed up to shoot a stinging take down which targeted everyone from Ellen DeGeneres comparing lockdown in her vast Californian compound with prison to Sunrise co-host and Weight Watcher Samantha Armytage reaching out from the bucolic fields of her Southern Highlands farm’.
It doesn’t take long before people smash trite hope with power parodies that expose such hope as false – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih2fsHE1Vf8
We know from a study in semiotics that slogans and gestures take special place in communicating to the human unconscious, this is because they have a unique rhythm and poetic code that evokes feelings and emotions. Generally slogans use metaphors that hide the assumptions of the slogan and misdirect away from a hidden ideology.
In the case of ‘we’re all in this together’, it deflects away from privilege, wealth and power assuming that our contexts and socialitie is the same. Some celebrities even try to make their zooming images look average and ordinary when indeed it is a room located in an $8 million residence.
Safety would do well to pay attention to glib, trite hope offered in loaded slogans not just during this crisis (https://safetyrisk.net/covid-19-coronavirus-health-and-safety-slogans/) but at all times.
Nothing is more offensive that the popular ‘safety is a choice you make’ slogan. The slogan assumes blame, free choice and ignores the determinants of social context that influence decisions. It is a naïve and dangerous slogan. The truth is, many choices are situated amongst a plethora of influences that this simplistic and naïve slogan ignores. It’s the perfect slogan to sack someone.
Another dumb slogan is ‘all accidents are preventable’ that olde zero harm classic. The slogan hides assumptions of human perfectability and denies the reality of fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ ). Just keep repeating this nonsense slogan and watch everyone who is normal shudder at the first mistake, blunder or mis-direction.
Put these two slogans together and you have a perfect cocktail for brutalism.
Other classic safety slogans include ‘common sense’, ‘zero harm’ and ‘safety first’. All metaphors and slogans that hide the realities of human fallibility and must lead to dehumanizing practices in the workplace.
The hidden ideology in all slogans have trajectories, they take you somewhere. I have discussed the use of silly safety sayings before and the way they hide dangerous ideologies (https://safetyrisk.net/all-injuries-are-preventable-and-other-silly-safety-sayings/ ).
If you want to offer people hope in a slogan then that hope ought to be ethical. Ethics is about what moral system is embedded in the slogan and any denial of fallibility, vulnerability, personhood and mortality can only ever be unethical. Of course none of this is discussed in the AIHS Bok on Ethics because any signatory to the global slogan of zero must remain silent on the hidden unethical ideology embedded in this naïve and dangerous mantra. This is why the ideology of the BoK on Ethics is deontological, consumed with the power of duty.
So, what slogans have you regurgitated during Covid-19? What safety slogans do you replay regularly? Are you aware of the ideology and assumptions they hide? Are you aware of the hidden trajectory of the slogan? Have you thought of the ideology they hide but also the damage they do to the credibility of safety and projection of false hope? How strange that so many who say they care about safety use slogans that devalue it’s credibility.