Demonising Error and Mistakes, What Can the Book of Job Tell Safety
The story of Job is a classic challenge for philosophers, philosophical psychologists, theologians and Safety. Some of the best artists, poets and philosophers have tried to tackle the challenges of Job, the question of suffering and associated questions of salvation (being saved). Some of those worth reading on the Book of Job are: Jung, Kierkegaard, Blake, Batnitzky and Pardes , Ricoeur, Bruggeman, Moltmann and many others.
The myth of Job is a vital text for understanding: Wisdom Literature, hermeneutics, ethics, aesthetics, suffering, harm, personhood and, aesthetics. One of the most important things about reading the Bible is to understand it as a semiotic system. The Bible is essentially governed by semiology and must be understood that way. The idea of bringing this text into the 21st Century and reading it as some kind of literal rational text is nonsense. Understanding Semiotics is the beginning of seeking to understand theology and the biblical text (https://monoskop.org/images/0/0a/Silverman_Kaja_The_Subject_of_Semiotics_1984.pdf ).
The worst one can do in reading the Book of Job is to bring one’s own definition of Justice to the text. The purpose of the text is to trouble any simplistic assumptions of Justice, right and wrong. If you find yourself screaming at the text: ‘this is not fair’ or ‘god is a monster’, your hermeneutic (theory of interpretation) is wrong. Similarly, Dekker’s Theology of Suffering. One can’t come to the Biblical text (with every chapter laced with Biblical references) with a scientific, rational assumption looking for meaning. Similarly, Jordan Peterson (12 Rules for Life) text is riddled with Theology and Biblical texts as if the Bible is somehow knowable without expertise in Theology. And the last place I would be going for any wisdom in the matter would be Peterson.
When one brings a semiotic lens (hermeneutic) to the challenges of suffering, one sees things differently. This is what William Blake (1757-1827) does (https://doorofperception.com/2021/01/william-blake-illustrations-of-the-book-of-job/ ). When one understands the nature of suffering Poetically, Artistically and Semiotically one reads the text of Job differently.
The first thing the text of Job does is challenge your definition of suffering. Unfortunately, most people repelled by the text are seduced into playing god as if the purpose of the text is to determine what Justice is. In the face of suffering, pain, harm, evil and injustice, how convenient to bring a binary notion of justice to the table. Similarly, in denial of fallibility (the purpose of zero ideology) Safety is first to argue for a simplistic idea of justice as if it is some kind of black and white issue. These are the voices of Job’s 3 accusers (see Figure 1. Blake’s Three Accusers).
Figure 1. Blake’s Three Accusers
If ever there was a better image of a typical safety investigation I don’t know of one.
Similarly, in Ethics. The simplistic deontological ethic posed by Safety (AIHS Chapter) uses the mythology of duty, common sense and do the right thing (all meaningless ideas) to argue for a sense of justice as if a binary worldview has answers. Every safety investigation on the market is the same. How fascinating that not one safety investigation product on the marker considers it important to discuss: ethics, personhood, bias, social bias, subjectivity, pastoral care or wicked problems. Goodness me, that would me Safety would have to step outside of its monodisciplinary bubble.
The Book of Job demonstrates that justice is a Wicked Problem which is why zero is morally bankrupt (https://safetyrisk.net/zero-as-morally-wicked/ ). As sure as you hear Safety propose that suffering, harm, pain and justice are simple, you know whatever follows is nonsense. It’s so easy to be simplistic and unwise when venturing into areas without any expertise or Transdisciplinary knowledge. How easy to judge what you don’t know by what you don’t know. This is why the safety industry is so quick to demonise injury and harm, mistakes and error. But this is not the Poetic or Semiotic message of Job.
Indeed, all Wisdom Literature starts from the foundational reality of fallibility (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/ ) and moves forward under the reality that perfection is dangerous and unattainable.
Safety doesn’t move forward because it believes in infallibility and asks people to believe the impossible:
No wonder Safety in zero is a recipe for a mental health disorder (https://safetyrisk.net/how-an-obsession-with-safety-leads-to-mental-illness-tyranny-academy-of-ideas/ ). Perfectionism is a psychosis that fosters brutalism and is the foundation for injustice. And this from DuPont that killed thousands of people over 50 years in the name of zero (https://safetyrisk.net/dark-waters-the-true-story-of-dupont-and-zero/ ). There’s no doubt if you drink the DuPont cool aid, you will come back for more zero and more brutalism in the name of good.
The beginning of an ethic in risk is NOT to demonise mistakes, error and harm (https://safetyrisk.net/an-ethic-in-error-for-safety/ ). These are neither unjust nor should be judged as some kind of evil indeed, to demonise these in the name of zero is anti-human, anti-person and anti-learning. This is where zero ideology takes Safety. This is why the concoction of Just Culture by Safety is so messed up. You certainly don’t get any sense of wisdom about Justice from any of the safety literature on just culture. Indeed, like many of the silences in safety (regardless of brand – https://safetyrisk.net/the-safety-and-new-view-debate/ ) the language of wisdom, paradox and dialectic never make it when safety discusses just culture. Most of the time the definition of culture isn’t about culture anyway.
How fascinating to read all these safety texts on just culture without any discussion of fallibility, ethics, wisdom or personhood! Talk about an elephant in the room. Similarly, the AIHS BoK Chapter on ethics with no discussion of the same! Astounding! How easy to determine justice on what one doesn’t know, applying what you don’t know, to what you don’t know.
If ever there was a need for Transdisciplinarity (https://safetyrisk.net/transdisciplinarity-and-worldviews-in-risk/ ) in an industry it is in safety. Maybe then, it might get to a stage where current taboos and silences are raised so that mistakes and error are not demonized and it may one day become professional.