Identity and Safety

The term identity politics has its source in the 1970s and defines the political identity of groups under various forms of oppression. Often this expression ‘identity politics’ is used pejoratively ( ) and coupled with other silly language such as ‘woke’ or ‘leftard’. Such language is used to devalue social conscience, compassion, social contract and mutual moral regard. Such is the power of language ( ).

Of course, language is the bedrock of culture and identity, another cultural silence of safety ( ).

When it comes to identity we know that language, association, discourse, Discourse, appearance, belonging, race, religion, behaviours and self-identity create an ‘image’ of who we are. We call these ‘characteristics’.

When it comes to identity, the old proverb is helpful: ‘if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck’.

I saw this post on Twitter yesterday about the Leader of the Opposition in Australian Parliament (Figure One. I’m Not a Racist) and it captures well the duck meme ( ).

Figure One. I’m Not a Racist

i'm not a racist but

In Social Psychology the study of identity, in-group and out-groupness and Socialitie (social being) are foundational to forming a worldview. Social psychologists then undertake various experiments to confirm or challenge various theories about human identity. For example, The Robber’s Cave Experiment ( ). But there are thousands of similar experiments in the Discipline ( ).

A good place to start in understanding the Discipline of Social Psychology is with a generalist text ( ).

One thing is for sure, such a Discipline assumes a completely opposite worldview to engineering and safety.

Understanding the competing validity of worldviews is essential to dialectic, balance and Transdisciplinarity. Unless Safety show an interest in movement between worldviews then it can use the brand of ‘learning’ all it likes, but it is not interested in learning. Amazing all this talk of ‘learning’ in safety but rarely an enquiry comes my way that seeks engagement.

When we observe substantial incongruence and contradiction in language and critical identifiers we look to the unconscious messaging for where the power in Discourse is. For example, in the so called ‘safety differently’ group it is stated: ‘People are a solution to harness’ ( ). An interesting choice in linguistics. So here we have a brand with the rejection of the language of ‘controls’ and its substitute is the language of control. There are many more examples of confused identity in the group where the language of ‘control’ in traditional safety is associated with performance and measurement of traditional safety.

When there is incongruence in identity between a brand and Discourse, read the language and Discourse and you will find the identity, regardless of what is affirmed or denied in the brand.

For example: It is meaningless to claim the brand of care and helping when none of the language of it is in your Discourse (power in language). Such is evident in the AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics that excludes any language that talks of care, helping, personhood and power. In this case the word ‘ethics’ is used as a brand but the language of the document is not about ethics. Such is the nature of safety code ( ).

The problem is captured well by the Apostle Paul in his famous poem (1 Corinthians 13) on love when he states:

‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing’

Such a poem is about identity congruence. Indeed, the reverse is also true, one can use all the language one wants about love but behaviours too need to be congruent.

If Safety wants to make its messaging congruent, strategic and powerful it would be wise to pay attention to linguistics ( ). However, there is nothing on any of this is the safety curriculum (or engineering).

The industry can talk about behaviours all it likes ( ) but if there is not congruence in messaging, then the messaging won’t work ( ).

You don’t have to be mandrake the magician to work out that the language of zero, and all that is associated with it, is not the language of care and helping.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that language about persons described as ‘objects’, ‘factors’ and ‘components’ is behaviourist discourse.

You don’t have to be clever to realise that the brand of ‘professional’ doesn’t ensure professional, ethical and moral conduct ( ). Ethics is the foundation of professionalism.

In the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR) we teach the essentials of Discourse Analysis as foundational to messaging. Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is 101 for understanding the discipline of Social Psychology. Again, another skill not part of any safety curriculum.

If you can’t analyse your Discourse (CDA) and discourse, there is little chance the messaging will work.

CDA work is undertaken in the SPoR module on Linguistics and Semiotics ( ), about to be delivered face to face in Canberra. As always, all SPoR courses are practical and doable and improve the way people tackle risk.

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