Nothing is Learned Through Brutalism

imageI’m not a mad footy fan of any of the codes but as my home town is Adelaide, I took note of this story: Eddie Betts and the shameful legacy of the Crows’ camp , and it has a message for Safety.

There is a popular myth in organisations ( that brutal confrontation helps people learn. I have witnessed this a few times at conferences where a sports star of some sort is brought in as a consultant with no expertise in learning or psychology. I once experienced such a session with an ex-army SAS with a Victoria Cross but I walk out immediately.

Many feel compelled by Groupthink to comply at such events, regardless of how brutal or stupid the session is.

When compliance is your code and critical thinking is discouraged, such blind compliance is dangerous, and often harms people.

Such is the story of Eddie Betts and others in the Crows Football team.

The same philosophy also exists in cultic religious groups when power is exercised unethically in the name of good.

Again, compliance and a lack of critical thinking sanctions harm.

Similarly, the mythology of ‘boot camp’ is also popularised in risk and safety:

The idea of ‘boot camp’ is that brutalism evokes learning by the exercise of power over others. Such boot camps are often militaristic, binary rigid fundamentalist behaviourist activities with no ethic of personhood or expertise in learning. The philosophy of such programs is always about what is good for other people. And it’s always about brutalism.

Such is the attraction of behaviourism in safety ( that these programs are found with greater frequency.

But this is all mythology, none of this works to affect culture or foster learning.

In the case of the Adelaide Crows players they were mocked, kidnapped, ‘brainwashed’, traumatised, bullied and brutalised in the name of ‘good’. When you have a deontological ethic (like safety) this kind of stuff is normalised. None of this is motivational, none of this is about learning ( and none of this is ethical. No wonder the AIHS BoK Chapter on ethics makes no mention of personhood. Yet many of these consultancies (charging a fortune in fees) thrive because the mythology (and its symbolism) fuels the myth.

Just read any of the disclosures by players about this camp and you wonder why players did not leave. This is a perfect example of what Social Psychologists know about the Zimbardo Effect or Lucifer Effect.

The beginning of understanding morality and ethics (that the AIHS wrongly combines) is the exercise of power. Also not discussed in the AIHS BoK Chapter on so called ‘Ethics’.

Even the silly Conversations piece restates silly myths like ‘the brain is a highly efficient learning machine’. This is also part of the problem. Trauma is not ‘felt’ in the brain but in the body, heart and gut. Trauma is embodied, not a brain-centric thing ( as Van def Kolk demonstrates.

The body is not a ‘machine’, the brain is not a computer, the eyes are not a camera and any silly mechanisation of such is simply more behaviourist nonsense.

Unless we think ecologically about persons as embodied holistic beings we simply foster language and metaphor that objectified humans (

Such is the problem of thinking of humans as a ‘factor’ in a system ( ).

Such is the problem of using the language of engineering and focusing on systems over persons ( Such language demonstrates the use of the brand ‘differently’ when nothing is different.

Of course, the exercise of boot camps and confrontative methodologies is all about harm in the name of good. The ideology of zero in particular fosters such an approach.

When your focus is on metrics and people as objects, factors and enemies of safety (, it is a ‘piece of cake’ to brutalise others in the name of good. Such is an industry with no ethic or moral compass that loves to boast about professionalism.

Such is the nature of BBS (

Such is the ideology of zero (

If you are interested in treating persons morally and ethically so that learning occurs then the first thing to do is to move away from zero so that safety improves (

If you are interested in learning then perhaps download our free book on learning ( How amazing these safety consultancies about ‘learning’ with no expertise in learning ( ). Such is the nature of an industry that applies the metaphor of ‘engineering’ to ‘being’ as if people are machines. This is despite the fact that such consultancies personify organisations in their language as metaphors then proceed to advocate behaviourist methods.

As we witnessed with the camp for the Adelaide Crows, brutalism always teaches its opposite. The real learning is that brutalism harms people, brutalism disrespects personhood and proposes immoral acts as good.

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