The Safety Dance –

When we search for metaphors to think about life, being and risk there is none better than the dance. In many ways fallible humans ‘dance’ through life and as much as we might like to invent and concoct a controllable, predictable and confined world, it is not.

The reality is, the world is not predictable, which is why we have insurance. The world is not predictable and error is normal. The reality is, life is messy, things go wrong, people will be harmed. The real questions Safety should be asking are not about control but about resilience.

Instead of concocting a delusional cocoon of zero denial ( The real challenge should be about what dispositions, orientation, skills, worldview and character is needed for resilience and learning.

The Canadian New Wave band Men Without Hats, most successful song is ‘The Safety Dance’. Their official website is:

The song ‘The Safety Dance’, was written by the lead singer after he was ejected from a club for ‘pogo dancing’. The song has been around for 30 years ( Pogo dancing is not about using a pogo stick to dance but rather a form of up and down jumping on the spot. It got its name from looking like bouncing up and down like a pogo stick. The dance is characterised by keeping torsos rigid or thrashing about; holding arms stiff at their sides or flailing them, keeping legs together or kicking about, jumping straight up and down or, in any direction, and spinning in the air. The pogo dance emerged in the 1970s and is associated with The Sex Pistols.

The song ‘The Safety Dance’ is basically about freedom of expression and an the psychosis of obsession with safety (; Obsession is a psychosis and a mental health disorder encouraged by Safety.

The official video clip is set in the country side featuring; Morris dancers, Mummers, Punch and Judy and a maypole. Some of the lyrics are:

And you can act real rude and totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile

And say, we can dance, we can dance
Everything’s out of control
We can dance, we can dance
They’re doing it from pole to pole
We can dance, we can dance
Everybody look at your hands
We can dance, we can dance
Everybody’s taking the chance
Safety dance

The song is also a song of protest against thug bouncers ( who love to overpower and bully people, in the name of safety. When you want to brutalise others in the name of good, make sure it is made a safety issue. The moment Safety steps in, nothing must be questioned.

In SPoR, we often use the metaphor of the dance to explain the joy of motion (learning) and the messiness of resilience. You can do all the research you like on resilience; no one really knows what it is or knows what it takes to be resilient. But we sure know when things fall apart but no one knows or has a recipe for ‘the flourishing life’. Resilience is like fallibility: unpredictable, random and not able to be packaged in some formula. Unless of course you read all the con merchants trying to sell something titled: ‘The three steps to …’; ‘The five ways to …’ or ‘Seven tips to …’ resilience. In many ways resilience like fallibility, is a mystery.

Dance is often a part of music and both are Metaphors We Live By (Lakoff and Johnson ). In dance and music, we move and embody movement ( ). In music and dance we become interaffected and intercorporeal ( with others and the world. Some even suggest that the dance is the worlds favourite metaphor ( Many cultures in their religious beliefs position ‘the dance’ as divine ( Badiou articulates well what is embodied in dance ( Dance is also associated with trance, dreaming and vision ( ).

Dance is Poetic and Semiotic. None of this is of any interest to the likes of Hopkins, Cooper, Dekker, Conklin or Hollnagel. Metaphysics is of no interest to Safety, neither is there any interest in the unconscious or Religion. Safety prefers the materialist myth of Behaviourism and Mechanics, controls and prediction but, has no interest in knowing about suffering, harm or the e-motions. This is how you end up with nonsense by Hopkins that claims that structure creates culture. This is how you end up with books on Culture that argue that the best thing to do about culture is to NOT talk about it (Busch).

Without research into all that comes with Transdisciplinarity, Safety will never understand: ritual, mythology, human judgment and decision making, culture, fallibility, ethics or semiotics.

It is in Poetics and Semiotics that one finds the best understanding of what it is to be a human fallible person. Understanding human error starts with understanding personhood, not with a construct of Behaviourism.

If we make Poetics and Semiotics the starting point for studying risk and learning, we don’t end up with so much concocted mechanistic nonsense that dominates the safety industry. Knowing Semiotics and Poetics lead us into a trajectory of humanising risk. These lead us into taking the notion of culture seriously and embracing a Transdisciplinary approach to knowing.

Working in the Transdisciplinary space, between and across disciplines, is a dance. It is a dance where we partner with disciplines with different worldviews than safety. It is a dance between disciplines, where safety is NOT given primacy over everything. It is a dance where personhood and ethics are taken seriously. It is a dance where safety arrogance has no place.

If you want to learn about SPoR, and how to tackle risk so that persons are humanised and valued in their fallibility, welcome to the dance. Studying SPoR is all about practical positive methods for tackling risk (

You can study SPoR here: or write to Matt Thorne for your free 2 hour introduction:


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