Whatever the cause of the SkyCity Convention Centre fire, in my experience it is likely to be something as simple as a worker’s carelessness with a blowtorch or as predictable as corporate cost-cutting.
Unlike those of our cousins across the Tasman, our big fires are seldom caused by high-spirited adolescents larking about with matches. However, if the reported allegations are correct that some staff were told that if they wanted to evac- sorry, walk off the job, they would have to take annual leave, this suggests safety may not come first with some managers.
What’s more remarkable is not that such a thing happened, but that it doesn’t happen more often. Given the number of big projects going on, there is ample opportunity for stuff-ups at every level. As we have seen this week, things can go from day-at-the-office to CBD-threatening in a moment.
It’s a reminder that, no matter what we do, or how rigorous our safety procedures, there comes a point where life is out of our control. It’s the “but-then-you-get-run-over-by-a-bus” philosophy writ large.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but very few people get run over by buses. More people suffer from the health results of using that very remote possibility as an excuse to eat badly and forgo exercise. Yet it’s much more pleasant to spend your last years as a fit and energetic person than someone with a heart condition eating all the fries they want.
Perhaps we are misled, early on in life, into thinking our existence can be made secure by the example of our youngest citizens. That any human survives our first potentially lethal years is little short of miraculous.
Infants face a world full of danger, and that seems to be the way they like it. They’re slippery little blighters who everyone knows will attempt to put themselves in harm’s way the moment your back is turned. Preferred activities include but are not limited to: provoking dogs, propelling themselves towards cliff edges, eating poison, running into the road and reaching up to see what’s in that saucepan bubbling on the stove.
Life on Earth itself is a matter of dumb luck, the result of a number of ridiculous flukes combining at the right time to create the conditions necessary for it to come into existence. We are here at all only by accident – in fact, many accidents. A lot of things had to go wrong at the same time for something to go that right.
If the earth had not been tilted on its access to make seasons occur, if the moon had not come into existence and created tides, which allowed places for early organisms to flourish, if giant Jupiter had not ended up where it is, so that its own gravity attracts many asteroids and prevents them from colliding with us, if we had not been at just the right distance from the sun to create the climate we have, if the tectonic plates had not formed to regulate that climate, if an asteroid had not wiped out the dinosaurs, and if the ozone layer had not been created by early chemical reactions, then our early mammal ancestors probably wouldn’t have got us as far as we have come today.
What are the odds?
If we accept that much of life will be out of our control, come what may, we can also be grateful the evidence for this is seldom as spectacular as it has been this week. We just have to take our chances. Not by gambling, though. We know the odds of that at every level. It’s for losers.