Mine Rescue and BP Spill — Bookends

The de-tombing of the Chilean miners is a welcome change from the usual story that commands the attention of the worldwide press. It usually takes large body count or widespread environmental catastrophe to glean such coverage but this is a happy story where the body-count concerns live bodies. The story has everything, disaster and peril, hope and miracles, endurance and heroism and a good ending. Plus, the event is the perfect bookend to go with the other Journey to the Center of the Earth blockbuster that started the season, the BP spill.

The miners hadn’t been passed their first cigarettes before reality show pitches and TV movie scripts started landing on the desks of agents in Hollywood. At least we haven’t been treated to tweets about the toilet habits of the internees, but we already know all 33 biographies and family histories complete with hobbies, habits and number of mistresses. All that’s missing is phone and text voting to see which miner will leave the show next. Nevertheless they emerged like heros looking more like they were returning from an afternoon at the day-spa than a seventy day tour in hell.

We might ask ourselves, What makes the saving of these particular 33 lives so important and noteworthy when 20,000 people could be saved every day in this world by simple application of food and clean water? Why do we care more about the miners than all the others whose lives hang by a thread? There is something murky and sub-conscious about burial and entombment dramas. We are drawn to them because at least in our nightmares or imaginations or in the hum-drum of our everyday lives we know what it feels like to be buried alive. It’s a primal fear, universal and poetic.

You know it’s a big story when North Korea sends a TV crew. A couple of thousand members of the world press have gathered on the remote and arid mountain to document the saga. It was made for TV, a serial drama lasting long enough to build a brand but not too long so as to become tedious. And it’s a chance for redemption for big industry whose embarrassment and helplessness at the two-month long picture of the nasty mud-colored oil bubbling into the Gulf still stings. This is a story of hope rather than futility and desperation. It shows how man’s engineering skill and technology can be used to get us out of trouble as well as getting us into it.

It seems to be the perennial enterprise of Man to pillage this planet and we continually devise new ways to do it. The sophistication of our mineral extraction techniques has become nothing short of astounding. We drill miles into the crust and suck the juices from our globe, we scoop out whole mountains for coal to charge our iPods, and send men into its steamy bowels to pluck diamonds for our ladies’ fingers. We will continue to rape rain-forest and create desert and fill the air with carbon dioxide. It’s inevitable if we are going to keep adding new people and better lifestyles. The question remains whether or not we can use the same technology and ingenuity to devise ways to sustain and maintain an environment suitable for life on this planet. This is why the story of the emergence from the tomb of the Chilean miners is such a symbol of hope. It is a happy tale of Man using his ingenuity to extract himself from a bad situation created by his ingenuity.

The Poet’s Eye has a teary gleam for the miners and their families. I’m glad for them and I’m glad that the world has a good story for a change, one that give us hope for the human spirit and the possibility of our survival, hope that our cleverness can save us from our cleverness.

Five o’clock in the mornin’
I’m all ready up and gone
Lord I am so tired
How long can this go on?

I’m workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down down down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Whop! about to slip down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Goin’ down down down
Workin’ in a coal mine
Whop! about to slip down
—–Allen Toussaint

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One Response to Mine Rescue and BP Spill — Bookends

  1. Barbara says:

    What an excellent piece this is!

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