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Trapped Miners are Media Wet Dream

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Contributor:
Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

I began writing this blog when I first heard about the men trapped at Pike River. And then I gave up, finding it too hard to put pen to paper and express anything, lest I somehow jinx the outcome. So I held my breath, shut my mouth and sent my prayers.

I was waiting for the men to emerge alive, after a dangerous and harrowing rescue mission. Maybe they would be barely alive, but escape nevertheless, from the pits of hell and into a seething orgy of excited press and media. They’d be paid handsomely for first interviews and be photographed in passionate embraces with their lovers, like soldiers back from war. So I wrote my headline in anticipation: “Trapped Miners are Media Wet Dream.”

I reflected upon the miners who were trapped in Chile, and considered how the media took advantage of the emotional crisis to get under our skin and create a multi-million dollar story. Just like voyeurs of reality T.V. we learned about their personalities and sex lives, while they sat 2,300 feet under, losing bone mass and twiddling their thumbs. An estimated 1 billion people across the globe tuned in to watch the rescue of the miners, who upon rescue, opened their big fat mouths to announce to the world that they believed they’d be left to die by a profit-driven company, more intent on cutting costs than investing in the lives of disposable employees. “We were not heroes, we’re victims” said Franklin Lobos. “We are victims of the businessmen who don’t invest in safety…victims of the businessmen who earn millions and don’t think about the suffering of poor people.”

So the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post published editorials crediting capitalism for their safe return. Capitalism. Can you imagine what Che Guevara might say about that claim if he was still here? El Che, when in Chile just over 50 years ago, was enraged by the working conditions of the miners and upon encountering a couple in the Atacama Desert (the same region in which those 33 men were entombed for 69 days) described them as "the shivering flesh-and-blood victims of capitalist exploitation." Che might say, as he once did, “We are overcome by anguish at this illogical moment of humanity.”

Evidently we have learned no more from Che’s time than we have today, despite what we may read. But in the spirit of weak convictions that “everything happens for a reason” we still seek a lesson to learn. So who’s voice do we allow to speak louder, and to whom do we turn our ears and minds for answers and wisdom?

But now I know that the men at Pike River died down there in the dark. They did not emerge to throw back their lovers and kiss them passionately for the front page. And I know that “any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” What I am yet to know, is how this tragic event will become more than a media wet dream - how it will become a lesson and a reflection of our ability to improve the working conditions of the men who work high-risk jobs in dirty overalls, to support the men in high-rise offices in designer suits.

And I also know that at the same time, it matters not. There is no poetic consolation or justice for the families of the Pike River tragedy, just as there was none for families of the Chilean working class, who half a century ago, dug for the bodies of their own men, trapped miners, miners murdered by defenders of the Capitalist market, bodies buried in mass graves from concentration camps. The loved ones cannot be replaced in our lives by anything. 

And so. My deepest sympathies. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
 

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