16.10.10

going beyond chilean miners

the world have been watching chilean miner rescue operation for weeks. and yes, it's a big relief that they are all out once again.  survival of thirty three roughneck miners in the depth of earth, only connection to the world as they know it by what can only be described as ephemeral means.  thousands praying, watching the rescue, forgetting their own suppers and tasks.  a human victory over seventy days of trial with no certainty for future.

okay. i am being a bit sarcastic. but let me express my sincere relief on the completion of the rescue mission, if it was a bit tad dramatic (hence television worthy).  looks like all will be taken care by the government (at least for a bit), rejoining their families and the so-called-normal-life.  but it longer will be just normal life.  i am fully expecting at least several movie scripts and autobiographical book plans in transit ever since the case went global.  so why am i being so bitter on such joyous occasion?

chile is not what i would call one of the most developed countries.  the list of G20 member countries are constituted with the wealthy nations and their trade/labour partners.  including the big guns such as uk, usa and majority of western europe, it also includes their necessary partners such as turkey, india, south korea, mexico and china.  chile isnt one of them. i bet they wish it was. why? because it means certain things: wealthy, power, you know, the usual.  the non-G20 countries usually work in close conjunction to these economical powers. one of the main industrial traits is that the 'advanced' countries no longer want to dirty their hands in primary industries- mining, farming (with small exception of recent reform on local-ecologically aware agricultural movements), forestry, quarrying, fishing (though canada is an exception, as it still relies heavily on its oil and forestry industry).  

we export our electrical wastes to our lesser neighbours, so they can reclaim whatevers left of any value, inhaling toxic burning plastic fumes, killing off whatever land they may had left for survival. we take the finished products at the lowest costs possible, leaving caustic toxic waste dam, just a stone's throw away from the danube (i wonder if people have came through this news while the media was glowing with chilean victory) with 158m to 184m gallons of alkaline sludge (which is just really a bit less than 200m gallon oil spill by BP by gulf of mexico this year), you wonder: well, it's just alumina refinement by-products. may be soils and water be effected.  i was surprised to learn that it is caustic enough to kill people on contact. chemical burned to death. seven on count (four dead, three missing), eleven on critical condition. it's now too big of a group to keep in our heads, isnt it.  and why do i have a funny feeling that it only just became a news because it threatened the mighty danube, pride of continent europe? if it was effecting some local hungarian (or substitute any equal-category countries really), would it ever become a new item at all?  

wait. this may have been a fresh piece of news for you after all!


i also wonder how many people had gone beyond the up-to-date tweets and email news reports to see even the most general picture of mining.  for instance, just a short googling will tell you that in average, 34 people perish in mines of chile alone, according to their state regulartory agency, servicio nacional de geologia y mineria de chile. which may imply that the real number of mining death would be a lot higher. san jose gold-copper mine had one of the worst records anyways, including a shut-down on 2007 due to a civil suit case against the company.  but 2008, it opened, quietly. again. with no changes. to supply us with some aluminum. so we can have our coke cans.  the miners at these privately owned mines often gets higher pay because they live with danger all the time.  the miners at san jose were paid on average 20% higher wages.  with providing just over 1/3 of national income, mining is a serious and dangerous deal i chile. in china. in rural united states, where the pipe water runs blood red, from ravaged ground, toxic.

and so in brief and conceited research-like snooping on the web by a comfortable monkey tells me that the miners were definitely aware of their situations.  people talked on their starbucks coffee shops and their living rooms with HD big screen television: it is horrible! they are trapped under ground, on small holes through the ground!  ladies and gents, it's called mining.  with profit in mind. they go down there every day.  what we consider 'shocking' conditions are the daily backdrop of these people.  without the collapse, they were still living with big-bulls-eyes stuck on their heart. and they did get out much earlier than expected. all alive, etc. we wont even include the highly secretive and bloody mining of gemstones.  have you ever seen children miners with their legs cut off? casted into the ground on a rickety pushboard, so that they can get into smaller and smaller holes? i have.  you think im joking.  i wish i was being punked by some sophisticated photoshop.  i was about nine or so when i saw this picture. i dont remember where it was from, by whom. too young, i suppose, to do a proper bibliography.  i sworn off gems ever since.  

and with all fairness, they did have crappy seventy days.  but look, they had communication with the rest of the world, it was closely watched. no chance in hell they will be 'forgotten' once it was reported on global networks.  people bonded with them.  watched them. cried for them.  engrossed by their lives.  i say that is the first-class treatment of these miners.  there was no way their governments/family/whoever was going to let them down. unlike the chinese miners. which ones am i talking about? when did it happen?

just plog in search for 'chinese mine collapse 2010,' watch your result grow endless.

what of the recent pakistan flood 2010? 
tsunami 2004? 
kashmir earthquate 2005? 
haiti 2010? 
russia wildfire 2010? 

it is impossible to weep for every single victims of these disasters, especially since lots of them were out of human control.  and there's this weird phenomena where the general public becomes incapable of relating to a mass group of victims, while they find it easy and natural to attach themselves to a smaller number of victims (enough to remember, not too big that it becomes incomprehensible); i once ran into an interesting article on nytimes on this subject while the rescue of molly, a black cat, trapped in the wall between two buildings went on for weeks as a section A interest in 2006.  i wish i could find it again as it quietly explained why we make 'icons' out of these singular victims while being somewhat dull towards suffering of a large group (not enough info to comprehend the depth of the situation)


in any case, the miners are alright for now. the hungarian toxic dam is no longer leaking.  there will be more disasters coming, everywhere. so why not find a piece of beautiful life and stick with it? sprinkle it occasionally with media's good news stories where we are all compelled to glue selves to tv and feel pity for that 30 min of our day? why not?  i cant tell you why not.  it is not an individual faults (usually) that leads to tragedy of mass scale.  and no, we cannot worry about all the wrong things in the world.  but perhaps just starting to look one step beyond the media feed of the hottest-current-report would be a good place to start.  starting to be aware of larger pictures. if one becomes familiar with such pictures, i believe the questions will come. in floods. and answers will also arrive, if in little pieces.  and with those questions and answers, we can be slightly more aware of the place we live in.  one of my favorite writer, michael pollan, said it very well in his 'in defense of food':  you cant just do one thing.  

awareness can lead to many issues.  but like everything else in life, the situation itself was never new.  but once aware, it becomes a new issue.  people often talk of 'discovering' and 'understanding' (especially in scientific research, where we, the general public tend to put on a huge mythical belief that it is all brand new and wondeful), but the truth is that the life as we know it, has always been there. whether we understand the way universe work (or not) through various theories (string theory, theory of relativities, quantum physics, you name it) and we are becoming more aware, simply put. but it is a relief to know that once aware, regardless of the present understanding of it (or anticipated resolutions in near future), the question will eventually lead to richer life experience. so why not try to become aware?

come on, take that extra 10 min from your favorite killing-time-activities (i blame computer, har har), and take just one extra step.  chilean miners, hungarian toxic dam, doesnt matter.  look around you.  find things of all nature- pleasant, unpleasant, surprising, assuring-   and be excited that the questions will arrive at your doorstep. with a big suit case for staying over, squatting in the corner of your consciousness. we never live alone. love to you all.

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