Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thoughts on the mine rescue in Chile

I was going to do some writing tonight -- and, yes, there's a whole lot to write about, with ever more Republican craziness polluting the public sphere -- but, honestly, nothing I want to blog about quite compares to the ongoing rescue of the 33 miners in Chile, trapped for 69 days a half-mile (a little more than the height of Toronto's CN Tower) underground.

It's simply amazing. And deeply, deeply moving.

I watched much of the Rays-Rangers game earlier this evening, but the coverage of the rescue on CNN and CBC has been absolutely riveting.

As I watch, the third miner is getting into the capsule, preparing to ascend. (What amazing live footage from inside the cavern.)

A few thoughts:

-- I cannot overstate just how incredible this is, both the courage of the miners through their long ordeal and everything that has gone into the rescue, an international effort that has become, understandably, a matter of national primacy for Chile.

-- I started off watching CNN, where Anderson Cooper, who thrives in such situations, did a great job, but then, at midnight, he turned it over to Larry King, and that's when I turned to CBC. King has had a long and distinguished career, but he's an idiot -- or, I should say, his questions and contributions are utterly idiotic. It may be a matter of age and general ignorance at this point, but it's embarrassing. When the second miner was on his way up, Larry noted that his name, (Mario) Sepúlveda, is also the name of some major thoroughfare in L.A. Who the fuck cares?

-- Larry aside, CNN's coverage has been quite good, with Anderson talking to a number of experts, as well as to the guy who led the drilling effort that ultimately got through. There were three such efforts, and this, B, is the one that made it to the miners first. Fascinating stuff, from a technical/technological perspective. And its coverage of the human side of the story, the key side, has been admirably respectful.

-- Check out CNN's full coverage, including an updated account of events.

-- I don't know enough about Chilean politics, and I haven't been paying close enough attention to this story the past two-plus months, to have an opinion as to whether Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, has been playing politics, using the story to try to score political points. What does seem apparent, though, is that the Chilean government is carefully stage-managing the rescue, with the president and first lady on hand, with the drama amped up, the tension and excitement building with each rise of the capsule to the surface. As someone on CNN suggested, this may be for the sake of transparency, understandable after what happened in Sago, West Virginia in January 2006. And, don't get me wrong, this is a story that transcends politics -- or should. And, again, I find it all deeply, deeply moving, not least when the miner (and the third one is just about to reach the surface) emerges from the capsule and greets a loved one. I just note that there's another side to this, what with the president standing there and with everything appearing so media-ready.

-- The Times (linked above) notes that "[t]he decision by Mr. Piñera, Chile's first right-wing leader in 20 years, to stake his young presidency on an unbridled push to rescue the miners was an extraordinary political calculation. But it has paid big dividends, bolstering his popularity at home and propelling him onto an international stage often dominated by other large personalities in the region." I certainly do not blame him for what he has done, and I do not criticize him for being there tonight, but it would be naive to think that politics had nothing to do with his decision. But hopefully he won't abuse this event (and his role in it) the way, say, Rudy Giuliani has abused 9/11 for personal political and financial gain.

-- For the most part, the coverage I've seen online has been excellent. Allow me to note one key exception: Michelle Malkin, who jingoistically titled her post "Celebrating American Greatness... in Chile." Seriously. I get that Americans have contributed a great deal to the rescue, but so did many others. I'm not sure if other conservatives are doing the same, but many conservatives these days -- and Malkin is just one of the most blatant examples -- are utterly incapable of viewing the world, including this heroic and spirit-lifting rescue in Chile, other than through the lens of (delusional) triumphalist American exceptionalism. (Canadians did a lot, too. Should I celebrate Canadian greatness tonight? Should I make it all about us? Please. I'm not that fucking arrogant.)

-- But that's not all. In Malkin's case, and this is also extremely common on the right, there's also partisan attacking to be done. She writes that the driller mentioned above, Jeff Hart, would, "[i]n a different day and age," be "the most famous American in our country right now." And why is he note? Because of Obama, of course, who is anti-drilling (and hence anti-Hart). This is stupid, if predictable. If Jeff Hart isn't as famous as he deserves to be, it's not because of Obama (or anything Democrats or liberals/progressives have done) but because of a dominant culture, one that the me-first, anti-government, anti-community, profit-is-everything right has manufactured according to its plutocratic greed, that prizes consumerism and superficial celebrity above all else.

-- CBC is saying now that some of the miners' families are planning to sue the mining company. With all the goodwill being expressed right now, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

-- The miners apparently agreed to a pact of silence regarding the early days of their time underground. There are reports of infighting. CBC is also reporting that the miners want to get their story straight before speaking publicly, in detail, about their experience. Infighting is understandable, and so is the desire to keep what must have been an extraordinarily difficult time, full of conflict, private. Again, though, it will be interesting so see how this plays out, with books and movies to come. Will there be a standard account? If so, just how sanitized will it be, how packaged for wide public consumption? When will different perspectives emerge? Will the miners be able to maintain a unified front. It's unpleasant to think about such things at a moment like this -- I'm updating the post just as the fifth miner, the youngest of the 33 (and who had a daughter while he was trapped), gets into the capsule -- but the commercialization of this story is inevitable.

Anyway, three miners are out. There's still a long, long way to go, and of course any number of things could go wrong. But hope has prevailed throughout this ordeal and we are witnessing the culmination of a massive effort to rescue these brave men.

This is from the Times article linked above:

The race to save the miners has thrust Chile into a spotlight it has often sought but rarely experienced. While lauded for its economic management and austerity, the nation has often found the world's attention trained more on its human rights violations and natural disasters than on uplifting moments.

But the perseverance of the miners, trapped so far underground in a lightless, dank space, has transfixed the globe with a universal story of human struggle and the enormously complex operation to rescue them.

It has involved untold millions of dollars, specialists from NASA and drilling experts from a dozen or so countries. Some here at the mine have compared the rescue effort to the Apollo 13 space mission, for the emotional tension it has caused and the expectation of a collective sigh of relief at the end.

It is indeed an incredible story of human perseverance and determination. And hopefully it will all work out, with each miner, at long last, pulled safely to the surface.

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  • People all over the world are happy to read the news about the rescue of the chile miners. we should be thankful to our almighty God for all the help.

    By Anonymous Outsourcing Philippines, at 7:16 PM  

  • What kind of a god can't do anything at all without human intervention?

    Doesn't sound so almighty to me. Why not thank the people who did so much to help? They'll appreciate it more than some effete, helpless, make believe celestial narcissist.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:55 AM  

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