Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chilean Mine Rescue: Spreading the Love

Miner in a mine of the "Cerro Rico" ...Image via Wikipedia
Apart from the 33 rescued miners, a number of others seem to have benefited from yesterday's dramatic and heart-warming rescue from the Chilean mountains:

  • the world's media. It has been a relatively easy story to report on - with a permanent media centre on site, a stable physical environment, a predictable timetable of events and a wonderful human interest story (with inevitable spin offs into profiles of the miners and their families). Certainly an easier story to report on than, say, the war in Somalia. Having said that, it appears from a leaked email published on today's Guardian that the BBC have overspent on their Chile mine story - a situation which BBC World News editor Jon Williams describes as "serious".
  • the President of Chile. Sebastian Pinera has not been backward in coming forward, as the world's media have focused in on this good news story in his backyard. I even noticed one BBC report describing him as the "leader" of the rescue. I would be very surprised if that were an accurate description of his role, but the political capital that has rubbed off on the 61-year-old Harvard graduate has been considerable.
  • the popular psychology industry. Although I do not agree with everything Brendan O'Neill says on the subject (here), he does raise some important questions about the allegedly authoritarian role played by the 300-plus medical and psychology professionals who "supported" the miners from the top. In particular, claims that letters from family members were withheld from certain miners because of their potential to damage the psychology of individuals underground, are, if true, a cause for concern. Nonetheless, the world's media have predictably wheeled on their chosen experts to explain how the miners must have been feeling - thus reinforcing the power of such professionals and meeting a felt need for ever more intrusive public access into the very souls of those making the news.

My personal favourite anecdote from the mine story is of the t-shirts worn by the miners on their rescue. I'll let my friend Heidi Chase (Spanish speaker and oft-times South American resident) summarize from her facebook profile:

“Written on the back of the t-shirts the Chilean miners were wearing as they came to the surface…

“Porque en su mano est├ín las profundidades de la tierra, Y las alturas de los montes son suyas”

(Because in His hand are the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains are His) Psalm 95 V4”

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