Rescued Chilean miners emerge into a world of contradictions!

Posted on: 13 October 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

While we celebrate the rescue of 33 Chilean miners, I can't help but lament our lack of compassion and consistency for other areas of the world.

Today the big news worldwide is the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners buried for the past 69 days. Those who have been watching from the early morning will have seen the euphoria as each miner came to the surface in the cigar shaped rescue vessel. 

The world's media is tracking each moment of the saga along with the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. Hugs, cheers, smiles and manic hand waving greet each rescue and the expression on the faces of the miners is a joy to watch. A great ending to what could have been a horrific tragedy for those men and their loved ones.

In a few days, once they have been released from hospital, the miners will be telecast around the world regaling us with their stories and experiences. The film and book contracts will start flowing forth and the PR men and lawyers will be recruited.

Whatever happens nothing will detract from the effort and commitment of the people of Chile to free these men from their granite tomb. The resolve to get these men free and the resources deployed has been astounding: an effort so impressive that it got me thinking why all this effort was expended for only 33 human beings was.

In other parts of the world, similar humans are slaughtering each other with bombs and guns. Whole communities are left to starve in Africa and millions of children are left to fend for themselves on the streets of India's cities. What has made these miners so special, why are they the chosen ones to be given a second chance at life, when others are barely given a start.

I'm happy to reveal my inner cynic but this is all about ratings my friends, TV/media ratings! Advertising income for the media companies! The Chilean miners’ story quickly became a cause celebre, which brought a flood of viewers to the news channels and newspapers; it’s as simple as that!

As a society we relish being able to experience the drama and risks others suffer in life. This fascination has become pornography for the masses; it is grubby and vulgar – and we just cannot help but watch it. Remember the film Slum Dog Millionaire? When it began attracting publicity the media had a field day documenting the lives of the street children of Bombay, their trials and their tribulations. Media all over the world delivered the injustice and the pathos of these children's lives. However, once the publicity machine of the movie and the media’s interest stopped so did the interest in the ‘Bombay street children’.

The same thing happened with the tsunami in 2004 – while it was on our TV screens, we dug into our pockets and paid the price of our entertainment. What a sad indictment of our society and us individually: Why can’t we just be consistently caring all the time?

Why can’t we experience the same degree of compassion when we hear of an Afghan family killed by badly targeted Coalition rockets? Better still, why can’t we find the courage to say, 'stop‘?

In a few weeks time, the miners will be but a memory to most of us. To paraphrase Andy Warhol, they will have had their 15 minutes of fame: the street children of Bombay will still suffer and be exploited and the war victims of the world will still die and be maimed and we’ll all still be looking in the paper to see what’s on TV tonight!

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