The Chilean Miners’ Rescue: Three Less-Conventional Thoughts

This is just a quick post to vent a few grievances which have been mounting during the past few days’ news coverage of the rescue of the 33  miners in Chile. Right from the outset I want to get across that I am as ecstatic about this as everyone else seems to be. I think it is a great thing and I praise the ingenuity of everyone involved in the effort, and the great way in which people all over the globe seem to have come together in an atmosphere of mutual hope and thankfulness.

That being said, I have three niggling gripes…

1. Israel

Obviously I don’t mean to tar the entire country with the same brush as Benjamin Netanyahu, I am simply looking to be controversial :P

However, has everyone seen this news article published on Haaretz on 13th October? Apparently:

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Netanyahu himself had predicted the collapse of the Chilean copper and gold mine, where 33 miners had been trapped for 69 days until their ultimate rescue.

The article continues, stating:

The statement [from the Prime Minister’s Office] goes on to mention that “Netanyahu predicted such an event – a mine disaster – in his book Terrorism: How the West can win from 1987.” Quotes from the book were sent to reporters in addition to a scanned page from the actual volume.

Whilst it should be acknowledged that the article adds that important caveat – “It is not clear whether it was Netanyahu himself who asked his office to publicize the quotes, but it is very likely that he approved their release – the sheer audacity of using such an event for some sort of political one-upmanship is mind-boggling. I mean, it’s fairly obvious that the Chilean President has been using the event to his advantage… and that’s a debate that I do not want to get into at this stage… but that any leader of any country could detract from such an amazing humanistic act by making such outrageous claims just seems to fulfill all my negative expectations of politicians. Grr!

2. CNN

I watch an awful lot of BBC News. Far too much. It is mostly because I don’t like most programmes on the TV and am stuck with the option of washing dishes in silence, or with BBC News 24 in the background. I like it… I know the accuracy of most of the reporting varies enormously [for me, personally, see ANY story on religious issues], but it generally provides a pleasant, informative background noise. However, every so often, they decide that it is a great idea to go “live” to a press conference, or to parliament, or to a street where they “think” an important individual may be just about to arrive. This results in 20 minutes of utterly spurious ramblings from press officers/parliamentarians, or a poor news reporter having to fill in the uncomfortable silence whilst we wait for the rapidly-becoming-less-interesting event to occur. The same thing was happening ALL DAY when the miners were being rescued… “here we are at the mine, where any minute now we are expecting the 14th miner to reach the surface… look there’s his wife… he’s been down there for ages… he must be thrilled… can you imagine what it would have been like?… I wish I had had more for breakfast…” etc. So, faced with this I decided to flip channels and realised that I had CNN… “I haven’t watched CNN in a while” I thought… so on it went.

I constantly read in various books for my research about how America is more “religious” than Europe, but I very rarely see tangible examples. CNN proved to be just such an example! They, too, were reporting on the Chilean mine rescue, but what was noticeably different from the BBC was that they continually referred to the faith of the trapped miners. Mario Gómez has been hailed as the “spiritual leader” of the miners, apparently leading them in prayer and building an altar deep in the mine. I am not getting into whether this is a good thing or not – their personal faith is up to them – and I am not criticizing this appearing in a news report. However, it seemed to me that this collective Christian faith, of seemingly “everyone” in Chile, was one of the main thrusts of the news report. Unfortunately I do not have the report, or any sort of official statistics on “numbers of references to religious faith” or anything like that, but the major subjective impression that I got from seeing the report was that religion was a major theme in the CNN report, and non-existent in the BBC report. I wonder if anyone has done a study comparing the pervasiveness of religion in the media? I know I’d like to read it…

3. Chris de Burgh

It is my secret shame that I actually like Chris de Burgh. There probably is no rational reason. One of his albums was on a couple of old cassettes that my dad handed to me when I was eight (including Pink Floyd – Meddle… leading to a lifelong love of Pink Floyd) and I have ever since thoroughly enjoyed listening to his overly sentimental, cheesily OTT music. So, obviously, CdeB is not the point of this rant. However, he has, of late, joined Facebook… and because he was listed in my favourite music I now receive all sorts of bizarre philosophical observations from the man himself (or from someone pretending to be him).

Whilst this particular one smacks of his trademark soppy sentimentality, it really did sum up a lot of my feelings on this current media phenomenon:

So the Alien looks down from space at the jubilant scenes in Chile, and marvels at the saving of 33 lives…and thinks,”then why do humans devise weapons to kill billions? Very strange…”

Disregarding the almost infinite criticisms one could make of such a statement, this did just bring home to me how bizarre the human race is. Somewhere in the region of 20,000+ people die every day from hunger and poverty (see here and here) and according to this BBC Report, 2 people die every minute on average due to some form of conflict situation happening around the globe.

What is it about the human mind that allows the entire world to be transfixed and jubilant at the amazing rescue of 33 hardworking men from the depths of a mine, yet allows the vast majority of us (including myself) to passively ignore the 27,000+ deaths happening every day due to human action and inaction?

I am very pleased that all the miners were rescued safely, and I am very pleased that the “entire” world seemed so jubilant about it and that it may have served as a small catalyst to take us one step closer to the ultimate goal of worldwide “peace” and “harmony” etc etc. I can only hope, however, that this event will awaken the world, especially the West, to our own entrenched hypocrisy, and that it will truly make a difference to the unknown millions who die every year and never receive any media attention.

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About Chris

Scholar of religion/nonreligion... PhD Student (Lancaster University), blogger, singer, actor, thinker... Northern Irish living in Scotland. Co-founder of The Religious Studies Project. Director at the NSRN. Baritone masquerading as a tenor. Vegetarian for no particular reason.

One response to “The Chilean Miners’ Rescue: Three Less-Conventional Thoughts”

  1. Slamdunk says :

    Interesting thoughts.

    On CNN, it is important to note that CNN’s leader and founder is Ted Turner who is an atheist; therefore your descritpion of the network’s coverage is not surprising.

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