Those Trapped Chilean Miners are So Goddamn Lucky!

Over the course of the past week, several stories have appeared in the U.S. media that seemed to celebrate, without an iota of sarcasm or self-criticism, the bright and happy futures of 33 coal miners who have been trapped underground in the San Jose mine, in utterly unbearable conditions, for six weeks – and who are likely to remain trapped for at least several more months.

On September 15, a story by Eva Vergara and Vivian Sequera ((“Chile’s trapped miners have a thousand job offers.”)) circulated through a U.S. media market that took a break from airing stories about the almost 10% unemployment rate and the moribund U.S. economy to let readers know that those lucky miners in Chile had, for all intents and purposes, a future just about as rosy as Kevin Sbraga (who, the same week, took home the crown of Top Chef D.C.).

“The San Jose miners have been offered 1,188 jobs as of Tuesday,” the article proclaimed. And, unlike the jobs that under- and unemployed readers of the article might be in line for, “[t]here will be no deadline for the trapped miners to take advantage of this ‘relocation program’,” Jose Tomas Letelier, vice president at the Canadian gold mining company Kinross was quoted as saying. And a good thing, too, because I don’t think that the fax machine is set up yet to send off their resumes from inside the 500 square foot cavern where the 33 future job-seekers have been spending their darkened days.

On the same mid-September day, Jorge Medina’s story ((“Trapped Chilean miners’ next challenge: celebrity.”)) appeared via Reuters. “Los 33” (The 33), it seems, have yet another test ahead: handling the fame of the media circus whose groundwork is daily prepared for us by the likes of USA Today, Survivor, and Lost.

As I said when I appeared on Al Jazeera to talk about the Chilean miners a few weeks ago, we must not uncritically assume that the next few months of ongoing rescue will be executed to perfection—though we hope and pray that it will. The focus must remain on keeping these 33 men safe and strong in the coming weeks as well as working tirelessly for their rescue.

The situation at the San Jose mine is not another episode of reality TV. It is reality. And in the culture of the contemporary moment, we must work harder than ever to make, and to remember, that distinction.

Mark Nowak, a 2010 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009) and Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2004). He currently works as Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Read other articles by Mark, or visit Mark's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. mary said on October 13th, 2010 at 5:41am #

    The BBC News Channel and Sky News are going OTT on their coverage and commentary of the rescue. What brave, dignified and resourceful people the Chileans are. They show up the crowd of US goons who attempted the rescue of the British aid worker in Afghanistan who died after a grenade was thrown by them. They then lied, saying it was a terrorist’s suicide vest exploding that caused her death.

  2. mary said on October 13th, 2010 at 3:15pm #

    John Pilger’s very well informed comment on Chile, the politics and Pinera.

  3. mary said on October 15th, 2010 at 3:28am #

    While nearly all the world media focused on Chile, Obomber carried out his first nuclear test much to the anger of the Japanese. There is nothing on the BBC website about it.

    The BBC must have spent a fortune on their coverage in Chile. There were at least six reporters and the coverage of the rescue went on non stop for as long as it lasted and then more from the hospital etc since.

    The vultures now descend on the miners and their families in the race to see what lucre can be made from books and films.