Lights. Action!

I would not be surprised or dismayed if the screenplay of a film about the rescue of the Chilean miners is already written. It has been, and will continue to be, a dramatic story to tell and follow. Some of the miners may gain celebrity status. Judging by the amount of commentary about people following the rescue through live broadcasts on radio, television, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, or whatever could keep them abreast by the minute, a film will be a blockbuster. But, the rescued miners are not the only story in the long run.

I wrote yesterday (Who shines the light on news?) about how the international media had made this human tragedy in one country into a world-wide outpouring of sympathy. I wonder whether the CEO of the mining company that owned the mine hopes that all of this sympathy will go on so that they can slip away unnoticed. I have read that ‘officials at the copper and gold mine whose collapse trapped the 33 men for more than two months still have to answer why it was allowed to operate at all’. In other words, some corporate and governmental incompetence put people’s lives at risk and their much-publicised rescue may focus attention on this and other mining disasters. Industrial disasters, more generally, may get some unwelcome attention? Natural disasters, too? We cannot be sure, and it will not be about the merit of the grief. Ratings matter. Will much change in situations where economic activity is balanced against personal circumstances? The losers are usually quite clear. Yet, nothing much changes.

Remember the coal miners trapped in West Virginia this past April (see ABC News report)? Sure you do. Do you remember the recent Gulf oil well disaster? Sure you do. Do you remember oil well disasters in Nigeria (see Guardian report)? Sure you don’t! Do you recall the diamond mine tragedies in Sierra Leone? Well, you might recall a few scenes from ‘Blood Diamond’ and Matt Damon and another guy looking on to a set of sorry workers wading in mud, and remembering something about mercury and cyanide poisoning. Oh, and yeah, the diamonds were used to help finance arms purchases for a civil war and the results, which include thousands of maimed people and amputees, are really horrible to see. But, that’s Africa and… What about the earthquake in Haiti? Remember that? Yes, but after decades of government and politicians robbing citizens and aid agencies throwing money at poverty problems with no real efforts to deal with core issues like corruption, the earthquake just focused attention on a country that was a disaster waiting to happen…

For me, there are many sad truths about the recent events in Chile.

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About The Grasshopper

Professional international economist, recently retired from an international organization. I use blogging as a way of organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, and spent many years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for a few decades, and worked and travelled abroad extensively. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of girls. Also, married to an economist.
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4 Responses to Lights. Action!

  1. P. clayton Huggins says:

    Dennis, I am happy to read your blog: I do not own a TV so have been speared the media spectacle. While waiting to beging my radio broadcast last night I got my first taste of the media event: I watch a live BBC feed of the rescue effort. Two things struck me: the emotional tug the story had on those who have been following it and, the obvious “hyping” of the story of the BBC reporters. It was an odd feeling to stand emotionally detached from the event and and come to understand that as important as the rescue effort was the manipulation of emotions of the media audiance. I began to understand the highly charged comments of FB friends who reported being awashed in tears at the sight of the rescued miners. I agree with you that there is more happening here than the mere rescue of trapped miners and that “more” is rather disturbing to me: are we really that easily manipulated… It is always rewarding to read your points of view.

    • Dennis Jones says:

      Clayton, there may be ‘maniulation’ going on, and it’s clear that people are quite easily led. No doubt, there is a lot of emotional content in getting up close and personal with a few rather than many. Stories about thousands in disaster draw a lot less attention, especially if related to places that face such events often. That seems to be one sad truth. That does not touch the grief on the ground locally. There are also horror elements, such as come from thinking about things like being buried alive for two months, and all that can inspire if people pull through. There’s plenty of good in the events, from which we can all learn. But, the hype-ing of the story is something of which to be aware.

  2. Steven says:

    No kidding. If only the people who made “The Mouse that roared” were around today they would have more than enough material to do some wonderful work.

  3. cherylanng says:

    I thank God that another group of miners didn’t die in another of the world’s mines. As far as the hype is concern, pay extra attention to the other news that is happening along with the hype. Huh! You got to love ‘the smoke and mirrors’!

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