San Jose – A Love Story

It just goes to show that it’s not confinement but isolation that drives people crazy. 33 people can survive fairly happily in a cell or log cabin or cave, but cut them off from human contact, and they soon deteriorate.
In spite of terrible conditions and deprivation, the trapped miners of the San Jose all survived, and no frictions or conflicts have been reported in the months of close enforced proximity. It seems that we are not rats in cages after all, as some would have us believe. We do understand that our survival depends on the survival of others, not their deaths. And too many people aren’t the problem, but not enough.
With a little bit of hope and organisation, all 33 miners were able to form a relationship which achieved its purpose. In fact, they survived through love in its purest, most basic form, which is why this story is so big. People have seen the intensity of their experience over the weeks, and are actually envious of it. The energy of this story, like all good drama, is the degree to which it reveals what is missing from many people’s lives, and which they instinctively yearn for, and which they can experience vicariously by watching it unfold on TV.
The format of the drama did help, being approximately about the same length as the normal reality TV series. And from the opening scene, the event was inevitably structured to an exquisitely dramatic climax. And the ‘cast’ was perfect. So there was no excuse for not getting rave reviews and standing ovations. Much of the effect was in the timing.
But in spite of the accident of its five-act epic format, and the high-octane media presentation, basic human decency was on display. The trouble is that this is now being rapidly spun as either ‘national pride’, or the triumph of the will. The professional miseries are already confidently declaring that It Could Never Happen here – in ‘broken Britain’. We would never unite over such a rescue because school exams are too easy, or because the poor get life too easy, or because of political correctness, or because there are too many foreigners and Britain has lost it’s Identity! Anything to distract attention from the real story, and focus minds on the manufactured divisions between people and away from the vast amount which unites them.
This week saw the 97th anniversary of Britain’s biggest mining disaster at Senghenydd, which killed 440 men and boys. And in a week, it will be another anniversary of Aberfan, which saw all too few survivors, and which united the country instantly. Since then there have been dozens of other instances of Britain instinctively displaying the right responses to events. The inquest this week into the 7/7 bombings should be enough to silence the pap-pessimists like Matthew Wright, who make a living from sneering. But anyone old enough to read since 1972 will have seen Britain celebrating its core values in the face of immense threats – partly from the same media industry which claims to further them. The same media, indeed, which give very little space to the issue of safety at work, either here or in Chile. And which has ignored the fact that it was the negligence of the mining company which trapped these men in a communal coffin. And still hasn’t mentioned that the biggest beneficiary of this drama, the Claudius who escapes with the Danish crown jewels, bilionaire President Pinera, was the person who intensified the privatisation of the mining industry and stifled the miners unions, degrading safety standards and helping to cause the mess in the first place.
If god really did save the San Jose miners, He will now ensure that the aren’t put in the same danger again, and that those responsible are held to account. If He doesn’t, just what sort of god is He anyway? There has been endless nonsense about miracles, and how belief in them helped the miners to survive. In fact, what got them through was not faith, or patriotism, but the tribal shift system which they and their predecessors had created to deal with a dehumanising and brutal occupation. It was working class culture which gave them the society which saw them through their imprisonment.
One one front or another, the working classes have died by the millions to create the advanced technological age we live in. A level of technology which is easily capable of eliminating poverty and squalor and ignorance. And all built and tested by those who have benefited least.
By any morality, therefore, socialism in some form is now a right which has been earned by the sacrifices of scores of generations of ordinary people. Equality is everyone’s collective property, not something to be ‘granted’. It is already paid for, and the account is well in credit and getting more so every day, and repayment is now well overdue. It isn’t a matter for negotiation.

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