I’ve been following with utter fascination and glee the events taking place in Chile as 33 miners are rescued from their cramped underground trap, which held them for 69 days some 2,300 feet below the surface. Not only is the entire event astounding for its duration, representing the longest period of human survival underground in history, but it also amazes in its demonstration of man’s humanity to man – something we see unfortunately too infrequently.
As I watched the first men being pulled out of the massively long, twisting tunnel to freedom, I could not help but think about eras and locales in which manual laborers such as these would have been left to die as expendable machinery – as in places where slavery has thrived, for example. In addition to outright slavery, which still occurs in far too many parts of the world – in fact, there are more slaves now than in any period in history – I also recalled the unfortunate stories of Irish and Chinese laborers, for example, working on the railroads in the U.S.; alas, their lives were not worth much. Numerous stories of this type from around the globe dating back thousands of years could be added to this list. We can look to the salt mines in Africa today, for example, where workers move in and out like ants, to see this concept in action. Another illustrative atrocity can be viewed in the construction of the massive city of Dubai, where some 300,000 workers have lived in virtual slavery and under appalling conditions. In general, workers’ lives have been cheap, to say the least.
A Celebration of life
Knowing this history of slavery, indentured servitude and manual labor, I was delighted and inspired to see the exact opposite treatment of these workers in Chile, who risked life and limb to leave their families and do an extraordinarily dangerous and ordinarily thankless task. With this mindbogglingly expensive and all-consuming effort to rescue them, we see an entire nation and much of the world giving them thanks in a heartfelt manner that generally only comes about through such tragedies. It is a wonderful sign, however, that humanity has matured when CEOs and public authorities stand next to – and even hug with great emotion – such laborers.
Good for you, Chile, for setting a shining example for humanity. Your concern for the workers and their families as human beings is impressive and inspiring. And thank you, good miners, for hanging in there and proving human spirit!