Friday, April 09, 2010

687 Don't Just Stand There. DO Something!

687 Don't Just Think. DO Something!

Coal is cheap. Coal miners' lives also are cheap. They're just human machines, plow horses underground. A few of them are missing from the latest "disaster," the one in West Virginia. It's no disaster. It's just life on earth. The men who died below ground were only farm animals -- plow horses trained to pick rocks out of the wall of a pit that is designed to collapse and kill them.

You get these idiotic news and opinion pieces that say stuff like "our prayers are with the missing men and with their families" in West Virginia. Nonsense. "My thoughts are with them..." Who cares? Your prayers and your thoughts are pretty much worthless. And so are the lives of the men you pray for and whose thoughts your's are with. Means nothing. What DOES mean something is the way we mine coal. Human bodies sent into the bowels of the earth to retrieve stuff that powers our homes and electrical plants and heating systems. Stuff that you use to barbecue on July Fourth or Labor Day. Human bodies that always are at risk.

Keep your thoughts and your prayers and do something about the terrible conditions in mines from West Virginia and Pennsylvania to Utah.

There is no such thing as "mine safety." It's a myth. It's baloney. It always has been. There is no safe human way to extract this stuff from the entrance to Hell. Ask any miner what needs to be done to fix things. He (and these days, or she) will tell you at length.

Prayers and "my thoughts?" Where were they when methane started pouring into the hole and the exhaust system was working in reverse? Breathing methane won't kill you. Unless you light a match. Of course, every mine is a no smoking zone. But what about sparks or the heat from the equipment?

In November of 2009, you were introduced to Kutz the Miner, retired, in this space (Wessay #619.) Remember him? He had plenty to say about mine owners and "mine safety." Difference between Kutz who still is among us and the guys in West Va.: probably dumb luck. Here's a reminder:

"... this guy is a coal miner, capital C, capital M. Soon, he's sitting with us. We're learning about how bulldozers bull doze underneath the earth. We hear how the elevators take the men up and down. (It was mostly men in his day, but there was one woman, he says.) And he talks about his United Mine Workers' health insurance, insurance he still carries--free, except for his $140 dollars in dues a year. To look at him, you'd think this big gentle ox of a man didn't need it. But he did and he still has it, and the union, he 'thanks his lord,' is still paying for it."

He lived to speak wistfully of his days below ground. And maybe his prayers and thoughts are worth a little more than those of the rest of us, at least in this case.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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