The Freedom Trap
About 42000 reputable newspapers and TV channels, and about 42 000 000 bloggers, are commenting on the fantastic story of the Chilean miners who are currently being rescued from the hole where they've been trapped for over two months.
It's a really nice story. World news is mostly miserable, and this particular story started out just the same - a mine collapsed, dozens killed - but then it turned out to be a story of miraculous survival, and eventually a reality TV; something that brings to mind the Apollo 13 story and Big Brother and Titanic and the Kwai River Bridge. And it is even closer to us, because the people whose fate has been hanging from a thread for the past 68 days are not fabulous astronauts or elite military, but a group of ordinary working men, who have become a part of an extraordinary course of events due to an act of God.
Some people are complaining that politicians, as well as the media and other commercial parties, are exploiting the miners. Well, sure they are, but for once, let them go ahead, at least for some time. It's a wonderful exploit. I'm sure pretty much everyone on Earth who has heard of this occurrence is glad that it all turns out so well, so it's much nicer that everyone exploits this than the latest car bomb in Bahdad or a mutilated schoolgirl in Pakistan or a mudflood in Mexico. It's been clear for some weeks already that at least most of the miners in Copiapó will be rescued successfully, but now it looks like they'll all be up under the sun, in good health, in just a few hours.
It's a great publicity event for Chile. There's plenty of goodwill to be collected by the incumbent Chilean president Sebastian Piñera and fellow politicians. Also, I have little doubt that the gold and copper mine, which wasn't hugely rich and which did not enable the San Esteban mining company to thrive too much, will change. The mining company have been criticized a lot, but I suppose that in the general carneval spirit, the Chileans won't be too vindicative even if there were some lapses in mining security. After all, there still was a working shelter and enough training, and eventually also ambitious rescue efforts, which enabled these miners to survive - although the more un-romantic amongst us will surely tell that instead of spending tens of millions of dollars in rescuing the miners, the same amount of money would have saved ten or hundred times as many lives if it had been spent on aid to poor children in the capitalistic Chile which has such an evil neo-liberalist political leadership. Hey, their economic recover was enabled by one Pinochet, so it cannot possibly be good.
But back to the mine. I think it is quite likely that in a year or two, the Copiapó site will be a theme park that welcomes wealthy norteamericano tourists to spend an hour, or a day or two, down in a hotel in the mine, and then experience the escape lift, for a hefty fee. That may be a better use for the place than extracting copper and gold ore.
There's just one but. The miners are now famous. As I mentioned before, they will never have to go down a mine shaft again, unless they want to, because they can make a living selling autobiographies, movie rights, etc etc.
This is their biggest trap. They are now free from the mine, but they are not free from the experience of utter despair for many many dark days before contact to outside world, not are they free from the curious crowd, us. They've been sturck well out of mental balance, and now they'll be under intense media scrutiny - particularly the poor chap who had both a wife and a mistress - and unless they are strong-minded individuals, or have very honest, good and competent personal managers, some of them will be like a mix of Maradona and Matti Nykänen. That is dangerous for their well-being.
Perhaps the Chilean government should appoint someone to look after them a bit, because their newly gained freedom is the trap that ensnares them.
(I thought I had made up a nice subject line for the post, but then I realized that I had only borrowed it from a solid thriller from 40 years back, by one of my favourites, Desmond Bagley.)