Miners As Heroes—Will the Light Do More Harm Than the Dark?

Everyone is happy and invigorated by the Chilean miners’ rescue and the resolve of the Chilean government to gather whatever resources were required internationally to save the men. The belief that every means should be exhausted and no expense spared to preserve life is noble and uplifting. It’s a great story, better than fiction, though we all know it will soon be fictionalized.

The miners are about to be media heroes. In fact, during their ordeal, they were already organizing to manage the process. These blue collar workers in a remote part of the world, with no assurance that the rescue plan would work, contacted a notary on the surface to begin having proper papers drawn up for their eventual business ventures.

I’m wondering if the glare of the world’s attention will be worse than the gloom of the mine.

They will make their appearances, they will recount their stories, they will sign book, movie, TV, and other deals. Perhaps they’ll license equipment or candy bars. They’ll put some money in the bank. Some will become more prominent than others by dint of personality or language, and resentments will form. There will be arguments over who exactly was responsible for what. Separate deals will be cut, violating the group’s agreements, and lawyers will begin their ubiquitous squawking. There will be divorces, broken families, and tears.

Eventually, what becomes of them back in Chile? The limelight always fades, even for desperate novelty acts like the Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. What do they do with the rest of their lives? Host a talk show? Tend a garden?

I wish them the best—those I’ve seen and listened to appear to be fine, honest men with the normal set of peccadilloes. (The mistresses running into the wives should make for a great TV movie.) All they were trying to do when they went down there was to earn an honest day’s pay for their families.

Now they’re faced with a lifetime of decisions about what it all means.

© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved.

7 thoughts on “Miners As Heroes—Will the Light Do More Harm Than the Dark?

  1. Hi Alan,

    A sensitive and brilliant insight.

    This brief essay, as I see it, is really about what happens when you’re thrown onto a stage and into a role before you’ve paid the price of practice and preparation. It usually leads to disaster.

    Sadly, so many spend years or decades of their lives waiting for a big break, thinking that once it comes, everything will be taken care of for them.

    The reality is that if you don’t pay the price by building yourself day in and day out, the very big opportunity you’ve waited for will end up being your downfall.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on this, Alan. I agree with Dov – the spotlight after an event that causes celebrity can be intense and glaring, and the darkness after it leaves just as extreme.

    What caught my attention after your post was the word ‘hero.’ It seems that since 9/11, that word has lost its meaning. Webster calls a hero “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability,” “an illustrious warrior,” or “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities.”

    Seems to me to be pretty specific – a hero requires extraordinary abilities and/or actions. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t being a miner and a victim of circumstances require none of those traits or characteristic? If anything, it’s the people who rescued them who are heroes – not the poor blokes who got stuck – yes?

    I’m really confused by this new idea. It seems to go along with the phenomenon of becoming famous for being famous. No contribution to society other than somehow garnering enough buzz to where people seem to want to know your every move. What’s that about?

    And I have this in my own circle. I have a friend who says she wants to be a motivational speaker. When she told me this, I asked her, “So what will you be speaking on? What is your subject? What will you be imparting to people to help them improve their lives?”

    Her answer? “Oh, I don’t know.” Silence. She has absolutely nothing to share, and yet she wants the spotlight. To be the ‘hero’ without having done anything to earn the moniker. For some reason, this scares me.

  3. Everyone suffers and endures, but no one has to be miserably or surrender. Optimism and pessimism are philosophies. But they don’t equate to heroism. (I love sports announcers talking about an “heroic putt” or “heroic set of tennis.” Please.

    The world chews up celebrity, and the miners will disappear, most of them probably not much better for the ordeal and attention, unfortunately. There are already rifts among them, as I predicted.

    Heroes put themselves in harm’s way. The senior firefighter who leads others into burning buildings to save lives is a hero; the senior police officers who manage a hostage crisis or terrorist threat from a command post miles away are not.

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