FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Harlan County, Turkey

by

“Don’t go down in the mine, Dad,

Dreams very often come true;

Daddy, you know it would break my heart

If anything happened to you…

“Don’t Go Down the Mine, Dad”, in honor of a South Wales mining disaster

Men and some women die for our air conditioning and central heating.  Yesterday’s  mine explosion in Soma, western Turkey, probably due to safety cost cutting, killed upwards of 300 men and probably many more.   Underground you die from being burned alive, suffocated or poisoned by fumes.  Four years ago 29 men died in West Virginia when the Upper Big Branch of Massey Energy’s mine blew up due to criminally lax safety violations.

The Turkish  association of electrical engineers said the disaster represented “murder, not an accident”. It accused the mine operators of neglect and using obsolete equipment. Inadequate ventilation systems meant carbon monoxide and other toxic gases could spread more quickly, it said.  Shades of Big Branch.

In mining, especially underground but also the pollution-crazy “open cast” (mainly in western states), deaths and injuries are routinely and unemotionally factored into a company’s balance sheet.  So much for litigation, so much for insurance.  Rarely do executives get indicted for malfeasance and no one who caused the deaths ever goes to jail.

We get nearly 40% of our energy from mainly bituminous (soft) coal from 52 mines in 25 states.  It’s a diminishing resource, which is one reason why coal companies savagely tear off the tops of ancient mountains, and dump the poisoned slurry in creeks and rivers, to extract the very last ounce of miners’ blood.  “Miners’ blood” is not hyperbole since mine owners – almost everywhere in the world, from China to Poland to India to USA – are historically among the coldest-hearted employers indifferent to human pain.  Which is one reason why coal miners, who do the actual digging in pretty terrible conditions especially underground, tend to be militant and class-and-union conscious.

Have we forgotten the 1921 Battle of Blair mountain when 10,000 armed and angry Logan county. West Virginia miners, seeking union recognition, fought an all-out war against private cops and federalized soldiers?  That’s when Harding sent in army bombers against the miners.

Almost every day I read about mine “accidents” in other parts of the world that kills workers who I feel are my brothers because I’ve been underground and have seen the raw energy and almost surgeon-like skill it takes to be a miner.  That’s another reason why coal owners hate miners – their sense of solidarity.  At the height of the Cold War, between Russia and the west, on a brink of nuclear Armageddon, I was visiting Don Bas miners from some of the deepest and most hazardous pits from presently disputed Ukraine, hug, kiss and trade sweaters with Yorkshire coal diggers who got drunk and sang songs with them, all in the same family.

From my prejudiced point of view, coal miners – yes, the producers of so much carbon dioxide emissions – are the natural aristocrats among us.  Romantic?  Maybe.  But I’ve spent days “doon pit” and it’s a lousy, dirty, stifling job.

Coal has been dug, by women and children too, lowered in buckets in shallow holes in the ground, since the Bronze Age and industrially since Roman times.

Statistics say one day coal will end as a fossil fuel.   Coal miners will fight literally to the death to save their deadly jobs.

Even when they’re most politically and religiously conservative, miners inherently tend to be fighters and even revolutionists.  (See “The Molly Maguires”, “Harlan County USA” and anything about the Asturian dinimteros).   Which is why employers and governments have an inherent tendency, like the UK’s Margaret Thatcher, to need to squash them.

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

 

 

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
Charles R. Larson
A Review of Mary Roach’s “Grunt”
David Yearsley
Stuck in Houston on the Cusp of the Apocalypse
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail