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    

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire