Sometimes I read stories in the mainstream papers that call into question this whole enterprise. An example of that occurred this week. After the coal mine collapse in Utah we found out that the plan at that mine was to conduct an activity called "retreat mining," which involves, among other things, a practice of miners "pulling" mine pillars to deliberately collapse part of the mine. So they can get more coal from the rubble before doing it again! You can't make this stuff up!
I've been reading background stories about this, trying to wrap my head around this. Maybe I have it wrong, I thought. Surely, that's it, I have it wrong! Nobody would do anything this crazy, just to make money! Ha, that's it, I'm not a good reader, I read it wrong. So when the Salt Lake Tribune story referred to the retreating and the mining of rubble as "cut-and-gut," I failed to notice that the subject had changed from coal mining to off-shore fish processing. When I thought they said that the shaking of the earth that accompanies the collapses is routinely called the "bounce," I neglected to notice they were now talking about good and bad mattresses.
But no, I appear to have read correctly. When the operator of the Utah mine protested as news media suggested that retreat mining caused the miners to be buried or trapped, he didn't say they weren't retreat mining at the time. He said, indeed they were, but it wasn't the retreat mining's fault. It was an earthquake's fault. Like, "Yes, I was punching Jimmy repeatedly in the jaw, but that wasn't what broke his tooth. Another tooth maliciously hit it. I am not culpable."
Besides, it's not fair to blame retreat mining for coal mining deaths because it's been used successfully for over 70 years and statistics show it only causes three times the rate of fatalities per work hour as any other method used. "Yes, I was punching Jimmy repeatedly in the jaw, but that was only three times more likely to cause a tooth to break as giving him a noogy, so I am not culpable."
Besides, retreat mining is only used to obtain 10 percent of all the coal mined so it's not like it's done all the time. "Yes, I was punching Jimmy repeatedly in the jaw, at that time, but you never talk about the 90 per cent of the time I trip him and give him wedgies. That could break a tooth, too, you know. I am not culpable."
You know I have to relate this all back to homelessness, don't you? I could point out that in the United States roughly 50 coal miners die each year in mining accidents out of a total of about 80,000 coal miners. Meanwhile, out of any 80,000 homeless people in the country roughly 400 to 500 die on the streets each year.
But homeless people don't get the respect that coal miners do, because people say homelessness is due to bad life choices.
Now I'm told coal miners stick with a job that entails retreat mining, and nobody but me is going to be the jackass who says "bad life choice?"
I was discussing the public response to coal miners who die versus the mostly non-response to the 10 times as many deaths among homeless people with activist Brigid "Just Because It Rhymes Doesn't Mean I Am" Hagan, and I suggested it's because coal miners get paid. People respect that as a clear indicator of good intention. I said prostitutes who get $3 a blow job get more respect when they die on the street than homeless people do, because they're clearly putting effort into getting on their feet.
It was Brigid, not I, who then said, "Well, on their knees, anyway." I am not culpable.
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