Today was one of those days when you question reality and contrast fact with fiction. For you ask: is fiction merely a reflection of reality? Do we read fiction to escape or understand reality? Is fiction perception distilled or fact distorted by experience?
Is the following reality or fiction?
At an impossibly early hour the phone rings in a luxury hotel room. The engineer stumbles to the phone, not yet awake, and stubs a toe against a heavy table. Cursing fate and pain, he bumbles to the bathroom and the rest. Dressed in an expensive Hawaiian shirt, he descends to the shuttle that conveys him to the airport and hordes of indigents begging at the gates. He passes oblivious (yet concerned & powerless) to the business-class line and books in. Then he suffers the indignity of line after line and countless checks of passport, boarding pass, baggage, and person.
Boarding to hardly understood Spanish calls to action, he flops down in a large, padded seat, and watches mothers and crying children, small ladies with large baggage, and slick lads who can only be drug factotums shuffle to their seats. For two hours and through an horrific breakfast of old eggs dressed in green and red sauce, he spirits to Panama City from Guatemala City.
There is hardly time to hasten from one gate to the other to board again to more hardly understood Spanish and a five-hour flight to Santiago. This flight is spent sleeping and reading a book about airplane fighter pilots in the Pacific theater of the second world war. The death of yet another pilot is routine. Mowing down twenty-five marines as they try to take a Japanese island is nothing but a sight from a small plane flying out the sky to kill. It is almost a relief to land and take the indignity of immigration and customs officials. At least this is real regardless of how unreal it seems.
Hence to a private taxi driven by a shrivelled old man who knows where to go and is unctuous in his respect. A smile from a beautiful lady whom the engineers knows from previous hotel visits and to an place high above the city and Radio Beethoven with Mozart at his most tragic. Why is that music always so beautiful yet disconcerting; why do we descend into that music when it leaves us so hopeless and forlorn?
As I asked: is this fact or fiction, perception, prejudice, or distorted perspective based on a sore toe and tight boots?
Then I turned on the computer to receive emails. One was an article that an agent of the author asked me to post on this blog. Ordinarily I would not, for the article does not impress me. It is absent a breadth of perspective. Yet this time I post a piece that does not impress me, for this piece nicely epitomizes the theme of this posting: fiction versus fact, perception versus prejudice, and local versus international perspective.
So for what is is worth here it is. I would appreciate your comments on this piece, for this is not a picture of the mining world I know and work in.
The Risks With Mining
Mining is one of the most risky of occupational fields to be involved in during this day and age. Not only are there many health effects, there are also other hazards that miners face every day at work. If exposed to these hazards for a long enough amount of time, a miner can experience debilitating illnesses and even death.
Dangers of Asbestos
Exposure to asbestos is the most serious health effect that miners are facing today. This occurs through skin contact, ingestion or inhalation of asbestos fibers. Epidermal overgrowth is caused through skin contact with raw asbestos fibers. It is also transmitted when water is ingested from pipes that are contaminated with asbestos. Even low concentrations cause a serious health risk to miners and their families. When they return home, miners carry asbestos on their clothing and not only put themselves at risk but that of their loved ones and family too. Once inside of the home, these microscopic fibers are impossible to get rid of.
Some of the autoimmune diseases that are associated with this exposure are erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus. This is because of suppression in the body’s natural killing cells. It also increases a person’s chances of developing lung cancer. There has been damage to the miners DNA structure, which is found to be linked with the exposure to asbestos.
When it is inhaled asbestos causes irritation to bronchioles and to the lungs, which results in the lungs trying to digest it. But since it cannot be digested, it gets encased in scar tissue. This then produces effusions, benign fibrosis and plaque in the lungs. Miners exposed to asbestos are also known to get malignant mesothelioma, which is a type of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs or abdomen. The increase of lung irritation usually results in a miner contracting tumors, the end result of which is bronchogenic lung cancer. Another effect to the miners due to asbestos exposure is called effusions. These occur when fluid accumulates in their lungs. In very severe cases it results in fever, pain and the loss of air in the lungs. It has also been known to be the cause of death in some cases.
Explosions, Fires, and Gas Leaks
Some of the hazardous disadvantages that come along with mining are collapses, fires, gas leaks and explosions. There are pockets of gas from deep within the earth, such as firedamp and methane, which when inhaled, will cause someone to choke to death, and are prone to be explosive. When particles in the air circulate with gases released into the shaft, causes a fire to start. An explosion can be created by a spark from a lamp or from a piece of equipment. When an explosion occurs within a mine shaft it travels further, because of so few places for it to go. A mine collapse can occur if the rock and earth are not structurally sound. This can be a result from the miner moving around or from a burrowing animal. Erosion can also play a part in the shaft collapsing. Sometimes even a small shift will cause the whole shaft to collapse.
Some other hazards that can cause serious injury or death to miners are falling, electrocution, entrapment or in some rare cases floods. Working mines have also been the cause of workers developing deafness and the loss of vision due to limited lighting, in which to work. There is also the risk of oxygen deficiency from low oxygen concentration within the shaft.
With all of the hazards that come along with working as a miner, it would be wise for someone to take the time and seriously reconsider this choice of occupation.
Arthur Swarson is a political activist who hails originally from a small mining town. He is a contributing author at Life Insurance.