I’m in a sandwich bar around the corner from my studio, and I am the only customer as usual. There is a vast and empty floor space so I hope they are inundated with customers occasionally to make the rent worthwhile.
Not quite empty, though. A large flat screen TV occupies a corner of the bar, and it is relaying the Chilean miners’ rescue drama from the middle of the desert on the other side of the world. I am choking up every time I look at the screen, and of course I’m relieved along with the rest of the world that a third of the poor guys are already above the surface, safe from an underground hell hole we can’t even begin to imagine.
But whilst I’m caught up in these events, I feel an unease I can’t properly explain. It is such an extraordinary story, but it’s not over yet, and all I can think of are all the pitfalls which lie ahead. I worry that someone will get stuck in that pod. I worry about the massive media interest, and how unreal that first sight of the whole circus must seem. I worry about the inevitable over-exposure of personal relationships between families not equipped to deal with world-wide publicity. I worry where the line is between prurient voyeurism, and genuine concern. Where the line is between patronising and helping. Between exploitation and keeping us all informed.
Does it matter? This is what happens now when disaster strikes. We all see it, live it, tweet it, blog it. We are superficially so closely caught up in the drama, and yet we are not. We try to understand, but we can’t. We don’t have to live with the consequences, the trauma, and maybe that’s at the root of my disquiet. Real-life horror takes over our lives in a sanitized way, but we are free to just switch off whenever we want. It just makes me very uneasy.
I am still praying they all get out safely though.