As hopes rise for an earlier-than-expected rescue, the thirty-three miners trapped 700 metres below the surface in the San José copper-gold mine in northern Chile sent messages of love, hope, and meta-ethics to their families and friends above.
Raúl Enrique Bustos Ibáñez, one of the miners who has been trapped in the mine since the roof collapsed on August 5th, wrote, ‘My dearest wife, I am healthy, and thinking of you always. When I return to you, I will be the same husband no matter what I might have done down here in the mine. What we may or may not have done underground cannot be judged by the standards of up there. In any case, we have all agreed that what happens in the mine, stays in the mine, so let’s just leave it at that.’
Another of the trapped miners, Ricardo Xavier Rivera, sent an affectionate yet intellectually rigorous letter telling his five children that he was keeping his spirits up by singing the songs he sang to them as babies, and that he was ‘looking forward to holding you all in my arms soon, and by the way, the time down here has taught me that moral judgments, or their justification, is not objective or universal but instead relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of people.
‘I am missing you all so much, and we will have such a big happy celebration with your mother when I can return, but remember this too my children – the descriptive properties of terms such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘right’, and ‘wrong’ do not stand subject to universal truth conditions, but only to societal convention and personal preference. Just saying, that’s all. Love you!’
The leader of the miners, Luis Urzúa, added in his letter to the media that ‘our hopes rise with caution when we hear that we could be back at home, in our families’ arms, back under ‘normal’ society rules in a few weeks, and when that day comes, we ask you all to respect our privacy, and bear in mind that various acts that would be condemned as ‘immoral’ in a conservative Catholic community in Chile, might be considered a beautiful expression of the purest kind of love in ancient Greece, which kind of puts the lie to any fixed framework of morality, wouldn’t you say?’
He went on to say that the miners’ self-declared ‘war on chapped lips’ would continue and asked for another half-dozen jars of Vaseline.
31st August 2010