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Chilean Miners: Solnit v. Hobbes

November 6, 2010

“And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end […] endeavor to destroy, or subdue one another”(Leviathan 158).  As I watched the footage provided by CNN of the rescue of the Chilean miners, I wondered how they managed to survive such conditions of  a true state of nature. There was no central government and no rules. I personally believe such a miraculous survival and rescue was possible because of God but besides the spiritual aspect of the situation there is still the question of WHY? Why did those men cooperate? Why did they abide by only eating a half a spoon of tuna a day? Why didn’t they revolt against each other?

According to Hobbes, those men should have fought each other over the resources because they were in a state of nature where there is, “…no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short “(Leviathan 159).  For the first 15days of the 3months those men were trapped in a mine and had no idea whether they would ever be found.

And yet, unlike the Hobbesian state of nature they cooperated.

It was reported that one of the miners told the rest of the miners that they may live or they may die, but most likely they will die. Somehow those words of mortality brought those men closer together. According to Solnit,”Such disruption can provide a satisfaction so profound it transcends even the fear and sadness of disaster’s devastation. For disasters experienced as trauma make people feel helpless, but this awakened civil society instead often makes them feel powerful and free”(Uses of Disaster 2).

This ‘awakened civil society’ which Solnit refers to was also formed outside of the mines. The families of those miners never left their trapped loved ones. Staying in makeshift homes from August to October. Thus, in the case of the first 15 days of the  Chilean miners’ state of nature the question Why? can be answered by Solnit

….We see a latent civil society-a community-arising from the ruins of some disaster and becoming the grounds for connection and joy. (Uses of Disaster 3)

  1. eghat2 permalink
    November 7, 2010 12:04 AM

    I think you have made many great points in this blog. First of all, I believe it was unquestionably a state of nature for the Chilean miners, because (although government was still functioning above them) they had no government in their temporary world of entrapment. Therefore, they had to come up with some ‘way of life’; for them, it was working together in the best interest of all of their lives.
    I feel that this is a great example of Solnit’s interesting views on what happens in the state of nature. I very much enjoy the sense of goodness that she shines on humanity, rather than the the Locke’s view of solely self-interested, competitive people.
    Solnit’s article, as well as your blog post, begs for readers to think about other examples of human goodness shining in ‘a state of nature’. For me, the Indian Ocean Earthquake, and subsequent Tsunami of 2004 come to mind, as well as the earthquake in Haiti this past year. In both instances, the countries were thrown into a state of panic, and although there sometimes remains some sort of government, the aid that theses countries received from other countries was substantial. Knowing that these are similar situations, further solidifies Solnit’s argument. It is certainly not uncommon for a state of nature to lead to an example of human goodness; when people see others in need, many of them choose to help.

  2. November 8, 2010 3:31 PM

    I do enjoy this blog post, I think it brings up a very interesting situation, however I would have to disagree with the author. I do not think this case presents itself as a Hobbesian state of nature. First off, their was communication with the outside and they where able to get video and have entertainment the whole time they were down there. MOst importantly they were able to get food and other necessities to stay alive. I believe there are some aspects of the state of nature according to Hobbes here but it would have more like one, if they were all trapped down their with a limited amount of resources. In this situation it would be even more interesting to see if they acted more like Hobbes would describe, as a lawless society where everyone looks at for themselves or Solnit where they all would come together trapped down their with no communication to the outside world.

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