links for 2007-09-24
Note to Self: Brainstorming: A Health Care Symposium?

George Orwell on Coal

From The Road to Wigan Pier:

The Road to Wigan Pier - Chapter 2 by George Orwell: Our civilization, pace Chesterton, is founded on coal.... The machines that keep us alive, and the machines that make machines, are all directly or indirectly dependent upon coal. In the metabolism of the Western world the coal-miner... is a sort of caryatid upon whose shoulders nearly everything that is not grimy is supported...


You get into the cage, which is a steel box about as wide as a telephone box and two or three times as long. It holds ten men, but they pack it like pilchards in a tin, and a tall man cannot stand upright in it. The steel door shuts upon you, and somebody working the winding gear above drops you into the void... the cage probably touches sixty miles an hour... at the bottom you are perhaps four hundred yards underground.... What is surprising... is the immense horizontal distances that have to be travelled underground.... If it is a mile from the pit bottom to the coal face, that is probably an average distance; three miles is a fairly normal one... these distances bear no relation to distances above ground. For in all that for three miles as it may be, there is hardly anywhere outside the main road, and not many places even there, where a man can stand upright...


Down there where coal is dug is a sort of world apart.... Yet it is the absolutely necessary counterpart of our world above. Practically everything we do, from eating an ice to crossing the Atlantic, and from baking a loaf to writing a novel, involves the use of coal, directly or indirectly.... In order that Hitler may march the goose-step, that the Pope may denounce Bolshevism, that the cricket crowds may assemble at Lords, that the poets may scratch one another's backs, coal has got to be forthcoming.... Here am I sitting writing in front of my comfortable coal fire. It is April but I still need a fire.... It is only very rarely, when I make a definite mental-effort, that I connect this coal with that far-off labour in the mines...