Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Political Executive Calls for Divine Intervention

There are coal miners trapped in West Virginia, and the governor has called for a miracle. Typically atheist blog posts would say "and how would we react if he had called for leprechauns to free the miners?" but let's go one step further and ask why elected officials waste their time with this nonsense (because they almost invariably do). Blog posts (atheist and otherwise) also typically feel a call to declare compassion and say they wish the miners to get out in one piece. Of course I want this too, although my wanting it has nothing to do with whether it will happen - that's all up to the rescue workers in West Virginia, as well as the conditions in the mine.

In addition to actually wanting the miners to be rescued, the governor also wants to appear as if he cares, and the easiest way to do that is to appeal to the supernatural language in the traditions of West Virginians. Believers in belief will say his comments are justified on these grounds: that the rescue workers still trying to get the miners out are more likely to be inspired if they feel their mission is divinely sanctioned as reinforced by the governor. But the question of the ceremonial displays of solemnity around these disasters goes beyond supernatural belief. Press conferences don't organize themselves, they take time - so what is this guy doing reassuring the rest of West Virginia (besides the involved families and rescue workers? Shouldn't he be spending every waking moment making sure the rescuers have the resources they need? It seems the whole institution of making announcements to the broader public - including supernatural ones - is just a politicians' "CYA", to be seen as in charge and responsible and signaling that he is beholden to the same moral authority. Granted, this is not a shocking revelation, but it's part of the same complex of behaviors that allows the American public to continue expecting "God bless you" at the end of every speech.


TGP said...

Praying is a hell of a lot cheaper than improving mine safety.

Jesus didn't have no methane ventilation in his tomb and he came out fine!

Michael Caton said...

There are many jokes to be made about Jesus and methane ventilation that a lesser man than myself would make. So go ahead and make them (ha! I'm hilarious!)