In the midst of the most heart-warming story of the year, why must we argue over whom to thank – capitalism or God? Can't we have it both ways?
First let me just get this off my chest: to those who always rabbit on about how the media never cover good news stories, I hope you are choking on your words this week, because there would have hardly been a news organisation which did not bring us hourly updates of the Chilean miners' progress until they were safely winched from their underground prison.
And only those with hearts of stone would not have shed a tear when that last miner, the foreman, surfaced safely into the arms of his family and friends.
Did we all sit there like crones around the guillotine, knitting and hoping for bad news? I don't think so.
And I also believe even the agnostics and atheists among us sent up a prayer of thanks to someone – even if it was a god of capitalism – that after just over two months these men were saved. And the miners themselves, good Roman Catholics, in messages sent from the mine, told how they listened to bible stories and prayed to Mary and Jesus for a safe rescue, and for their families to be strong. (A t-shirt was even made: Ed).
So now some on the outside are aghast they have not fallen on their knees and given thanks to the free market, the profit motive, world trade and an open economy and the innovation created by capitalism, without which, 25 years ago they would be dead.
Daniel Henninger, without doubt a good journalist and commentator, has written a fine opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Capitalism Saved the Miners, subtitled, The profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at the mine rescue site. He argues the rescue of the miners is a "smashing victory for free-market capitalism" then admits, though it is churlish to make such a claim, these are churlish times and the stakes are high.
But how can Henninger know, without a doubt, if the miners were trapped half a mile underground in 1985, they would die? Was capitalism not alive and well in 1985 too? If we go back to the Second World War, we can find many instances of seemingly impossible situations, where men were trapped – not a half-mile underground I grant – but often without hope.
Miracles did happen due to the triumph of human determination and spirit, spurred on by – dare I say it – the power of prayer.
In New Zealand, Henninger's not without his admirers. Facebook acolytes diss the 'religionists' and ask, rhetorically, why 'the hell' the miners thanked God for their safe rescue when capitalism ensured they were not buried alive.
On the NZ Business Roundtable's blogsite, executive director Roger Kerr did his usual cut and paste, extolling the wonders of an open economy.
But one essential tool in reaching the miners was the Center Rock drill bit, which drilled down to the miners. This drill bit was made by a company in Berlin and was donated to the Chileans. Given for free. The profit motive did not come into it. Wouldn't you have thought, if capitalism came into this, if the open economy, free trade, profit motive etc were central players, that Center Rock's president would have sold the drill bit to the Chilean government?
What puzzles me, is that I support capitalism. I understand it's Center Rock's profit that has enabled it to donate the drill bit to Chile and become the benevolent corporate in this time of crisis. Of course along the way it gets the kudos and achieves "good citizen status".
But I also support spiritualism, the power of prayer; the power of the human spirit and the extraordinarily under-rated value of voluntarism.
Last weekend Labour and the Greens released a report on the care of the elderly, based on a tour of New Zealand's rest homes. They obviously didn't visit our village.
I'm responsible for caring for my 89-year-old mother. She lives alone, not far from us. She's difficult, much like I was, I suspect, when I was a teenager. I'm also, for my sins, on the 'ladies auxiliary' of the local rest home (yes, laugh) and we fund-raise like mad to make the residents' lives happy and filled with activities. We are all volunteers. The rest home receives no state funding.
My mother – and hundreds of other people in this community – are also supported by the church. I don't think our vicar rejects capitalism. She's also a grape-grower and winemaker, and embraces all the latest technology to ensure each harvest is as profitable as possible. But it's the church which gives breakfast to the primary school children so they don't go to lessons hungry, not the capitalists in town.
It's the church which steps in to look after mother when we go away, not the corporates.
I'm interested in philosophy, and to me, Christianity is another form of philosophy. A couple of weeks ago, in her sermon, the vicar was talking about relationships. She mentioned an elderly couple. The wife had serious alzheimer's, and was in a rest home, visited daily by her husband, despite the fact she didn't know who he was. May (the vicar) could see the husband struggled with these visits so she said to him, "you know, she doesn't know who you are, you don't have to visit every day."
And the old man said, "Yes, but I know who she is."
I loved that story, because it illustrated how divides can be crossed.
So why can't capitalism and spiritualism, journey along together?