Thursday, January 19, 2006

Reflections on another industrial disaster

One day my travels brought me through the town of Mt. Olive, Illinois. Mt. Olive, Illinois is the home of the the Union Miners Cemetry and the Mother Jones Memorial. I did not know this at the time. Along the side of the highway, a spray painted piece of plywood said “Mother Jones Memorial Exit Mt. Olive.” I managed to convince my companions that yes we absolutely did need to stop.

The Union Miners Cemtery is a staggering experience, a library of the dead from mining explosions and the massacres of strikers. And yet people want to act surprised whenever more miners are killed.

There are those who look down their nose at those ancients who believed that some form of human sacrifice was required to make the universe run, but who are oblivious to the fact that we live off the fat of an industrial system that requires the death of a number of workers every year. In the US alone their are 70,000 deaths from work related illnesses and injuries every year.

Most Unitarian Universalists are safely removed from this unpleasant aspect of our sytem of producing goods and services. They can safely lecture those who choose to boycott sweatshop goods at WalMart about their shortsightedness and try to mock the excesses of those who call for a different system of global trade.

We have fed you all for a thousand years by Utah Phillips

We have fed you all for a thousand years
And you hail us still unfed,
Though there's never a dollar of all your wealth
But marks the workers' dead.
We have yielded our best to give you rest
And you lie on crimson wool.
Then if blood be the price of all your wealth,
Good God! We have paid it in full!

There is never a mine blown skyward now
But we're buried alive for you.
There's never a wreck drifts shoreward now
But we are its ghastly crew.
Go reckon our dead by the forges red
And the factories where we spin.
If blood be the price of your cursed wealth,
Good God! We have paid it in!

We have fed you all a thousand years-
For that was our doom, you know,
From the days when you chained us in your fields
To the strike a week ago.
You have taken our lives, and our babies and wives,
And we're told it's your legal share,
But if blood be the price of your lawful wealth,
Good God! We bought it fair!


At 4:46 AM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

You think Mine Safety and Health Administration needs a warrent to inspect a mine? Do they need to go to a Judge to shut it down to protect the owners fourth amendment rights?

That's the direction UUA seems to be going with their condemnation of Alito.

I don't think they've got a clue of what they're talkng about or the implications of what they're asking the Gov to due when faced with dire threats to safety.

The folks at UUA seem removed from much.

At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Patrick Murfin said...


I am enjoying your blog--I'm a midwestern lefty UU. I'm also, like Bruce Phillips, an old Wobbly.
While Bruce does indeed sing "We Have Fed You All For a Thousand Years" this stiring and evocative song--one of my absolute favorites--was written by "An Unknown Proletariat." I am at work where I don't have my Little Red Song Book handy, but I believe it was first published in the IWW press about 1912 and has been in all of the many edtions of the Song Book since. I sang it at a May Day service I led at the New Garden Church in Chicago--a start up attempt at a labor church--and at my own home church's (Congregational Unitarian in Woodstock, IL) first ever Labor Day service.


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