Miners by John
Berger


When the Just cause is defeated, when the courageous
are humiliated, when men proven at pit-bottom and
pit-head are treated like trash, when nobility is shat
upon, and the judges in court believe lies, and slander
with salaries which might keep alive the families of a
dozen miners on strike, when the Goliath police with
their bloody truncheons find themselves not in the dock
but on the honour's list, when our past is dishonored
and its promises and sacrifices shrugged off with the
ignorant and evil smiles, when whole families come to
suspect that those who wield power are deaf to reason and
every plea, and that there is no appeal anywhere, when
gradually you realize that, whatever words there may be in
the dictionary, whatever the queen says or
parliamentary correspondents report, whatever the system calls
itself to mask its shamelessness and egoism, when
gradually you realize that They are out to break your
inheritance, your skills, your communities, your poetry, your
clubs, your home and, wherever possible, your bones too,
when finally people realize this, they may also hear,
striking in their head, the hour of assassinations, of
justified vengeance.

On sleepless nights during the
last few years in Scotland and South Wales, and
Derbyshire and Kent, Yorkshire, Northumberland and
Lancashire, many, as they lay reflecting on their beds,
heard, I am sure, this hour striking.

And
nothing could be more human, more tender than such a
proposed vision of the pitiless being summarily executed
by the pitiful. It is the word tender,  which we
cherish and which They can never understand. For they do
not know what it refers to. This vision is occurring
all over the world. The avenging heroes are now being
dreamt up and awaited. They are already feared by the
pitiless and blessed by me and maybe by you.  I
would shield any such hero to my fullest capacity. yet
if, during the time I was sheltering him, he told me
he liked drawing, or, supposing it was a woman, she
told me she'd always wanted to paint, and had never
had the chance or the time to do so, if this
happened, then I think I'd say look, if you want to, it's
possible you may achieve what you are setting out to do in
another way, a way less likely to fall out on your
comrades and less open to confusion. I can't tell you what
art does and how it does it, but I know that often
art has judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the
innocent and shown to the future what the past suffered,
so that it has never been forgotten. I know too that
the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it
does this, and that amongst the people such art
sometimes runs like a rumour and a legend because it makes
sense of what life's brutalities cannot, a sense that
unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last.
Art, when it functions like this, becomes a
meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring,
guts, and honour.
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