It is hard to believe that a 23-meter high wall of an open pit coal mine in Maryland can just fail and “cover” two miners.   Is this another instance of human hubris?  I know the old adage that a slope is stable on the morning of the day it fails.  But was there no monitoring of slope conditions, no sign of faults and joints that could form a failure plane, no monitoring of groundwater that might have reduced the factor of safety?  Did the mine just work on the assumption that no failures had occurred before and thus conclude that no failure could occur in future.  We await the news of the safety of the “covered” miner, but in the meantime we must ask these questions and wonder if it will take another round of resolute legal action to deal with complacency in the coal mines. 

I shudder at the linking of this slope failure and another recent tragedy on an eastern United States campus, but cannot shrug off the thought that these instances may be example of people being just too nice (or maybe too scared) to act.  Do we have a human instinct to believe the best of people?  Do we have a human instinct to avoid the confrontation that is so often necessary, but not undertaken, and then the non-undertaking results in these kinds of tragedy?

Has society been so whipped by over-reaction to political correctness that even when human health and safety is at stake we avoid action?  I have just read of a translation error that resulted in an offensive label on a couch delivered to a black family in Canada; and now the family wants to sue everybody in sight.  We are all aware of verbal slights in the United States.   Clearly there is no room for verbal nastiness to anybody and we should move to protest whenever it occurs.  But I fear that making a stink about a label from a Chinese company that has said they are sorry, sets a tone that leads to deterring people from acting fast and proactive when they should, when there is a real issue of life and death at stake. 

I had a personal incidence of this but a month ago:  a zero tolerance attitude, in  my opinion, should have been enforced.  But instead political niceness resulted in talk and no action.  I still am scared that an outburst will occur.  The response to a situation in which I was personally involved was no different from the response of the people who should have acted in Virginia, and maybe should have acted re slope stability in Maryland. 

My point is that to lead involves action.  Failure to act is negligence.  And I submit it is even more negligent when failure to act is based on a fear of offending the overly sensitive.  I submit that if as a society we overreact to every furniture label, thereby deterring good people from acting when life and death is involved, we must not be surprised when truly bad things happen.  I hope that the outcome in Maryland renders this piece just another irrelevant rant and rave, and that what I fear personally never comes to be.   As for labels on furniture, it is interesting to see Canada becoming as lawyer happy as the United States.