I was talking on the phone last night when the topic of diamonds filtered into the conversation. They've been a subject on my mind since seeing Blood Diamond a few months back, also following my quick read of A Long Way Gone, the chronicle of a child soldier in Sierra Leone (a major hot spot for diamond conflict until 2002, and also the setting of the mentioned movie).
As for many things in the vast world in which we live, my depth of knowledge is rather shallow regarding this topic of concern, but my hesitance to endorse the diamond has certainly been heightened after seeing the reenactment on screen of ruthless village attacks, violent amputations, and the enslavement of innocent people...not to mention the kidnapping and brainwashing of children later to be made into rebel soldiers.
So laying in bed on this lazy Sunday, performing my usual a.m. routine of checking email/surfing the net, I looked over news headlines until this caught my eye: Liberia Lifts Diamond Mining Ban. I figured that now was as good a time as any to check into the issue of diamonds.
It's a sad truth that the Western World's hype to jump on the anti-conflict diamond bandwagon is perhaps too late to be significant in making change. The countries suffering the most violent of wars have settled into more peaceful times as the encouragement to boycott diamonds has risen. It seems to be our style: turn a blind eye until a major producer in Hollywood funds a movie. I'm not above admitting that this is how my heart was turned. It was Rwanda's genocide that changed me through the impressive role of Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina. It's borderline disgusting that Hollywood has more "umph" than the news, and myself included, that Americans are so naively informed.
From what I can tell, the issue of conflict diamonds is now being controlled by the Kimberly Act, which aims to track each diamond to ensure it's origin. Within some sites this seems to be a positive movement, at others, there is skepticism that it is enough. In one article, only 1% of the world's diamonds are claimed to be mined under rebel conflict in Africa, yet the same article links 20% of diamonds on the market to a larger group of "controversial diamonds" made up of "smuggled diamonds and diamonds mined in abusive labor situations all over the world" (Washington Post). It is also repeatedly noted (in this Post article and others) that the sale of diamonds is an economic benefit to the African nations and that the boycott of the stones will prove detrimental to the already poverty ravaged nations where legitimate and prosperous diamond mines are run.
Another very interesting element of my research into conflict diamonds revealed a link between middle eastern terrorist groups Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and the corrupted governments of Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The article I was reading, sponsored by Amnesty International, goes on for numerous paragraphs explaining the money movement between Africa and the Middle East. Quoting author Greg Campbell, "Osama bin Laden's terrorist network began buying diamonds from the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) of Sierra Leone according to FBI sources quoted in the Washington Post." - and that was in 1998. He also writes that when assets were frozen to these groups they were still able to operate through the currency of diamonds. Campbell, throughout his article, lays a lot of blame on the unethical mining and trading of "blood diamonds" in the funding of the actions carried out on September 11, 2001.
If nothing else, it gets you thinking (or it should)...
Moving to a less controversial argument, and in a more bohemian, "damn the man" direction is the fact that De Beers is said to have created the value of diamonds through intense marketing campaigns, and an especially large increase in movie presence in the 1930's (and again, we're taking cues from Hollywood). This article highlights the arbitrary sentiment placed on the rock in the Victorian era, when apparently people felt the need to assign meaning to inanimate objects (e.g., flowers, gem stones). The guys at De Beers set out to put wide-eyed starlets in movies being offered these "tokens" of love, and we all followed suit.
I think that I need to digest all of this information before announcing to the next guy I date never to think about buying me diamonds. It's intense, as are most things in the world. It makes me sick to think about the stories illustrated in Blood Diamond (chopping off limbs and whatnot), and mentioned over and over again as a result of African rebel armies moving illegally into the diamond industry. It's also something to consider that not purchasing them might have negative repercussions in the developing nations in need of economic increase. It's something to ponder how corrupt organizations of terror work together in the name of greed and evil, and yet another to think that we might all just be duped by De Beers.