Wednesday, December 13, 2006

All That Glitters

Saw the movie "Blood Diamond" this evening, and holy smokes, was it a mind-expanding eyeful. Violent? Absolutely. Horrific? You bet. Worth seeing? Totally.

My darling Girl called last night, thrilled because her boyfriend had given her a diamond necklace for Christmas. (They had exchanged gifts early because she'll be visiting me for Christmas. YAAAAAAAY!!) As she described the diamonds and their size and weight, an odd kind of pride was evident in her voice. See, I'm must be a worthwhile person if this guy loves me. And he must truly love me—after all, he bought me these sparkly diamonds.

Hearing these unspoken emotions set off my mom-radar, but who am I to judge? I've thought—consciously AND unconscioiusly—the same things. Many times. After 52 years on this planet and, one would hope, at least a modicum of accumulated wisdom, I never wear a ring on my left hand because it doesn't feel right.
Somehow it seems I'd have to earn the right by finding a man who "loves me enough" to gift me with a diamonds. I've even caught myself noticing another woman's rings and thinking how lucky she is that some man loves her enough to buy her such beautiful diamonds. (AAAACKKKK! I really am a nutcase sometimes!)

After seeing "Blood Diamond," I can not understand how diamonds became symbols of love. I've done a little wandering on the internet since getting back, and it seems diamonds are routinely sold to finance civil war and genocide throughout Africa. They are mined through torturous, inhumane labor practices and smuggled at the cost of many lives. In Angola, a 20-year struggle for control of the country's diamond mines has led to the seeding of 10 to 20 million landmines.

As the cinematography shows, Africa is a land of almost impossible beauty. Its beauty and its riches stand in sharp contrast to the poverty and the danger of the people's lives. Its lavish resources are controlled by the uber-rich few who exploit the many for their own gain. Tragic.

Americans buy two thirds of the world's diamonds. That gives us a unique ability to effect change. If you're shopping for diamonds, make sure they're not "conflict diamonds." (According to Amnesty International, conflict diamonds are those sold in order to fund armed conflict and civil war.) As of 2003, the Kimberly Proccess requires participants to certify that shipments of rough diamonds are "conflict free." This is a start, but more work needs to be done. If you're interested in further initiatives, check out Amnesty International's information page. Or, try The Blood Diamond Action site, where you'll find a guide to buying conflict-free diamonds and calls to action from our government as well as the diamond industry.

At this moment, I'm not sure I could wear a real diamond, conflict free or not. The question would hang so heavily with me: How many people lived in misery or died in pain so I could feel good about myself and my relationship with the man who bought the diamonds? Lord, let me not be that shallow.


Mystic Wing said...

Brilliant post. I agree with everything you say about the movie and the industry.

I suppose it's time we all stopped confusing material presentations with genuine caring.

These days, when my kids ask what I most want for birthdays and father's day, I find the best gift is just small amount of time and attention. The best gift I've had recently was a silly afternoon with the whole family—including grown children—seeing "Borat" and eating pizza afterwards.

s@bd said...

I don't actually like diamonds ... or new jewellary. The 'Kay' or 'Birks' (or whatever) commercials give me the creeps - bloody jewels set in cookie-cutter styles that say nothing about the wearer.

My engagement presents were: a piano and a moonstone the size of my knuckle set in gold about 100 years ago.

JessPDX said...

I don't get how diamonds became symbols of love either. I have never ever had a desire for a diamond, and I don't think that's just something that comes with being a lesbian. I dunno. All conflict aside (and that is awful...), I can never understand why people want to spend so much on a tiny sparkly thing instead of going on a great vacation or getting something much more useful or exciting.

Great post though. If only the people who do like diamonds would think about this....

Anonymous said...

Oh, I do understand. I really want to see that movie, and I'm sure it will make me feel horrible guilt! LOL! And you know, they make really beautiful fakes these days, anyway!


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