Blood Diamond

I watched Blood Diamond last night, while I was waiting for everyone else to get home. I have to say that overall, I was pretty impressed with it. I was expecting DiCaprio’s character to be fairly weak, just because he has not had much of an opportunity to demonstrate an acting range, but I think he was rather convincing, ultimately. He certainly captured that strange divide which seems to happen to some people in Africa, at one moment embracing his African “brothers” and at the next calling them kaffirs. I liked that most of the people in the film were not very well known, because it allowed me to see their characters, rather than who else they have played.

I am fairly familiar with the issue of blood or conflict diamonds, thanks to having just completed a fairly exhaustive series of articles on them…and to being socially aware. For those of you who do not know what a conflict diamond is, in a nutshell it is a diamond sold to finance terrorism or civil war. Commonly, they are mined in unsafe conditions by people in a state of semi slavery, and then smuggled across the border of another nation for sale and ultimate distribution. Once the conflict diamonds enter the regular supply of rough they are totally untraceable, which means that you may be supporting this trade by purchasing diamond products.

In response to general public outcry, some firms have started trying to set up a certification process, so that conflict diamonds can be identified and removed from the global diamond supply. It requires insanely tight supply chain control, and may not even really be functioning all that well..there’s no way to know for sure. If the thought of people having their hands chopped off for your jewelry bugs you and you must have diamonds, try certified Arctic diamonds, which are mined and produced in facilities independent of African rough.

Or, better yet, go see Blood Diamond to get the details of the trade a little more humanized for you. It sounds like the movie has resulted in a large public ruckus, because seeing it illustrated on the screen has really brought the issue home to a lot of people. People do actually die for diamonds, and it is pretty damn awful.

One might be tempted to dismiss the movie as a little bit sensationalist, if you knew nothing about the trade in conflict diamonds, but in a way it seems almost understated. Millions of dollars a year are earned through the sale and used to buy weapons which are used to kill people in brutal civil wars. Children are torn from their homes and turned into ruthless killing machines, and there really is a huge network of people involved in the mining, smuggling, sale, and cleansing of blood diamonds, including major corporations. All so that rich women can wear fancy stones on their fingers.

I remember in high school a friend of mine had a pen pal in Sierra Leone, who used to send her letters occasionally, when he could. In his last letter, he apologized for not writing sooner, but explained that his hands had been cut off by anti-government forces, and since no one else knew how to write, it had taken him a long time to find someone to write for him. There was something so quietly matter of fact about it that was deeply chilling, like how you or I would apologize for not writing because we had been caught up in other things. He attached a photograph of himself and his sister, spindly children wrapped in faded cotton, but what I remember most is the angry, red, raw stumps where his hands used to be.

I remember thinking how terrible it was that friends and neighbors could do things like that to each other.

[Blood Diamond]