This article was last modified on January 16, 2008.


On the Hidden Cost of Diamonds

The following letter was sent to the Post-Crescent on January 16, 2008:

During the ongoing war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, a video was shown featuring “a woman who said she was sexually assaulted with a stick by a rebel and then saw her husband staggering out of the jungle with blood spurting from the stumps of his arms; a boy who described being kidnapped and forced to mine diamonds, a man with no hands who said his wife and children were burned to death by militias.” Stories like these are innumerable. [Source: a January 7, 2008 AP story by Mike Corder]

Prosecutors maintain that Taylor, as president of Liberia, is indirectly responsible for the crimes committed on his watch. They allege such behaviors could not have been allowed without Taylor’s active ignorance. But we can carry the chain further: what about the cartels in Belgium, knowing full well how their supply is harvested? Or the American dealers who shop in Belgium, again being anything but ignorant? Or those of us who pay for their goods?

As consumers, we try to pay close attention to unhealthy products entering our borders, such as Chinese toys or toothpastes. But perhaps we also ought to consider the health hazards that go into producing such goods — in this case, diamonds. Are the lives of the producers worth any less than those of the consumers?

I’m not naive enough to believe that America will ever dissolve its union with consumerism and materialism, but I have no doubt we’re capable of being more conscious of human rights. The name Kathie Lee Gifford still calls to mind unpleasant images for some. Diamonds are as much a part of our culture as automobiles or fast food. But the next time you shop for jewelry, consider asking your dealer their source and keep in mind the hidden human costs of glamor.

Neutering

The letter was published January 23, with some neutering (notice the quotation removed, as well as Kathie Lee’s name) and the spelling of “glamor” done incorrectly:

During the ongoing war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, a video was shown featuring a boy who described being kidnapped and forced to mine diamonds. Prosecutors maintain that Taylor, as president of Liberia, is indirectly responsible for the crimes committed on his watch. They allege such behaviors could not have been allowed without Taylor’s active ignorance.

But we can carry the chain further: what about the diamond cartels in Belgium, knowing full well how their supply is harvested?

Or the American dealers who shop in Belgium, again being anything but ignorant? Or those of us who pay for their goods?

As consumers, we try to pay close attention to unhealthy products entering our borders, such as Chinese toys or toothpastes. But perhaps we also ought to consider the health hazards that go into producing such goods — in this case, diamonds.

Are the lives of the producers worth any less than those of the consumers?

I’m not naive enough to believe that America will ever dissolve its union with consumerism and materialism, but I have no doubt we’re capable of being more conscious of human rights.

Diamonds are as much a part of our culture as automobiles or fast food. But the next time you shop for jewelry, consider asking your dealer their source and keep in mind the hidden human costs of glamour.

Also try another article under Letters to ...
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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