One in four diamond rings are made from conflict diamonds. The stones on your wrist could have been pulled out of the dead hands of thousands of exploited and impoverished workers who are often forced to live in a state of constant warfare. In Sierra Leon, where many conflict diamonds come from, it is not unheard of to see a fourteen year-old boy with an arm lopped off; his family likely facing starvation.
Diamonds are a unique and beautiful natural occurrence, but so are sunsets and seashells. Cecil Rhodes, founder of DeBeers, convinced people that they had to buy one of these things to show their love. Diamonds just may be a girl’s best friend, but engagement rings are often harvested with blood. Clean diamonds are no sure thing; only an attempt to cleanse dirty consciences for a price, once diamonds are out in the general circulation it is difficult to trace the origins. That isn’t the only problem with the diamond industry, in India where 92% of diamonds are cut; many of the smallest diamonds are handled by children who suffer from “eye strain and repetitive motion injuries and lung infections from inhaling diamond dust.”
A large part of the diamond obsession seems to be linked to the human phenomenon of desiring to possess beauty. People want to possess things rather than to enjoy them. Consumers are no longer making purchases with pleasure or need as the motivator; many products are seen as symbols of status that fuel the ego. We live in a society where accumulation and flaunting of wealth is as important as the pleasure derived from our possessions. Consumption has become habitual; we buy things we don’t need because we have become so accustom to wanting. This conditioning has led us into poverty, a poverty of the mind for those who are trapped in the unimaginative cycle of consumption and a lack of resources for those who are exploited to build wealth for the plunderers. As Allan Watts reminds us, “The reason we have poverty is that we have no imagination. There are a great many people accumulating what they think is vast wealth, but it’s only money… they don’t know how to enjoy it, because they have no imagination.”
Generally, human beings have shown an almost insatiable desire to consume and possess. It is not enough for the desirous man to see a woman and admire her beauty—he wants to fuck her. It is the same impulse that compels the wealthy Man to build a 20,000 square foot third home on the ocean that he uses three weekends per year, when a family of five living nearby can’t afford to visit for a weekend.
It doesn’t have to be a world of big winners and billions of impoverished human beings fighting for crumbs. Change starts with how we perceive the world and the beauty in it and making a real difference is as simple as altering our values which are reflected in the goods we buy. A new era begins with a change in perception, followed by better actions.