“Africans need this industry”-Russell Simmons, Founder of Def Jam Records and current CEO of Simmons Jewelry Co.
Adam Hochschild’s brief piece on the diamond industry, entitled, “The Blood Diamond Myth” would have the reader believe that they are going to indulge in an exploratory piece of journalism that navigates its way through a controversial topic, debunking fallacies and proffering new explanations. Instead Hochschild presents a flaccid argument surrounding the war ravaged Congo, saying that efforts to rebuke the diamond industry would only leave meagerly paid miners without jobs. He furthers his argument by likening a boycott against the diamond industry to past humanitarian efforts, suggesting that it is merely the topic du’jour of this decade.
Some would agree with Hochschild that the solution may not rest solely with eradicating the industry as a whole. Many people rely on the diamond trade as a source of income. In the proper hands with the proper governance, the conflict that we see today could be tempered so that we see growth in revenue instead of growth in violence. Music mogul, Russell Simmons, is one public figure who echoes similar sentiments as Adam. In 2006 he and then wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, announced that their jewelry company, Simmons Jewelry Co., would launch the “Green Initiative“, a capsule collection of malachite and diamond bracelets with 25% of proceeds being donated to selected African charities.
Simmons staunchly defended his use of diamonds in his jewelry line, saying simply that, “Africans need this industry.” (CBS News, 2006) While it is unclear how and or why an entire continent needs an industry that only a select few countries actually participate in, it is to be assumed that Mr. Simmons feels that his use of diamond jewelry and charitable donations is enough to ignore the surge in rebel violence, with many Congolese men being killed, women being raped, and children being turned into child-rebel soldiers.
Recently the NY Times ran an op-ed piece on conflict minerals from the DRC that shed light on the mining industry and its link to violence. While many people I know personally have vowed to abstain from buying diamonds, the article noted that almost all of us contribute to the war that rages on. Many cell phones, computers, and gaming devices use the minerals tantalum and tin, which are peddled to supply chains by Congolese warlords. As I sit here typing this article on my Macbook Pro (with my iPhone next to it) I may be just as culpable as someone buying blood stones.
The solution, as to be expected, is convoluted. What Adam Hochschild suggests is a reorganization of the government so that the poor have access to the country’s wealth. This is a sort of “well duh, of course!” panacea for a country knee-deep in bloody violence and outrage. Doing away with the diamond industry is not a cure-all either. Wars won’t end just because we all start wearing cubic zirconium. But to deny the correlation is dangerous. To sit idly by and hope that the DRC government suddenly does right by its people, is disastrous. Demand more.
To learn more about what you can do, check out Enough Project.
To learn more about conflict minerals, check out the video below: