Monday, December 25, 2006

Blood diamonds and their impact on mainstream America

The latest cause célèbre seems to be blood diamonds. Conflict diamonds, as they are more commonly known, constitute only 1% of the total diamond trade but lately they have been making quite the splash in popular culture. They have been mentioned in media as disparate as Kanye West's song Diamonds from Sierra Leone to Nicholas Cage's movie Lord of War. But none of these works has addressed the issue as directly as Edward Zwick's latest film Blood Diamond.

The film starts out with our archetype hero, Danny Archer, plying his trade in conflict diamonds. Through a series of mishaps, he becomes entangled with a native by the name of Solomon Vandy, whom he agrees to help on condition that he gets access to the near perfect pink diamond that Vandy discovered while working in the slave labor mines of the RUF. Danny will end up using all his contacts and ingenuity to get what he wants but eventually, he does find the diamond.

Yet instead of leading to great wealth, this leads to personal tragedy, at least for Danny. The true hero of this story comes to be Vandy, who escapes to London and eventually gives a speech to the U.N. on the dangers of conflict diamonds. The movie ends on a hopeful note and yet I can't help but be reminded of how similarly themed features were popular in the early 1990s.

At the time, the shrinking rain forest was a global concern and attracted a large amount of attention as a result. Various celebrities spoke out about the issue and some even made movies about it. Yet it hasn't been on the radar of the public for at least a decade. Recent articles suggest that the Amazon is disappearing at twice the rate as previously estimated. Being the perpetual optimist, I can only hope that the issue of blood diamonds is resolved rather than forgotten about as other important global issues have been.

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