Tuesday, September 18

PERSONALITY PROFILE OF THE RICH: Advocates of the Dirty Diamond Business

IF YOU just get your hands on this article because you think it is a review about the recent movie of DiCaprio, then I suggest you tear this apart and scoop the smelly dog poop beside you because much to your dismay, this is not a Blood Diamond review but an article which features the holocaust of today for the price of a rare and precious gem, the diamond--or ignore the smelly dog s**t next to you and read on.

I call it beautiful. You call it precious. Only the wealthy and the self-announcing crowd collect it to sustain their greedy status and to yell in-your-face that they are rich and you are not. One will even find men ripping off their hard earned 4 months salary to “showcase” their sparkling love, topped-on-a-ring for their women. While each day, Africans put their lives on a wager looking, and digging for this thing we showcase as love, the thing we call beautiful and precious.

It goes without saying that a collector of real diamonds and other semiprecious gems like Melvin Torres, 56-year-old and a resident of a high-end village in Makati knows the dirty business behind every polished diamond that reaches him.

“Diamonds involve big names and a thousand scapegoats. I can only have an idea where my diamonds came but I can never know for sure the who, what, where, and when because when diamonds are polished and mixed with other unnatural charms its origin will never be identified.” He says defiantly, when I conversed with him in his chandelier lighted, European inspired common room, if he knew the real business in marketing a diamond, moreso a conflict diamond.

A recent catch-all term, conflict diamonds are diamonds that originate from Sierra Leone, Angola, and Liberia. These diamonds are illicit since they are used by rebel forces like RUF (Revolutionary United Front) and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) in Africa to finance arms and fuel wars by marketing it to neighboring countries. The difference between a diamond and a conflict diamond lies heavily on a piece of paper, the “Certificate of Origin” which is the most effective way to ensure that only legitimate diamonds—those that comes from government controlled areas—reach market.

“In America it’s bling-bling but out here, it’s bling-bang.” –Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond

Much has been said about conflict diamonds, there is even a movie titled, Blood Diamond directed by Edward Zwick, rightly depicting the ill will of the RUF when raiding small villages in Sierra Leone to get captives for mining slavery and prostitution. God fearing African children turned mercenaries, callously shot innocent families while brooding for more diamonds that can provide them a new flat screen TV and a plane. More pitiful to say, blood of women and children gushed from brown earth to stream contours as these narcotics-induced young mercenaries danced to the beat of hip-hop and AK-47s.

Leonardo’s clever and easy wordplay brings out the “bang bang” for every “bling-bling”. Retrospectively, it exposes death tolls of a thousand Africans for every conflict diamond we may be purchasing.

“If you put premium value on aesthetics like me, you will understand that their prettiness alone is reason enough to invest.” Melvin says when I asked why he collects and buys diamonds.

For an average pinoy who has 1st world wants with a 3rd world pocket, buying or collecting diamonds is a far-fetched idea. But to a man who owns several chains of Goldilocks in Pasay City and Greenhills, it is merely buying an original Nike shirt in a Nike Park store-- does not matter how Nike factory workers are treated or where it is made, just so long as it is Nike and it suits his taste. But Nike is a whole lot different issue so spare me the lengthy explanation. Besides, popping out a new issue is just my way of checking out if you are still with me.

“Buyers of conflict diamonds should not be at fault since we are only appreciating nature’s real beauty. The inefficiencies of those governments involved should be, and not us. It is like saying, Kung walang manloloko, walang magpapaloko. Kung walang magbebenta, walang bibili.” Melvin says, clearly illustrating the fallacy of Tu qoque while holding and proudly showing me his oldest diamond studded necklace worth 1.5M that is fit for Queen Elizabeth or a Grecian Princess. I want to feel the roughness or smoothness of his diamonds in my fingers but I figured that since he is holding the necklace like it is a newly born baby, there is no way I can brush the diamonds in my fingers and feel it for myself. I noticed that Melvin seems in a hurry to leave, always glancing at his Cartier, either that he is a mogul in-his-own-right wasting his time on a student, or he is just too immersed with his diamonds which seem to be his “life” as Stephanie—her daughter and a good friend of mine—says.

Such is the irony of life: men seas apart from brown earth see sparkles and prisms of life radiating from these diamonds while others living in the confines of the brown earth see nothing but black plague emanating from these crystals.

I do not really care if you will throw me bullets of Ad Misericordiam in this feature article. I care more about in being human and feeling human, and if appealing to pity may stir great awareness to some people and a shift of paradigm to the likes of Melvin then shoot me your Ad Misericordiam bullets, I will only laugh if it kills me. Just like anyone else, I am in no position to say that Melvin is a bad person just like the way a child will say it. Or a selfish man, just like value oriented people will say it. Engaging in a judo of words and blaming anyone will not erase the massive killings that swept and are still sweeping Africa today. It will not bring back the freedom and the peace that once reigned Africa. But if we can only make the universe conspire to stop this debauchery and let their lack of a voice be heard then maybe, humanity is not an undead plague after all, proving wrong the theory of James Lovelock. And maybe we can even hear them sing “We will not be broken, we will not be broken” once more.

We need not be a Jolie and be the goodwill ambassador of an anti genocide campaign in Congo or be a DiCaprio and adopt an African baby girl, nor put a stop into buying diamonds. We can help through the simple act of being aware of this situation. With awareness comes, the responsibility to be human and remind people or buyers of diamonds to always solicit a Certificate of Origin. The Certificate of Origin, though a piece of paper, will help cut the funds of RUF and UNITA, thus helping United Nations Security Council into restoring peace in Africa.

“God left Africa a long time ago.”- Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond

God never left Africa. Let us spare this innocent and beautiful race the irony of life and give back the twinkle in their eyes, their brown earth, and their colorful diamonds.

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