08 February 2007

Shine on ’em

I watched Blood Diamond last night, and it reminded me a lot of Hotel Rwanda and an older post I made on the the disturbing reality of the Chinese fur trade (warning, disturbing imagery).

Aside from enjoying the film, though some of the literary devices were easily contrived, it brought me back to wondering about how people can relate further outside of their 3° of separation. I read somewhere that most people (Westerners) can't often put anything outside of 2° or 3° of separation into context, so it rarely affects their life choices. This is unless it reflects a lifestyle choice, which in turn is a reflection of them expressing themselves through actions. For example, you buy dolphin-safe tuna because it makes you better, not because you know much about the symbol on the tuna label, or the processes taken, whether or not it's really dolphin-safe or how they define that, et cetera. It just reflects the notion that you would think it bad to hurt dolphins (though they're the only animals aside from humans that rape for pleasure).

One of the most powerful lines I've ever heard was in Hotel Rwanda: Colonel Oliver, explaining why the world will not intervene in the Tutsis genocide, "You're black. You're not even a nigger. You're an African."

And it was true. Even while watching Blood Diamond, I couldn't help but feel a little exasperated at the African condition. (Not just through film, but through other media, too. And stories of friends that have been located in Africa. The best I can get without having travelled there myself.)

Why does the West donate so charitably to the tsunami relief fund a couple years ago, but neglect Africa? And if it's natural for us to embrace our 3°-wide environ, where is the broken link in our social fence that's preventing us from taking care of one another. Or does it start with many of us, are we broken links? Do we only make decisions based on how they make us feel? I guess this is the difference between knowledge and experience.

Our past resident asshole-in-office, Ralph Klien, made that abundantly clear when he, drunk, threw loose change at homeless people in a shelter back in 2001. Of course, I don't know if the homeless people threw loose change at Klein first, prompting the ordeal, but it's an example how one can view their case as so separate from the conditions that surround us.

I don't know where I am going with any of this. It's thoughts on why we lack the capacity to embrace a holistic civilisation.


Anonymous said...

I believe that we are the broken link and we have be socialized to think that natural disasters are more important than the devastations that are happening to people in other parts of the world or even here in Canada. What I mean by this is that when we see something happen like the tsunami we look at it and say that there was nothing we could have done to prevent it, so we feel sympathetic about it and want to help out. But when it comes to say aid relief in Africa where people are dying at alarming rates or even helping out with global poverty (the amount of aid that industrialized countries give to third world countries is less than the amount that the receiving countries are expect to pay towards their national debt, so they are kept in poverty, but get this if every person in North America donated $2.10 once a year for ten years we could eliminate the debt of 32 of the poorest countries, and they would have a chance to start combating the poverty situation) we take the view that is their fault, they are doing it to themselves, so we don’t help and we don’t care.

I guess what I am trying to say is that when the majority of people perceive things to be out of ones control, it can happen to anyone so we as a society “care” but when things are perceive to be a result of ones actions (they wouldn’t have aids if they had used a condom and they wouldn’t be homeless if they had a job) we don’t care, they made their bed now lie in it kind of mentality

Don said...

Very good points, all of them.

I find the $2.10 thing interesting. The first thing that popped into my mind was a government initiative to offer everyone on their income tax forms the chance to make this donation. From a marketing standpoint, this works well: restaurants and grocery stores that ask at the till whether you'd like to make a charitable donation to [charity name] works because it catches people at that moment, where a slight percentage of their overall purchase is going to a good deed. I've read some interesting studies on the practise.

But rather than doing it over ten years, perhaps everyone could read the relevant infoze with their tax assessment crap and have the option to donate, through the government, $21 or so, and this whole initiative to could be funnelled into an existing means to eradicate the debt of these 32 poorest countries?

I don't think the governments are equipped to help out in any other way. They're not going to do it of their own accord. But maybe a programme such as this could help?

I'm curious as to where you found this $2.10 statistic? Any resources you can point me to?

Don said...

Just found this article via Digg:

The greatest story ever sold is a fantasy covered in blood

It’s just marketing. The whole “A Diamond is Forever” and the idea of a diamond engagement ring is not an ancient tradition to be revered and followed. It is Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst.” It is Nike’s “Just Do It.” It is Gary Dahl’s “Pet Rock.” Not only did De Beers understand it had to control supply (buying up and closing down any diamond mine discovered), they had to control demand. […]

Diamonds aren’t rare. All gems are valued based on their rarity (as are most things in life). But diamonds are abundant. De Beers has a huge vault where they keep most of the world’s supply of diamonds. If it ever got released into the market, the way it would be if they weren’t a monopoly, diamonds would be worth nothing. It’s literally a pretty rock. […]

Diamonds have no resale value. The reason a “diamond is forever” is because you’re basically stuck with it. You’ll never be able to resell it except to a pawn shop. Even a jeweler (the few who would be willing to buy it) would offer a fraction of what you paid.

Synthetic diamonds will flood the market. Synthetic or “cultured” diamonds are already being made and within the next few years, will be efficiently made for the mass market. These are real diamonds.

Moissanite looks just like a diamond. Jewelers had to upgrade their equipment to detect Moissanite from diamonds when it came into the market. It’s undetectable with the naked eye. And it’s actually more brilliant. A 1-carat ring is under $1000.

Who is the ring for, anyway? Seriously. As The Dilettante so poignantly put it, “For women, comparing jewelry is our phallic posturing contest: look at how big MY dic….er, I mean, diamond is.” It’s fun to show off for about 30 seconds. After that there is little to show for the debt incurred for the shiny piece of rock. That money could have gone into furniture, an amazing trip (or many nice ones), your future kids’ college funds!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, there was a little bit of a miss quote there, it is actually $2.10 from the citizens of the richest countries, not only North America. I got this statistic second hand, but the true source is Oxfam. 2005. Paying the Price: Why Rich Countries Must Invest Now in a War on Poverty. This article can be found at http://www.oxfam.org (under the policy and analysis, policy papers 2004)

I agree that the government will not do anything on their own accord, but I personally don’t see many people being willing to donate through their income tax forms. I think the reason why asking people to make a charitable donation to whatever charity at a grocery store works is because they are usually if not always for local charities. People seem to be less likely to donate to charities that benefit other countries (unless again it is a large scale thing that is perceived to be out of one’s control). How many people do you see or have seen in the past putting their change in UNICEF boxes (these do still exist, they are just sparse). But ultimately I think it comes down to people not being informed, if they knew what little it took of their time and money they would do it, so yes part of it is the government needs to step it up in some way but there also needs to be a way to inform people properly to bring back that empathy for other humans.

The Diamond issues really interesting, like most I don’t really know much about it. I find it kind of ironic though that the people who glamorize diamonds the most are those who have African heritage (Hip hop artist with their massive watches, rings, necklaces and grills)