Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Why I Care

This is a response to a thinly veiled personal attack in a recent email exchange. I am anti-diamond. I have been this way for a very long time. I was anti-diamond long before “Blood Diamond” hit the theatres. And contrary to what some people think, I “cared” about this issue long before it was the new in thing to “care” about. I’ve known for years that the diamond market in Africa funds genocide, ethnic cleansing campaigns, refugee cultures and the wholesale rape and mutilation and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of women and children.

I believe in thinking globally and acting locally—I do not buy diamonds—KM knows this and won’t buy them either. I know that I’m not going to be able to take on the DeBeers diamond empire all by myself and win, but I know I’m not the only person who feels this way and perhaps if enough of us take action our government will make policy changes for the greater good.

But really, taking on DeBeers isn’t what this is about—this is about following my heart because I know it’s the right thing to do. I know that the genocide taking place in Africa isn’t going to stop because I didn’t buy that pretty diamond pendant at the mega-low mart. But I do know that the genocide isn’t being fought with bullets bought with my money—that’s important to me. I know that my money isn’t going to Janjaweed militia to rape and torture women in Darfur. I know that it’s not my money that bought the AK-47 that’s been put in the hands of 10-year-old boys. It really is thinking globally and acting locally. I know that not everyone thinks like I do. I'm ok with that. I realize that everyone must decide for themselves what is acceptable. That is what I'm ranting about.

For those who use my views on the global diamond trade to deride my values, I ask you this, are you more than just an armchair activist who claims to care about a few causes, but then does nothing to support them? I am sick of the hypocrisy. I am sick of people telling me that we shouldn’t support xyz company, unless of course they make something just totally adorable that we can’t live with out.

So, don’t tell me that what I do doesn’t matter because it won’t change things. At least I’m doing SOMETHING and not just sitting around and talking about it and railing about it. Don’t use the damned circular argument that if we’re going to boycott this thing because they have abusive mining processes then we have to ban electricity because coalmines are unsafe. If that were truly the case, why bother? Why boycott anything? What’s the point? To follow your logic, we shouldn’t attempt to do anything. Let’s all just accept the world as it is, let them use 6 year olds to make Nike, let coal miners die, let Africans be raped in Darfur and let’s close down all local stores and everyone has a Wal-Mart. That’s what comes from following your illogical logic. I can’t change ALL of these issues, but like everyone else, I must decide which ones are important for ME and go with my conscience. There are enough activists in this world to cover the issues, none of us can care about all of them, even if we had unlimited resources and time. We each must decide, for US, what is important, what is worth risking, what is worth not buying.

Regarding the belief that a variety of causes only get attention as they become the thing to “care” about, I say GOOD. The more publicity you get for an issue is a good thing. As the PR people say, there is no bad press. Where would the environmental cause be without big name people with celebrity status talking about it? Would most Americans really understand environmental issues without “An Inconvenient Truth?” Would the average American take the time to read the scientific journals that have been talking about this for decades? Hell no they wouldn’t, which is why movies are being made. If you can’t get them to read the journals, make it available to them in the simplest way possible, a movie. Would those same Americans be demanding more fuel-efficient cars without people with a big name telling them to? NO. What about everyone’s favorite lingerie company? Victoria’s Secret annually mails 395 million catalogs printed predominately on virgin paper from North America's Boreal Forest as well as other endangered forests. So, exactly what are you doing to protect the environment? What are YOU doing to reduce the effect of greenhouse gasses? People can call themselves independent thinkers all they want, but the fact is, we follow the herd.

And on another topic, I am sick of the materialism in this country. I spent nearly 11 years with a materialistic bastard. That wasn’t me. I could care less if my clothes come from a thrift store or Dillard’s. It sickens me how materialistic this country has become. There are things I like, things I wouldn’t mind having, but I spent 11 years with a man who constantly needed fulfillment from “stuff.” To the tune of $50,000 in credit card debt. And after all of the high-tech gadgets and brand names things were there, he still wasn’t happy. I don’t have everything the public tells me I need. I have clothes that fit, food in my cabinets and a roof over my head. When I left dickhead, I left with my personal belongings, a desk, a chair, an entertainment center, and a few bookcases. No bed, no dresser. My freedom was worth so much more. People love to brag about how independent they are, they don’t follow what is hip or fashionable, while they buy the biggest, newest, flashiest, whatever. Don’t tell me how x-company is bad but you just had to have their xyz product because it was so cute and you just can’t care about ALL of the issues while you boycott Nike because they use child labor but jump MY SHIT for not buying diamonds for the same damned reason. The hypocrisy sickens me. In then end, it won’t matter if I had Victoria’s Secret underwear and Gap jeans. It will matter that I did what I could in my small corner of the universe.

The things I care about: women’s rights INTERNATIONALLY, healthcare for everyone, safe working environments. What do I do? I try my damndest not to purchase items from companies that don’t support these views. Right now, due to seriously lacking funds, I shop at Wal-Mart. It kills me every time I go in there. They have ruined small-town America; they have made their employees dependent on federal assistance and have had an enormous negative impact on the international scene by having their products made in Asia by workers who are required to live in barracks that would be condemned in this country. As soon as the budget eases up, I’m done. I shop locally as much as possible. I won’t support companies who KNOWINGLY use slave labor and keep their workers in a constant state of poverty. THAT is why I don’t buy diamonds. There are diamonds out there that could be classified as “conflict-free.” Great. Are they ethical? No. People who are forced to work in the fields for substandard wages under the worst working conditions ever mine them. Children aren’t allowed to attend school to be educated and better their life; they are working the mines, also.

What have you done? Have you attended a rally? Have you spoken to your councilperson, representative or senator (state and federal)? Have you written your representatives to tell them how you feel about local issues? Have you volunteered with local agencies that provide the services for the causes you supposedly support? Activism is free. It costs you nothing to write a letter, send an email, give a call. Maybe it costs you the price of the call or the stamp. Money better spent there than increasing the materialism of this country.

Sorry for the long rant. But I’ve had it. I’m done with the hypocrisy and armchair activism. You don’t like something, then DO something. Don’t just talk about what needs to be done, talk to the people who can make it happen. Better yet, BECOME one of the people that can make it happen. There’s a reason I’m a poli-sci major folks, as things have changed in my life, I realize that I am meant for the non-profit, activist culture, that’s where I’m headed.

I promise there will be knitting content soon. Brief update, purpleupagus is finished, red socks finished, one sock finished for KM. Working on crochet top for me, socks for the sister-in-law and KM’s other sock.


Amy and Wil Castillo said...

I appreciate your honesty and you know your stuff girl. From someone that has lived in a third world country and still has friends to this day that live in the conditions that you talk about, believe me it is real. El Salvador, is such a poor, poor country in so many ways, but the people there (women our age) work so hard for often times less then $3/an hr.

I learned so much about materialism living there. So many Americans ought to try it some time. Move out of the country, take what you want in one suitcase and immerse yourself with real people that live on dirt floors, have practically one outfit, beg every day for their food on the table for that day and still love their lives and their families. Materialism has ruined so much for so many....debt is one of the most evil things in the world. If I could, I would move my entire family and even my baby to a third world country so my daughter could grow up around real Salvadorans...people that truly know what it's like to treasure their relationships and life itself.

Love you girl,

Emilee said...

Thank you Amy, I appreciate that so much. It's good to know that I was on target and not just shooting my mouth off. Love ya, kisses to Elisa. Em

Geekzilla said...

You kick ass darlin'!

Hopefully more folks will realize that our obsession with things and everyday low prices are killing people and the planet.

Emilee said...

Thanks so much for the supportive comment. It's so easy to get caught up in the newest, bestest, greatest, whatever. We try, that's all we can do.