Two faces of greed: diamonds, morality and terrorism

0 comments, Monday, February 11th, 2013, by Nicole Shepard, in News
Jan. 31, the Center for the Study of Ethics held their first panel discussion on the topic of conflict diamonds and the American culture that fosters the conflict.

Lynn Fausett, author of “Crimes of Humanity” and UVU alumnus, began the discussion by telling his experience in a diamond mine in Liberia.

“If you combine Lord of War with Blood Diamonds, that was my story,” Fausett said.

After Fausett’s first-hand account of Liberia’s civil war, caused in part by the conflict over the diamond mines, a panel of UVU faculty specializing in capitalism, commerce and social injustice took the floor to answer questions. The panel included Fausett; Dr. Philip Gordon, associate professor of communication; Dr. David McArthur, international business expert and John McFarlane, master of philosophy in political science and terrorism studies lecturer.

by De Beers Jewelry_webEach of the panelist took a different perspective on the conflict to help flush out the complexities of the diamond trade. Gordon focused on the societal and moral problems facing the jewelry industry, showing their manipulation tactics to push products.

“’Diamonds are forever’ is the DeBeers’s slogan, telling [you] that if you want to get married you have to have a diamond,” Gordon said. “You think diamonds are valuable because they are rare. They’re not rare. They are actually plentiful. You all have diamonds in your family; do you know anyone who doesn’t? You hold on to them, sometimes for generations.”

Gordon suggested that it might be time for a social movement, like that surrounding cigarettes, to help end the violent conflict surrounding diamond mines in Africa.

“We need to find a slogan as catchy as DeBeers’,” Gordon said. “Something like ‘diamonds fund terrorism’ because they do. [Diamonds] are a commodity we could rid ourselves of. This country was addicted to cigarettes, then we did public campaigns to raise awareness and cut that problem down. We could do that with diamonds.”

A question of the capitalistic system that empowers the diamond trade and its moral questionability was presented.

“Capitalism is an economic system, not a governmental system,” MacArthur said. “Capitalism has no police force, no military troops, no checks and balances. People blame capitalism as if it’s a form of government that is failing, as if it should be responsible for something. Capitalism doesn’t need to change. Capitalism doesn’t need to answer for anything. Peoples and governments and their attitudes need to change.”

Panelists discussed the culture of greed and the untamed desire to accumulate wealth in Western society, where capitalism is often seen as kingpin to shaping the culture.

“Where does greed end?” Fausett asked. “Capitalism has no answer to that question. Greed is unbridled on this earth. We all want vacation homes; we all want to drive awesome cars; we all want diamonds.”

Bringing the discussion home, questions of what part Utahns play in the greed-based diamond industry were voiced. In an earlier interview, Daniel McNeil, who is making a documentary featuring the panel event, talked about Utah County’s connection to the diamond conflict.

“Where Utah Valley is such a large consumer of diamonds, we need to take responsibility for our involvement in the conflict.” McNeil said. “It may be happening over in Africa, we may not have to see it, but because we buy and sell diamonds we are directly connected to the problem.”

When potential solutions to the problem were discussed, the panelists were split on whether or not the problem lays with the value placed on diamonds or with the attitude toward Africa.

“The good thing about this is that we can stop it, it can end,” Gordon said. “We don’t have to buy diamonds, we can sell our diamonds, and [their] value would plummet.”

Disagreeing with the idea to lower the value of diamonds, Fausett presented a need to change the perspective of who deserves monetary benefit from diamonds.

“I would like to see the value of diamonds remain high,” Fausett said. “I would like to see that commodity to be used to elevate Liberia. I think the Liberians should be the ones to benefit from their country’s natural resources.”

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