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activism and speaking your mind

here's something I've discovered about activism...

activism is driven by the heart. occasionally it can be driven by guilt, but in my years of being an activist I've learned that guilt only brings about more guilt, and eventually leads to burnout because you can't heal the entire world. real activism is driven by truly wanting to make the world a better place.

what lead me to post on this? the lovely members of weddingplans love nothing but drama as soon as you bring up controversial issues, especially engagement rings. The traditional diamond engagement ring was basically invented by DeBeer's, who had nearly a monopoly on diamonds and wanted to use that good-old-fashion marketing trick where you fool people into thinking something is sacred (for more info, research hydrox vs. oreo cookies). They used good marketing to increase demand, monopoly to decrease supply, and then allowed/encouraged atrocious human rights violations to keep it all going. No, I haven't seen Blood Diamond, but I have been an Amnesty International member for almost ten years now so I got to read about all this fun when it was actually happening. Awareness brought about pressure on countries to watch the issue and pay attention to where diamonds come from but it's not all that perfect, and even if a diamond ring no longer represents the severed hand of an enslaved african child, I think it still represents a bad bad lesson in the power of buying, well, American Traditions.

But you're not really supposed to talk about this, especially not in weddingplans, because you'll make everybody feel bad about their pretty new engagement rings. I mean, we're brides, we get anything we want. If puppies on spikes outside the reception hall are required to make that special day, it should be alright.

so back to the activist philosophy...

I think that every time you speak your mind, you run the risk of offending someone, regardless of whether you're right or wrong. So if you really think you're right you might as well speak up. It's not about being holier-than-thou, it's about finding out who needs inspired. If a friend of yours volunteers at a homeless shelter, should they keep it all a big secret so nobody knows about it? What the hell for? They know that you're probably not going to drop everything to volunteer, too. They probably also know that there are things they could be doing... while feeding the homeless, they're not saving the whales, campaigning for labor rights, providing the poor with low-cost housing or phone banking for progressive causes. and they could feed a lot more homeless by selling the car they drove to the kitchen. but that's not the point of activism. real activists understand that we're all working towards a light and you work within your capacity. you do what you do and you talk about it, and you tell everyone to keep doing better. you encourage each other. you avoid selling your soul to corporate America. and you quit stressing about who's getting offended, because frankly, we've got better things to do. it's only the insecure people who are annoying about it, sorry to say.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 16th, 2007 01:09 am (UTC)
You might like antibride.

(please note no diamond rings here, except for the old, tiny-diamond-encrusted band my mom left me, which was a couple of decades old when she got it in the forties)
Jul. 16th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
I do love antibride :) sadly as time went on I became just, well, not enough anti! when I need to ask whether to use one placecard per family or one per person at my dinner reception (or other neurotic details like that) weddingplans are the only people who care. besides, I feel like I betrayed antibride when I bought a real wedding dress. oh, and was actually really happy about it. down the slippery slope, I'm telling you.
Jul. 16th, 2007 01:32 am (UTC)
Absolutely. Had you chosen to marry in a simple burgundy tutu with purple roses and hired an organ grinder with a monkey to play dance music, you'd have been comfier there.
Jul. 16th, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)
i still think about it.
Jul. 16th, 2007 01:28 am (UTC)
From the research I did before we got engaged, less than 10% of the diamonds mined (at the highest) are "blood diamonds." (Mine was not one of them.)

I don't have all the answers, and I don't even know all of the questions to ask, but it certainly has crossed my mind as to what would happen to the other 90% of the people working in the diamond industry if, in good-heartedness and in wanting to zealously do the right thing, activists managed to shut all the mines down (which wouldn't happen, I'm just supposing) or sway the population toward another gemstone as the "right" (in quotes, mind you) stone for engagement rings. Would those people be able to find jobs elsewhere? That paid the same, or better? How quickly would they become employed? Is there some sort of program in place to help their families if they could not immediately find employment?

I'm not saying at *all* that you're wrong. I'm just saying that so much goes into activism, which means that sometimes it's hard to know the right thing to do. If you have any answers for me or can direct me to any, that would be great. But I can't help but think that 90% is a good percentage of non-blood diamonds and that the industry is probably very important in ensuring that a lot of families can put food on their tables.

If I'm wrong, please feel free to discuss it. I'm always up for a healthy respectful debate and for having my questions answered.

Jul. 16th, 2007 02:19 am (UTC)
i wouldnt tend to agree with you on the 90-10 ratio.

my family comes from a long line of jewelers, and i wear a diamond which has been passed through my family since the early 40s. its a large diamond and its something far more sparkley than i would ever have chosen for myself.

the truth is.... the diamond industry is violent. and yes, its an entirely supply and demand market. just because a company swears up and down that they are not involved with so-called blood diamonds, does not mean that its clean. debeers OWNS The industry. occasionally, diamonds funnel through other places but the long and the short of it is that nearly ALL diamonds purchased in this country have gone through the fingers of the swine at debeers.

interestingly enough, using the same technology of the atom bomb, labs are beginning to become better at creating diamonds. these lab created diamonds are indistinguishable from natural ones... GE got good fast. they are now up to a quarter karat capability. its not quite cost effective yet, but i assume eventually it will be. and when it does, the diamond market as we know it just may collapse.

so i go back to my ring. i have 5 diamonds in my ring set. one is rather large and i love it. but i am also quite aware of all the hubbub over human rights violations. do i feel bad about it? not a chance in hell. someone may have died for my diamond, and yes, it sucks, but if i put it in a box and dont wear it... someone still may have died over it?

do i want to throw away their life????

i think that these brides in WP just need something to be angry and aggitated over. they have their own reasons for wanting diamonds or not. but the biggest issue is that while spacefem may be adamant about not buying into "consumerist america" and the "corportate wedding scams," these women have different beliefs.... and they are entitled to their beliefs as well...

is someone going to make me feel badly about my ring? no. are people going to look at my ring and not understand, labeling me as a slave for consumerism? perhaps. but its my own insecurity if i let it get to me.... because in the end, only i know where the validation comes from.
Jul. 16th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)
Thanks for your comment. You made some interesting points.

I am definitely interested in doing more research into the issue.
Jul. 16th, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)
its worth it to do the research...

there are so many interesting views on the whole situation.
Jul. 16th, 2007 01:32 am (UTC)
I mean, we're brides, we get anything we want. If puppies on spikes outside the reception hall are required to make that special day, it should be alright.

Or betta fish as centerpieces! Who cares what happens to them after! WE'RE BRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDES.

Jul. 16th, 2007 01:44 am (UTC)
A fellow Amnesty International member! Sorry, I saw that and I thought "awesome!" Granted, I'm just the lowly little webmaster of our chapter, but still, someday I'd like to be more :)
Jul. 16th, 2007 01:57 am (UTC)
Wait till you get pregnant and see the drama on THOSE communities... you're pretty much the devil if you want an epidural, induce labor, have a c-section, use anything but a midwife... you pretty much have to have the baby crouching in a pile of dirt.
Jul. 16th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)
Hydrox cookies blow. Even if everyone wasn't biased against them from birth, they don't help themselves by having terrible cookies.
Jul. 16th, 2007 09:25 am (UTC)
Forgot diamonds... insulting Hydrox on Spacefem's journal is going to create true drama and controversy.

I've never eaten them myself and remain completely neutral in this particular holy war.
Jul. 16th, 2007 09:32 am (UTC)
Sometimes there is a time and a place to speak out in favor of causes you support. Telling people so obsessed with their precious weddings that they create a community to discuss it that their engagement rings represent atrocities isn't going to work and is just going to piss people off. The same as if you went up to people wearing fur to decry how fur is murder.

I think that broad, blanket discussion of these issues is usually best. Don't target just the people who you can't change, don't just target the people who already agree with you either. Go for the swing voters (as it were) the people who haven't made up their mind and might, just might (hey, I'm a pessimist, I'm amazed you can get people in this country to care about anything beyond American Idol and fast food) be able to convince someone that you have a valid point.

The other point is not to go for the cheap, low, emotional argument. The only winning, intellectually honest arguments that work are ones that are based on calm, reasonable logic. No "think of the poor African children! Your diamond is murder!" kind of arguments, just make it obvious that you're supporting a monopolistic cartel that controls basically the entire industry and uses sleazy business practices of dubious legality to maintain that control along with a serious problem of human rights abuses used to fund endless regional conflict.

I know that people are stupid, but the key is to treat them like they're smart until they inevitably prove themselves otherwise.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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