Thursday, November 15, 2012

M. Diamant

Today's entry is to be a quickie of sorts.

As I've mentioned before, family and friends come across random books and colorful paperbacks in their various travels, which they often forward on to me. Usually, I enjoy these little oddities, the stranger the better.

This time around, it was a copy of a non-fiction book by James Bond creator Ian Fleming about the illegal diamond trade that centered around the mines of Africa, which was related to him by a man who helped bust up a great many of the smuggling rings.  The book for the most part is an interesting if not terribly compelling affair.  If you're looking for lurid, Scarface-like chainsaw massacres in the bush, you'll be in for quite a disappointment.  However, it is amazing the lengths of creativity some smugglers went to to get stones out, that amount of stones that were just lying around different parts of Africa, and just how many nations were in on the steals.

At the same time, it's a strong reminder of just how colonialism ravaged much of the world while injecting European values into various cultures.  Naturally, one of the first results was the introduction of new disease, such as those that wiped out the Native North Americans. However, at least disease was a two-way street.  Of course new and usually more destructive weapons entered scenes with already strained tribal relationships. Slavery was often an aspect of it.  The rule of the privileged few over the many.  And then there's the one perhaps least spoken of: Drug Trade.  You don't often here much about the Opium Wars started between British colonialists from India and the Chinese, but I've been thinking of them due to the similarities between then and now (ie. The Chinese only exporting goods, but not buying from the rest of the world.) that led to mass trade and popularization of opiates as recreational drugs.

Lastly, there was the element of greed given to groups who often didn't know what the fuss was all about, such as the Inca who freely offered their precious metals and jewels to the Spanish.  To them, it's only value was as decoration...until the Spanish taught them a cruel lesson in economics.  This was given a similar mirror with diamond mining, where not only the workers but also the very countries receive little comparative reward for the precious resources drawn out of the their soil.  Diamond conglomerates reap the rewards and take them out of impoverished countries whose inhabitants, with riches so near at hand, quickly set up illegal ways and means to try and benefit either off their labor or these valuable gemstones. And naturally, over time, corruption becomes an all-encompassing top-to-bottom phenomenon as long as such large amounts of money and such abject poverty live so close together.

This pic of Fleming is about as bad ass as this review's gonna get.
I, however, am moralizing in a way that Fleming's book does not.  Like I said, an interesting if slightly dry account of the policing that had to be established by the various colonial governments to help stop illegal diamond trafficking after World War II. It's just that one can't help but ponder the bigger historical picture of how such interference changes the course of makes me think of Afghanistan...

No comments: