Blood diamonds, slavery and Love
Warning: I'm about to rant and rave against the so-called "most romantic day of the year". I think it's a load of shit. I'll explain why. If you're sensitive to Valentine's Day, or need it to be affirmed, skip today's blog, and tomorrow. It'll be easier that way. I don't consider this to be a triggering blog, however. So this is a more generic warning.
Valentine's Day is coming; it's tomorrow. So, Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy heart day, happy love day, happy “Single Awareness day”… Happy fucking Hallmark™ Holiday people… Because that is what that day really is.
Now, before you go and accuse me of being anti-love, or anti-romance, let me explain. I know there are some die-hard V-Days fans out there, and I don’t honestly set out to piss everyone off (although that has been known to happen from time to time). This holiday is something we’re not even sure why we celebrate… it was a Pagan love-fest sorta gig, that was morphed into a Roman and Orthodox Catholic holiday, only to morph from that religious-only calendar and taken up by the masses… wow… what a reason to celebrate something. It's one of the ultimate examples of “Well, we do it, because we've always done it”.
For many people it's a day that conjures up love, and pink and red hearts, chocolates and dinner, jewellery and affection. It's a day festooned with flowers, and lace, baby Cupids and little cards with "Be Mine!" scrawled on them (often decorated with super heroes or My Little Pony for the kiddos).
Technically, the way we do it now, it's a day that's supposed to celebrate love, the physical, affectionate sexy kind. True love always, and marital fidelity. It's a day to honour the memory of an early christian martyr, and his patronage of bees, plagues, marital happiness, love, epilepsy and protection against fainting. Yeah, bees, plague and fainting. How romantic.
I'm not a Roman nor Orthodox Catholic. Saint's days amuse me, only because there are probably 15 saint's attached to every single day on the calender, so you can pretty much take your pick when it comes to feasts, or fasting-- you know, whatever one you feel closest to, or something.
Most people who celebrate Valentine's Day do so not because they're Catholic, but because society tells them to. We are supposed to be celebrating this day by buying chocolates, making dinner reservations and buying our beloved women jewellery. Why? Because that shows how much you loooooove her! If you don't get her jewels, at least you need to pick up some roses, red long-stemmed, thank you, and chocolates-- the more expensive the better, and it has to be in a heart-shaped box, preferably velvet.
The point of this holiday is Love, with a big L, though, which is why roses are the most popular gift (after cards) today. That's why we buy these things, or it's supposed to be. Haven't you been paying attention to the media? Don't you hear society? We are a materialistic consumerist country! We Need to buy shit!
But you and I both know, things, stuff, it doesn’t show love… actions do.
I may not agree with everything St. Paul wrote (or that has been attributed to him). [In fact, most of the words attributed to that man are hateful, misogynistic, and are used to brow-beat LGBT christians from feeling like real humans; he can be called the bully of christian dogma. However that's a rant for another day.]
I have always thought his description of love to be very beautiful, and worthy of striving for. First Corinthians 13:4-8a, 13 explains:
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
(NIV, the KJV version is more poetic, but many people have trouble with that one)
Wow, that is love with a big “L”. It sounds a lot better than this flowers, chocolate thing… Think about it for a moment, the symbols of Valentine's Day… chocolate, flowers, hearts, Cupid… Leaving the God of love alone, let's tackle the other three. Spending money on these things is supposed to shows love, some how; I'm still not sure how spending money on dead plants and chocolate is loving. [I'll get into the jewellery in a few]
Chocolate, tastes great, good for you—in moderation. Godiva makes some of the most beautiful artistry-confections I have ever seen, or eaten… but that doesn't show love: it shows good marketing and damned talented confectioners. But, for some people it’s dangerous (diabetics) or has to be avoided (those on diets for health or religion). For a portion of the population chocolate is off limits.
Admittedly, I love chocolate. I can sit down and devour an entire box of chocolate-covered cherries in one sitting if I'm not mindful (although otherwise, I loathe cherries). Ghirardelli chocolates are my absolute favourite, especially their milk-chocolate with caramel. I think chocolate is probably proof that the Divine loves us, and I am honestly truly sorry for people who can't eat it.
I also know that there is a large contingent of chocolate companies that support the slave trade. The work is hard, and so they use kids, and don't pay for shit. I try to get free trade chocolate, I'd rather pay more, and know my chocolate farmers aren't being taken advantage of. I don't want to support child-slavery. Slavery is evil.
I don't need chocolate to know I am loved. Chocolate is a decadent dessert, not proof of love.
Flowers: wow, dead foliage. Show me you love me with dead foliage. Depending on where you got them, or where your florist got them, they can live for 3-14 days. Isn’t love supposed to be forever?
Roses are beautiful; I intend to get some rose bushes for the little pathway by my front door. Our neighbours did that, and the space is perfect! It's beautiful! Doesn't show love, though, buying long stemmed roses, picked by a woman in Costa Rica who probably isn't making minimum wage, but works 12-18 hour shifts in a green house to fulfil America's appetite for red flowers. If she's lucky she won't get rose pickers' disease, and her immune system won't be completely broken by consumerism. [In the interest of full disclosure: My favourite roses are not red. I don't care for the red ones much at all. I prefer white with pink tips, like the “Sweetness” rose, or the lavender “Blue Girl”. It's my own personal.]
Hearts: I heard an interesting postulation at college about hearts. The prof had heard, and then passed to us, the thought that “sweetheart” hearts were originally modelled after Aphrodite’s buttocks. Yes, her behind, her arse end. Then she asked us to bear with her, explained how the buttocks are vaguely heart shaped if a person (man or woman) bends over with slightly bent knees-- we discussed this, it was Literature, after all-- and you know, she’s right, if you look in the mirror, you have a ready-made heart attached to your rear. [I know I've written about this before]
If you're endowed with a fantastic ass such as mine, you can even carry around your own Valentine's Day heart... although I'm still not sure it's romantic. Yes, it's a glorious ass. Yes, it's been known to stop traffic, get whistles, and it's a part of me that I know is sexy as hell-- but it isn't romantic. Not one curve about it is romantic.
So, we have food that not everyone can eat, dead foliage and a Goddess’ ass!! And here I thought I was cynical, seems to me that the creators of this holiday had tonnes more cynicism than I do. Talk about ironic: I love you soooo much I’m going to give you a facsimile of the perfect ass (don’t worry, yours is fine, mostly) and some dead plants! Yay!!
And to top it off, there is a vast segment of single people who are left out of this day. Whether single by choice, location or due to the schedule of their loved ones, and we’re being smacked in the face and ego with our singleness. Some of us have a love, someone we care for deeply, but we’re not able to spend today with them; others have not got a love, and are hurt by today.
Those of us able to spend to day with our Significant Other are also bombarded with the inanity of today: “Honey, if we don’t go out to eat, you must not love me”. “Diamonds are forever”. “Say it with flowers”; and the worst one of all: “So, what did you get your valentine this year?”
Now, let me say a word about diamonds. Well, it'll be a handful of ranty words, so if you like diamonds, find them necessary, or in any way need jewellery, skip this bit.
Diamonds are dug out of the ground. Mined. There is something called the Kimberly Process that is supposed to prevent conflict diamonds from getting out onto the world market. These would be diamonds mined in a country that uses the money to finance “a rebel group or other entity seeking to overthrow a UN-recognised government”. If you do a quick Wikipedia search for “blood diamond” the countries listed as mining/extracting and attempting/selling these carbon bits are Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire (The Ivory Coast) , Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe.
The Kimberly Process has been rife with failure. Last December I read about several orgs complaining about and finally pulling out of the certification. Because it is so corrupt, they refuse to deal. I can't blame them.
But, Em, they have ways to track the diamond, and make sure it's not a blood diamond! Right?
Not so much, no. It's a clear piece of carbon. Think about what a rough diamond looks like. Do you have any idea how easy a handful of them are to move? They don't smell, like cocaine, they won't set off a radiation sensor. I know you've watched films where they smuggle a little black velvet bag without any trouble at all. Just toss that little bag into luggage, or with your computer, it isn't hard to hide things at the airport. Shit, they can carry them in their socks if they really wanted to! Once those diamonds get out of Africa and into, say Brussels, <poof> no more blood diamond, they're Brussels diamonds! And that money can be funnelled back into whatever rebellion, murderous rampage, raping spree they wish.
But, but, but, what about Canadian diamonds? They're safe? Right?
Yeah, I guess they would be. Maybe? Depends on how you feel about slavery. I know Canadian diamonds are etched with a little maple leaf. I also know that the First Nations people have been treated little better than slaves in the pursuit of diamonds. That's no better than the slave pits in Africa-- except they speak Inuit and are “free” citizens in our close and good buddy, Canada.
Diamonds are only the stone of love, marriage and all that shit because of De Beers. In 1919, after a slump in sales, they hired a marketing firm. Thanks Marketing, Thanks Advertising Firm, I hope you all burn in hell!
Valentine's Day is a huge one for proposals. I know my brother proposed that day. He presented his now-wife with a lovely smoked topaz ring, because she doesn't like diamonds. I know of a handful of couples who were married on the 14th.
I won't get into it too much, I'm trying very hard to hold my ranting to a minimum. Diamonds are supposed to show love because some asshole marketer, right? And my Beloved is supposed to be buying me diamonds before we got married, right? And then afterwards, that whole “three stone ring” and “right hand rings” and “anniversary bands” and that isn't even touching the earrings and necklaces that are Val-Day fodder. [I remember one advert a couple years ago with an “S” shaped pendent, they called it something stupid like “the journey” necklace-- intimating that, you know, you get it for putting up with him for the journey of life you're on together.]
I did not need my Beloved to purchase my from my Dad. I wasn't exchanged for goods and services; I wasn't purchased for prestige; I wasn't even given a ring to prove he was “materially invested” in me before we got married. I am not bought, have not been sold. I am not a prostitute, and I am not a possession. To me, diamonds signify that possession, being bought. Any woman who needs diamonds, (and I know at least one, who make me ashamed that they have ovaries! Ugh), they need to admit they're in it for the money, not the companionship. They're bought, they are prostitutes, hookers, high-priced call girls. Good for them, they are more important than the slave-children who are dying, starving, being beaten and raped to death to pull those out of the ground.
[I do know a woman, who I respect greatly, and she believes that she deserves the chocolates, dinner and jewellery that is mandatory on this day. I disagree with her greatly. If her husband thinks she deserves it, and she thinks she deserves it, then what the fuck ever, man. Fuck, I think I deserve justice for everyone, an end to all war, famine and disease, and I can't have it, so why settle for shiny shit? If you're worthy, if you deserve those things, why shoot so low? Shit, shoot for the stars, man! I believe with all my heart that women and children in Africa deserve not to be raped as an act of war; I believe they deserve the same basic dignity of every other human on earth, and are not slaves to my whims, desires for chocolate or shinies. You know, because they're fucking human beings!]
I don't have an engagement ring. My wedding band is a gorgeous sterling silver Celtic knot*, and I love it very much. I did not want a diamond. I hate them for more than what they stand for. Diamonds are plain clear carbon-- just like cubic zircon, just like glass, just like a white topaz (except much more expensive), they're boring, and I think they're ugly. Shit, even a mystic topaz is more beautiful. Yellow gold is ugly, too. But that's my opinion.
I know there are some people who love diamonds. They find them beautiful. My Dad loves them. He doesn't own any, but he loves the way they sparkle and shine. He bought my mother a lovely 2 carat square solitaire for their 25th Anniversary. It was almost perfect! (those inclusions add to the sparkle). I love love love opals-- partly because it's my birthstone, but partly because of their ever changing colours. They are beautiful to me. Emeralds, Amethysts, Rubies, Sapphires (especially Star Sapphires!) Those are the gems I like. I will admit to having a soft spot for sparkly things.
Romance is not dead, I know, but what the fuck is romantic about the “necessary” Valentine's Day accoutrements? My idea of romance isn't “normal” I know, but can be found in the electronics section, or your nearest gaming/computer store—but the idea, the thought of romance: getting something for your beloved because you care, something they will love, that they will appreciate--that isn’t dead, it’s just been confiscated by marketing.
The only people who win on Valentine's Day are florists (thanks FTD), chocolatiers, jewellers and restaurants. Oh, and don't forget the credit card companies… because if you don't have the cash for extravagant gifts, you can always charge it!
If you want to get your Beloved something for the day, feel free. I won't tell you not to! In fact, I'll shrug and think, “Whatever” as I nom some more chocolate-covered cherries. This time of year they're cheap, and I can stock up-- although I should just make them.
I'll judge you, if you go all Princess needs diamonds to be happy. If that's the case, you're a worthless cunt. So, yeah, I'll judge the fuck out of you. You should not have to be bought to be worth a good goddamn.
If you want to take your spouse out for dinner, or get him flowers, or buy her chocolates, or jewellery, it's on you. Your choices are yours alone.
I'm asking you to honestly, deeply take a look at Why and look at what your impact on the world will be.
Why spend the money? Is it because you honestly truly want to? Or is it because you're supposed to?
Say you honestly, truly want to get her something nice-- you really, deeply want to take him out to his favourite place and get him flowers. Take a look at your global impact. Are you buying blood diamonds? Are you supporting child-slavery? Is the chocolate fair-trade, or is it made with enslaved children. Are you getting roses from your local greenhouses, or from a modern day plantation in some South American country, running on labour that's barely above slavery?
You're an American consumer. You have great power in the world. What are you doing with that power?
Most American women aren't even aware of their impact. They only care about blingy shinies and “Lookit what he bought me, because I'm worth it!!!”
I care. I think those babies in Africa are worth more than that. I think those gardeners in Central and South America are worth more. I think that I have to be mindful of my space, what I do while I'm on this planet.
So I don't celebrate Valentine's Day.
* My wedding ring. I bought it downtown at Flanagan's Celtic Corner.