Rapaport Magazine



By Amber Michelle
RAPAPORT... In Martin Rapaport’s interview with Ed Zwick, producer and director of the movie “Blood Diamond,” featured in this issue of RDR, Zwick states that his movie is “about the responsibilities of a consumer society and the fact that the purchase of something in one place has implications somewhere else.” He brings up an interesting point that goes well beyond diamonds. In the U.S., much of what we buy is made in China, a country that is notorious for its human-rights abuses. Yet, we, as consumers, buy products made in China without hesitation. We also regularly buy products produced in other nonindustrialized countries where child labor and low wages are issues.

Occasionally, there is a skirmish over these issues, but nothing on the scale of what is currently being seen by the diamond industry. Why is it that no one says anything about China or some of these other countries? The answer is simple: economics. China exports a huge amount of product to the U.S. Without U.S. consumers purchasing these products, China’s economy could collapse and set off a chain of negative global economic implications too detailed to address in this letter. But who are we, sitting in the U.S. or any industrialized nation, to impose our standards and values on other societies?
In some countries, in order for a family to survive, everyone must contribute — including children. In some societies, such as the Bushmen in Botswana, hunting and gathering is the culture and heritage of that community, one that has lasted many thousands of years. Certainly, they have a set of survival skills that serve them well in their environment. Their learning is different from an industrialized culture, but it doesn’t make them less intelligent. And certainly, any college-educated, street-smart New Yorker could be plopped into their environment and not last five minutes, because the skill set to survive in New York City is different. Yet both lifestyles are valid.

The point is that when one is dealing with different cultures and trying to “help” those in need, that help needs to be generated from understanding the cultural imperatives and core values of that society. What may work for one group to thrive, may not work for another. A helping hand can be a very good thing, especially when it is held out in a way that respects the core cultural values of a community and allows them to become self-sufficient.


Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2007. To subscribe click here.

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