The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.
William Shakespeare’s lines for Mark Antony’s eulogy of Julius Caesar after his murder by a cabal are known all around the world by almost everyone who ever went to school.
The lines also resonate unfortunately for the global diamond industry.
Too many around the world only remember the evil of brutality and slavery that conflict diamonds spawned. Too many visualise some sort of rapacious destruction of a fragile environment.
Very few speak of the good diamonds have done for some of the poorest people in the world. Of the positive influence on communities in literally every single continent barring uninhabited Antarctica.
Evil is not only all-pervasive, it is by far the biggest attention grabber. The world is coping with terrorists, people traffickers, sex slavers, drug cartels that destroy millions of lives and a whole slew of activities that reveal the dark side of humanity.
Human society considers decency to be the norm and so positive or good deeds don’t get the sort of publicity that evil does. It takes concerted action to get people to realise and acknowledge the good that has come out of some action or initiative.
The diamond industry, unfortunately, hasn’t taken the kind of global concerted action needed to publicise the fact that it took proactive steps to tackle the scourge of blood diamonds, set up an industry supply chain audit system — the Kimberley Process — in concert with governments around the world and continues to work towards bringing education, healthcare and a host of other social benefits to stake-holding communities all around the world.
So the evil diamonds have done lives on in human memory, while all the rest has been buried in rapidly forgotten mentions in the media.
This must be reversed, for the industry’s own good. Today’s consumer is extremely choosy — and has an unprecedented range of choices — about what he or she considers worth spending disposable income on. Negative connotations not only devalue a product or service, they could get it struck off the list of choices altogether. A bad reputation could destroy the diamond industry altogether.
Worldwide, we need to completely exorcise the evil spectre of conflict diamonds, environmental destruction and the imagery of a greedy uncaring industry that is only interested in the financial bottom line. We need to do this because our futures depend on it.
Already, unscrupulous marketers are busy highlighting everything negative about natural diamonds in order to show the lab-grown variety in a more positive light. This is not only an unsavoury and unethical strategy, it is something that could blow up in the faces of the lab-grown diamond industry. If diamonds are the symbols of all the bad things that have been listed, what’s to stop consumers turning off the man-made variety as well? There are any number of products and services that are vying for their attention and wallets.
But those who deliberately run down natural diamonds don’t seem to realise that. Many others don’t care. They have other products to sell.
So the diamond industry needs to act, and act quickly. Importantly, it needs to recognise that it cannot do this alone. It needs to co-opt governments and civil society organisations, much the same way as the Kimberley Process has done, to form a global coalition that has complete credibility.
Credibility is vital and it is essential that the industry have credible partners in this endeavour to correct public perception. We are not going to be believed otherwise. While the Diamond Producers Association can undoubtedly put out a message to the world about why diamonds are desirable, they are not in a position to get a skeptical world to believe that diamonds do good. This message needs the affirmation of both governments and civil society.
But while there are plenty of reasons for both governments and civil society organisations to promote this message — diamonds really have transformed lives in producer countries as well as in processing centres — the impetus has to come from the diamond industry. We need to take the first step to present our credentials as a force for good. And this step has to be taken immediately. Without those credentials, the future of diamonds and the worldwide industry that depends on them is fraught.
As Octavius, in response to a similar call by Mark Antony to collective action in the aftermath of Caesar’s murder said:
Let us do so. For we are at the stake
And bayed about with many enemies.
And some that smile have in their hearts, I fear,
Millions of mischiefs.