Blood on the Brand
From the Editor

Images of a deaf child’s limb getting chopped off in the back of the pickup truck in Darfur come to mind when a DeBeer’s diamond commercial asks me: “Why don’t you buy her something that will last forever?” Journalism, not commercialism, gifted me with that graphic scene. I watched the CBC piece on Darfur’s blood diamond wars only once and not a thousand DeBeer commercials cannot erase it. DeBeer stopped buying blood diamonds, but is now threatening the livelihood of bushmen in Botswana. I could take pride in the fact that I’ve never bought a blood diamond, but I don’t. I’m guilty of many other third-party murders due to my commercial purchases.

As I fill my car with Chevron gas, I wonder if I’d mind being charged a bit more if it meant they’ll stop poisoning the Bolivians’ water with oil residue. And when my bank account is declining, and I can only afford the beef of a formerly tortured cow from McDonald's with a genetically modified salad, I can't help but consider two countries whose union workers were killed in order for a Coke to accompany my meal: Columbia and Guatemala. It’s horrible, but so is starving myself.

It’s not just me who finds myself in hypocrisy. I’ve had an ‘Ethics’ professor admit to me that he won’t give change to the homeless because he’s afraid they’ll “just use it on drugs.” And even a ‘Human Rights’ professor admitted to me that if the rest of the world lived by his standards, not only would we run out of resources, but we’d need “three planets” worth of resources to sustain ourselves.

Well into our retirement, we will be meeting this form of hypocrisy. As we collect retirement savings from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), some of that money comes from arms manufacturers, tobacco companies, big oil, and companies that engage in criminal activities. The CPP investment board had responded with a “Policy on Responsible Investing.” But groups such as ACT for the Earth argues that the board still violates human rights and respect towards our environment through proxy shares. Now in direct contrast to its own “responsible investing.”

This is the controversy we live, and the hypocrisy that journalism must exploit. Journalists report and condemn corporate actions in Darfur, Rwanda and Congo that we deem as immoral while we relax with a Marlboro cigarette; Marlboro being the brand that slyly advertises itself as “healthy medicine” to pregnant Africans and their babies. The point is that we’re all guilty and our hands are blood red. With such a corrupt system, it’s easy to see why we give up on being fully righteous and fall into complacency.

So what’s the point of being active instead of apathetic towards the issues that advocacy journalism focuses on? As a student in my Human Rights class once retorted against a cold-hearted classroom of naysayers on fighting against the corporate injustices: “I'd rather be one step closer to a distant peace than be nowhere at all.”  I agree.

It may seem that the end result is the same for everyone: Everyone sins as they try to survive. Yet, journalism may help us stay aware of our own wrongs. And through that self-awareness, maybe we can buy one less diamond, drive one mile less, and kill one less person.

// Alamir Novin

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