October 20, 2014

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The Swamp Man Strategy: From Business as Usual to Strategic Action

Swamp Man knows there is no good reason for gold mining unless it is sourced to a rigorous ethical standard.

Marc_choyt

By Marc Choyt

As a jeweler and activist in the jewelry sector, the desire to take action when I see injustice rises from a voice inside me that I cannot ignore. I call him the man from the bottom of the swamp, or Swamp Man.   

Swamp Man came to me in a dream many years ago. I have come to know him as a lifeline to passion, creativity and raw power. His voice is moist, muddy and fierce. He resides in the back of my brain that connects straight down my spine. What ignites or enrages him is when his body is threatened. His body is the same as the earth’s body. 

His breath comes from steam that rises from the center of the earth -- where the ancient women, mothers of us all, have been stirring their bone soup for millions of years. Sometimes the steam from that soup rises up through geological time and manufactured consent. I see clearly, as when morning fog lifts and the mountain lights up in the golden light of dawn. Suddenly, what seems normal for other jewelers and just about everyone who buys jewelry cannot be tolerated.

Diamonds Kill Forever

For example: no one in the jewelry world has ever been held accountable to for the three million Africans that died in wars funded by diamond dealers to provide engagement rings to loving brides because… they were only Africans. If they were white instead of black tribal Africans, the world would have taken note.

The Swamp Man in me says, those who committed these atrocities should stand in an blood diamondsinternational tribunal for crimes against humanity. At the very least, we must have truth and reconciliation.  

Yet business continues as usual.

The oceanic split between product sourcing and product symbolism is the modus operandi for jewelers -- and the seduced consumers who support them. These diamonds land on rings. That also leaves Swamp Man enraged. He recently read this text from the World Gold Counsel

By protecting the core wedding traditions in the key markets of India and China. Over 15% of the entire world’s gold jewelry is given to celebrate Indian marriages alone, and in China this year 6.6 million brides will receive gold at the center of their rituals….In the US our ambition is to redefine and reassert gold’s preciousness by underlining the power of ritual and tradition.  

Smelling that bone soup, swamp man says it is unacceptable to say “I do” with a ring that in its very creation poisons mothers, children and their communities with mercury. We must fight the neo-colonial international mining cartels that treat people and places merely as a commodity in a “trash to cash” business model that perpetuates some of the most heinous industrial activities on earth.   

From Swamp To Action

It took me only a few decades (in my own groundhog day odyssey) to learn that Swamp Man is a catalyst, but not an ideal strategist. Swamp Man rules only up to a point. 

He is not the only character inside my internal pantheon. Once he wakes me up, I welcome him into a circle that’s inclusive of even those whose actions I oppose. The amount of conflict incorporated into this circle to some degree determines the peace I will have in my life. In a circle-based approach, polarity is a profound connection and every part of circle is equally important. The truth is, I am in relation even to that which I may despise. 

conflict free diamondsIt is often easier to feel outrage and self-righteous than to face my own darkness. Going into the circle and seeing each view as equal takes courage and supports a neutral viewpoint. Entering the circle authentically is an act of humility and acceptance because what is outside me in the world is really inside me. All my life experience points toward one truth: the universe is a giant mirror.

Finding my particular situation in patterns and stories from my own life and in the repositories of cultural wisdom becomes ground for strategic action. Sometimes Swamp Man should be given full reign, even realizing that it takes a moment to destroy what has taken years to build.  At other times, he has to accept his place in the background. 

Inside of me, and perhaps in all of us, there are many circles. Welcoming all into the circle can help know what form, GET UP, STAND UP, should take for the most desired outcome. The gradients become practical questions, such as do I work from the radical center or draw a line in the sand? Listening to Swamp Man and facing the great issues that make me human become a kind of internal dialectic — a sacred pilgrimage filling me with terrible awe

These days, there is no good reason for gold mining --  except when gold can be mined responsibly as a fair trade development initiative for local communities. Diamonds can be traced to sources that have some ethical basis. They look beautiful on recycled gold or fair trade gold wedding rings that anyone can chose to buy right now.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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