Ethical Movie Review: Blood Diamond Essay

0.1 Introduction The following essay will examine ethical issues addressed through the movie “Blood Diamond”. The two main issues identified and discussed are; child soldiers and conflict diamonds. My main lens of ethical theories will consist of the four western theories, this includes, egoism, utilitarianism, ethics of duties and ethics of rights. Even though these theories are based on ethical absolutism, I will still try to apply a pluralistic view. Additionally, some of these theories will be expanded and other theories that do not tend so much towards ethical absolutism will be added.

The following section will concentrate more on how these issues occurred and try to give some potential answer to the problems. In order to do so descriptive ethical theories will be tools in the examination. Finally the conclusion will be presented by a combination of a film review and a short summary of the findings in the text.

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1.1 Children with guns The first of the two ethical issues that will be examined is the use of kids as soldiers.

In order to do so I believe I have to take a subjective role on the subject, looking from a rebel soldier. The reasons for this is because I believe objective or western views on this topic will in the end state that this is neither moral or ethical. In order to get a more interesting view on the matter, I will use an alternative approach and try to look out of the eyes of a soldier taking the use of kid soldiers. The question is; how can the use of kids as soldiers be justified?

The situation described in the movie tells us about the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which is a rebel group fighting the government in Sierra Leone 1999. To put the situation in a soldiers mind, one could argue that his or hers thoughts were, “I am being invaded by the west, they are stealing my diamonds, the government is corrupt, how can I win this fight?” This perspective is based on RUF as one minded soldiers, of course they are not, but in order to make this argument the assumption is so. The first ethical theory that can be linked to the response of child soldiers is egoism. The main concept of this theory is justified with one having to focus on one self; to control all other things is to hard (Crane and Matten 2010). It is important to distinguish from selfishness, and one can argue that this action can be justified as an egoistic mindset, not a selfish point of view.

They do not fight only for their own winning; they fight for what they believe is best for the country and RUF. The rest of the world would probably disagree to the use of kids, but how can they judge a situation that for most of them is so far away that they can only be prejudice not knowledgeable about the situation? One can even go so far to say that both the consequentialist theories supports the actions performed by this rebel group, they are fighting for their own desires and what they believe is the greater good. In order to do so they have to utilise the resources available, ergo using children as soldiers and living in utilitarianism. Consequentialist theories focus on the outcome, and one can state that is what has to be the focus in order to actually use so young people for means in war.

The differences between the theories are that egoism focuses on the decision-maker while utilitarianism casts an eye on the wider community, which RUF seems to do as well when fighting against the government (Crane and Matten 2010). For the remaining theories on this issue, there is no one that can be associated with the use of children for these actions. Both non-consequentialist theories have clear moral guidance that will not support the course of actions taken by the RUF. Ethical duties have three main maxims, and I believe no RUF soldier would want the use of child soldiers to become a universal law. Maxim two analyses will tells us that all the children have not freely decided to become soldiers, and can be said to be used as means by the RUF to achieve their goals, not to educate the children in the right way.

The third maxim asks if the actions are universally accepted, there is no need for explanation here, it is not accepted by the world. Ethics of rights and justice has a large focus on human dignity and humanity; one can reasonably state that there is neither in the use of children as soldiers. So we can now make a short summary to say that with a pluralistic (maybe a bit more relativistic) view on the two consequentialist ethical theories the use of kids to bear arms can be justified. We will discuss this issue further in the next section of the essay, but first the issue of blood diamonds will be addressed.

1.2 “Bling-Bang” Conflict diamonds or blood diamonds as the title of the movie confirms is an important ethical issue enlightened by director Edward Zwick. Before going into discussion around ethics regarding this topic, a short definition of conflict diamonds is appropriate: “Conflict Diamonds – also known as blood diamonds – are diamonds that are used to fuel conflict and human rights abuses. They have founded brutal conflicts… that have resulted in the death and displacement of millions of people.” (Global Witness 2011). In Sierra Leone 1999 the diamonds are traded for mostly weapons by the RUF, the buyers are big diamond companies using cleansing methods around the world in order to “wash” the stones. As the movie shows us, the diamond industry is powerful and unethical.

Working from a view of pluralism which is an ethical middle way between absolutism and relativism, one which I believe should and is being used the most, the actions of the diamonds corporations are highly immoral and unethical. Pluralism is based on the notion that morality is a social phenomenon according to Kaler (Crane and Matten 2010). If one would argue that morality is a social phenomenon, the morality of taking use of rebel groups as RUF and their extreme methods of operations can in no way be justified.

Aiding criminal and horrifying actions like these should never be done. The scary part is that this is nothing new, corporations do think of people as means only which is opposite of what the second maxim of ethical duties suggest (Crane and Matten 2010). A quote from the movie which describes this situation, and implies that the companies fool consumers into believing that every diamond comes without blood is said by Danny Archer when talking to an American journalist, “In America it’s bling bling, but out here it’s bling bang.” ( 2011), What Mr. Archer here says is very on the spot on how unethical the operations of diamond companies deceive the world. And they do so knowingly, after all the intro of the movie shows a G8 conference where diamond CEO’s are precent and applauded for attending the fight against blood diamonds.

When they at the end then still buy blood diamonds, their actions can be nothing else than both immoral and unethical. For every ethical theory that include morality, honour, or even the greater good, these people do not seem to care, and it is hard to find any way to justify their means except for financial winnings, which is sad, unethical and immoral. Their actions can be found as unethical by three of the four ethical theories mentioned; the only one that again can come to create peace of mind for the CEO’s is the line of egoism. Again the financial desires of diamond companies seems to be all they care about, and if they believe that everything else is not their problem, then egoism will accept the actions of these people. There is a but here, and as the last paragraph stated, they knowingly deceive and knowingly know what the history of their stones are.

They make that history matter to them as soon as they attend the diamond meeting. And when they make that blood covering those diamonds matter, stepping out of line of the egoistic theory is something they do, and as ethical theories are rules and principals that determines right and wrong, these actions can clearly be stated as wrong (Crane and Matten 2010). I will not spend much time on covering the three remaining theories on this topic because I do not see room for much distortion when measuring the decisions up to the remaining three theories. Put simply, utilitarianism is not supported because their actions are not for the greater good.

There is no “greater good” in buying conflict diamonds unknowingly for consumers; neither is there for exploiting a brutal civil war for economical purposes. There are to significant impacts on world’s society for this to be disregarded. Over to the non-consequentialist theories they are as described previously in the essay based much on morality, dignity and humanity, and there are room for little of these concepts in the actions of Van de Kaap. Van de Kaap is the character of the diamond CEO in this movie. And as mentioned earlier supporting such horrible military actions defies what the second maxim of ethical duties suggests. Now that the four main ethical theories have been discussed with this issue the following section of this essay will seek meaning in the actions performed by RUF and diamond corporations.

2.1 Finding the reasons Normative theories tend to focus more on the problems after actions and decisions have been made, this section will use tools from descriptive ethical theory, which are used as tools on how the decisions are made and why (Crane and Matten 2010). There are two main categories to address, individual factors and situational factors. I believe that individual factors do not play an important role compared to situational factors. I do acknowledge Ford and Richardson’s (1994) argument that socialisation matters, but I do not recognise this as an individual factor; this goes over to the situational factor.

One can argue that adults have individual factors when presenting different childhood environments, and this is true, but to determine how a person will act when born is not possible. The only factor recognised with individuals to really matter is mental illness, and then I mean birth sickness not sickness developed during the life. The other factors all depends on environment. As a scene in the movie show, Mr. Archer is found in a conversation with a local man taking care of children and is asked the question if he believes people generally good or bad and responds; “No. I’d say their just people.”( 2011).

This is true, there are none born evil or good, it is our actions that show us what we become. So the tool that will be used to interpret the actions of RUF and Van de Kaap are mostly situational factors. Assumptions are telling us that 10 000 children were fighting for the RUF (Murphy 2003). As we can exclude most individual factors, one can start by blaming environment for actions performed by human beings. Beginning this will be with exploring the relevant situational factors. The situation described in the movie is a rebel group fighting the government in which they believe are corrupt and see no other solution than to take the fight in their own hands. As the movie provides us only with one way the children end up as soldiers, there are other reasons for children to bear the RUF uniform.

Murphy (2003) talks of four models of child soldiers, the first one is called “coerced youth” which is the model of brutal coercion of children into the army, just as the one we see in the movie. The remaining three models are not going to be described in detail here, but tell us a bit different story. Children living in poverty and with a rough childhood, bad parenting in a chaotic country can easily tend to blame the government. The search for authority and some sort of place for them in society can make them join what they feel is the right fight, or maybe just to get some meaning in their lives. The society has not provided the safety that a child needs so it seeks it, the cognitive moral stage these kids live in is named preconvention.

Their cognitive moral development is shaped by the environment, and it “refers to the different levels of reasoning that an individual can apply to ethical issues and problems.” (Crane and Matten 2010:153). The preconventional stage says that to determine what is right and wrong out from punishment or rewards from their subordinates, and in this case RUF rewards unethical behaviour. The mindset of children are found in the strategy of denial (Anand, Ashforth and Joshi 2004) they remove responsibility from themselves; hereby their actions can be accepted by themselves and then implemented. In addition their locus of control is probably low in a kids mind, and seeking control in authority figures. Now to the RUF, one can see reasons for why child soldiers were used, if one is to believe that a combination of kidnapping and children joining willingly were the start up.

The way from there can be that children were seen to be useful and thereby just adapting more children as they felt the need. This may very well be one of the reasons for the use of child soldiers. The next point will pursue reasoning for which diamonds create unethical behaviour. To find the meaning of exploiting Sierra Leone for their diamonds we can draw similarities with the reasoning above. More accurately the strategy used to rationalise unethical behaviour. Van de Kaap will be again the person of interest in this, and in this movie this person represents the strategy denial of responsibility (Anand, Ashforth and Joshi 2004).

Not in the same way as the children described above, but in the sense that they believe that if they do not take advantage of these diamonds, someone else will. By having that attitude the other strategy, denial of injury (Anand, Ashforth and Joshi 2004) also fits. They may acknowledge that people are getting harmed, but it is not their responsibility since someone else would take their place if they were not there.

The reward is what gives the organisation meaning, people tend to do what they are rewarded for, and in that process it is easy to forget the ethics regarding their actions (Crane and Matten 2010). We can also blame the world’s ignorance of the issue, Crane and Matten (2010) writes that “Quite simply, ethical violations that go unpunished are likely to be repeated.” And this is the world’s responsibility, in the movie we find a journalist to take this job, fighting against a world that seems oblivious to the issue. So what possible solution can be proposed to it all?

2.2 Possible solutions The first proposed solution to be addressed will be blood diamonds. Already the Kimberly process has been formed in 2003. This is a response on conflict diamonds and mentioned in the beginning of the movie (Global Witness 2010). The imitative is a non-government, non-corporate and therefore independent imitative which sertify conflict diamonds. It is said to be an exclusive club as only members can trade with members and therefore something countries long to take a part in.

Global Witness state on their homepage “… attempts at industry self-regulation have been woefully insufficient; meaning that it still isn’t possible to guarantee to consumers that the diamonds they purchase are free from the taint of conflict and human rights abuse.” And this tells us that it is hard, but at least someone is putting in an effort. So when the regulation is hard, we should take care of some roots of the problem. Diamonds is a good defined as a want, it is not a need. One can therefore blame the consumers on making it possible for companies to profit so much of diamond trade, and by doing so I want to put some of this responsibility back in their hands. The consumer has to make sure that what they are buying does not support conflicts in other nations.

If a system would be demanded by the people, one could argue that the power which lies with the people is strong enough to make the corporations act. The second solution is in some way already shown in the movie, a rehabilitation “centre” in the jungle for kids. It is important to do this properly and not ignore the kids once they have become soldiers. In addition I believe that by fighting poverty is a way of fighting children turning to killers. To perform these two tasks that here is proposed is something that the western world should be obligated to do when thinking of all the pain it have caused for Africa in the past centuries. One possibility would be for the G8 to take use of discourse ethics and form a panel with parties from rebel groups, ex-child soldiers, local government and objective minds. That concludes this section of the essay; the next one will be a short summary and review of the movie.

3.1 Short review of movie and text The final section of this essay will be a short movie review combined with some conclusions from this essay. The director Edward Zwick has in my eyes done a fantastic job, the movie is stuffed with real life issues, and two are presented in this text by child soldiers and blood diamonds. Zwick presents ethical issues in an action packed thriller filled with good acting and effects. I view this movie as a perfect combination of Hollywood and the real world, there are a few clichés, but that has to be expected; the rest is a mind opening truth that certainly was a goal for the production when the release date was set 18th of December, right before the year’s biggest diamond sale period.

The three main characters each present separate ethical morality, the “soldier of fortune” gives us an egoistic mindset, but gets softer as the movie closes to the end. The way the movie presents both the understanding for the desire in egoism as well as showing that it is possible to change and also show compassion a moral twist. The second character is a fisherman presenting a more feminist ethical theory, showing much love for family and care for people, even a man that is likely to steal from him. The last character is a female journalist fighting for fairness and justice. And Maddy Bowen can easily be linked to several ethical theories, but closest to theories of justice.

Her fight for fairness and getting the west to open their eyes gives another moral angel to the situation in Sierra Leone. All in all Zwick with good help from his actors presents the issues of child soldiers and blood diamonds in a very good way, one can see that the diamond corporations of the world did not like it, they fought the movie for a long time and ended up with a 15$ US million PR campaign (PRWatch 2006) that resulted in a website called

This is interpreted as a sign that he is pushing on the correct buttons and may be something that forces change. I do not believe I would change anything with his movie, in order to reach the target market a combination of fiction and facts are needed. This essay has proved that the use of child soldiers as well as trading conflict diamonds is unethical and has asked the world to act as a solution; there is power within the people that should be used to pressure changes to these issues.

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