Last night we went to see the movie “Blood Diamond“, a Leonardo Dicaprio film that I highly recommend. As usual, after returning from a film that speaks of real world issues and injustices, Tom, Han and I all rush to our respective computers to look up facts and more information on the topics covered in the movie.
The movie setting is the 1990′s in Sierra Leone, illustrating the diamond trade and the number of people in conflict zones who die for these diamonds so that the white man can buy a beautiful wedding ring for his fiancée. To me, this topic is synonymous with oil and the tragedies that happen around the world so that we can drive our SUVs and heat and cool our unnecessarily large homes so that we can be “comfortable”.
Also mentioned in the movie is Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, which happens to rank 177 out of 178 countries for happiness in a University of Leicester survey. It is interesting to note that Zimbabwe has the highest literacy rate in Africa (94.2% according to the CIA World Factbook). Although the people of Zimbabwe are highly educated, a male in Zimbabwe shouldn’t expect to live beyond 37 years old, or a woman beyond 34 years old according to the World Health Organization. This is the lowest life expectancy rate in the world and can be partly attributed to a large HIV infection rate which fortunately dropped from around 33% in 2001 to about 20% more recently for people aged 15-49.
(As a side note, the United States ranked 23rd out of 178 countries for happiness, while UK ranked 41st, Japan 90th, and Canada 10th.)
Another interesting point about Zimbabwe is the land ownership. When it became colonized by the British in the 1890′s, the blacks were stripped of their land by the whites. Even after the country gained independence in 1980, 70% of the cultivatable farmland was owned and controlled by a mere 4,500 white farmers and corporations, while there were still 6 million blacks who inhabited lands incapable of agricultural production. This has changed in the last 6 years or so while the land has been given back to the Africans. The whole population of Zimbabwe only consists of 1% of white people, yet 70% of the good farmland was owned by whites.
So while we’re on the topic of the greedy white man: I saw the recent spat between Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell. I normally don’t subject myself to such useless entertainment, but it’s interesting to see who Donald Trump really is as a person. In the video I watched, Mr. Trump notes multiple times that he’s a very successful Billionaire businessman. So I was curious as to how generous he is with his wealth, compared to the philanthropist billionaire Bill Gates. According to The Smoking Gun, which references his IRS tax return in 2002; Trump donated a mere $287,000 that year. Bill Gates on the other hand, sets a high bar for philanthropy and has quit his day job at Microsoft to become a full-time Philanthropist, donating time and money to causes such as providing education to minorities, AIDS prevention, fighting other third-world diseases, etc. According to a 2004 Forbes magazine article, Gates gave away over $29 billion to charities from 2000 onwards. It’s good to see the Buffets and the Gates of the world, and I think these two gentlemen will inspire other wealthy individuals to do the same. But Donald Trump on the other hand who is in a position of power and wealth fails on this, and there’s no sign that he will leave his fortunes to those less fortunate when he passes. His name will live on through one of his 5 kids, the same way that Mr. Trump himself inherited wealth from his own father.