The Central African Republic has for long been a source of calamity on this planet and a recurrent source of amusement in my circle of friends. The reason why we find the Central African Republic so fascinating is because so few people seem to have ever heard of it. For years, we’ve heard about the countless disasters that happen in African countries, but here is a country who has suffered about as much as it is possible to suffer in this world and yet, it doesn’t seem to enjoy the paltry benefits of being an imploded star, a bullseye of tragedy.
During the 19th century, the country was an open market for the slave trade. The country was colonized by the French, whose administration included the traditional abuses of civil subjugation and widespread violence. The colonial administration lasted until 1960 when national independence brought the usual succession of authoritarian regimes, bloodthirsty dictators, military juntas and violent coups. War has been especially prolific in this part of the world — civil wars, ethnic conflicts, religious militias, rebel insurgencies and sectarian violence. At present, the country seems to be dangerously approaching genocide. Despite having all these usual aggregators of Western solidarity, the country was only the 81st largest absolute recipient of foreign aid in 2011.
Our thesis is that a major reason for this unfortunate fate is that the country’s boring name made it impossible for it to form an international brand. It must be said — no offense, but this is the worst name of a country in all of history. The name of a country must have a meaning, allude to a story, suggest a feeling or convey an impression. It can’t be a mere geopolitical characterization, especially when the country has the worst international public-relations apparatus, preventing it from milking the gigantic mammary gland of Western Solidarity.
It may seem reductive, but this assertion is partly supported by scientific findings. The work of Israeli-American psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, has implications that shake the foundations on which we base our conception of human understanding. In his work the scientist showed how reasoning is a highly biased process, marked by tendencies that lead us to accept as true and real that which is false and nonexistent. His discoveries concerning the irrationality of the stock exchange are particularly worrying, and one finding in particular — that simple features such as the name of a company, its initials on the stock exchange, or its prevalence on the mass media, may influence its performance on the stock market. It’s these last points that I want to use in my resigned defense of the Central African Republic.
The tragedies of this nation are not particularly distinguished in a market saturated by barbarism, but almost every country in the African continent has a central problem, a defining trait, a reason for fame — well, something to place it in the vast desert of Western Imagination and justify the shipments of humanitarian aid. They have exotic names like Malawi, Ivory Coast, Congo, and Zimbabwe. Some are recipients of the saintly attention of Angelina Jolie and Madonna. Others are mourned in mediocre songs sponsored by Bono. The region of Darfur, on the Sudan, managed the feat of having one of its mosquitoes bite George Clooney, infecting him with the local strain of malaria.
Swaziland has Aids. Somalia has pirates. Sierra Leone has blood diamonds. South Africa makes up for its nominal limitation with their national achievements: the historic end of apartheid, a relatively functional democratic system, a powerful culture, regional leadership, and a strong economy. In many of them, famine, drought, disease and war kill millions in a way striking enough for it to able to project the cries of distress on a short segment of the evening news. The Central African Republic, in turn, is a paradigmatic representation of the grim march of endless tragedies of the Cradle of Mankind. This is a country where everything that can go wrong, usually goes wrong, and everything that can go bad, often occurs in a series of simultaneous tragedies.
Those historical events and the current situation in the Central African Republic are the result of a complex confluence of factors. I don’t pretend to understand the tragedy of this nation, to submit any relevant analysis or to offer any solution to their problems. However, with respect to its inception in the mind of the Industrialized Civilization, I think that something can be done. What the Central African Republic clearly needs is a marketing campaign, something that should start with the aforementioned change of name, and preferably continued with viral videos featuring American celebrities. What motivates the transfer of money is the careful cultivation of guilt.
This stimulation must be conducted in an arresting manner because, although the Western World loves to preach about the virtues of its selfless, caring, Christian soul; the truth is that, if there is something that we do not forgive, that is boredom.