A once peaceful nation
September 2, 2014 1:49 AM   Subscribe

Close Your Heart
A long-form article from Slate about the Central African Republic’s sectarian civil war.
posted by Joe in Australia (7 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Started to read the article - stopped when I got here:

“There is a mentality for Central Africans. We need always to live in suffering,” a civil servant in Bangui told me. “If we are suffering, then, I think, we feel at ease.” In Sango, the national tongue, there is a phrase for this: kanga bé. It translates roughly as “close your heart.” Faced with index-anchoring poverty, chronic political collapse, and cartoonish corruption, Central Africans say kanga bé. “Don’t do anything, don’t react, don’t say anything. Just wait it out,” is how a Central African friend summarized the expression. “It’s the answer to every misfortune.”

So the "peace" in this "once peaceful nation" wasn't one of prosperity, but one of suffering. And time and time again, we prove ourselves to be frogs sitting in a kettle of water whose temperature is slowly rising, not noticing that anything's wrong until the temperature is at a boiling point and it's too late.

I've said it before and a million people a million times better and smarter than me have likely said it a million times prior - get rid of poverty and suffering and you'll have real peace.
posted by bitteroldman at 5:59 AM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

that being said, I'm surprised that things haven't boiled over in places like Bombay, or Rio where the slums are a universe of their own and the disparity between rich and poor is probably to an infinite degree...

going back to the article now
posted by bitteroldman at 6:04 AM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've read the first third, and so far it is really good. I've not had an opportunity to go to the CAR but people I've known have worked there and had very positive memories of the people, and amazed frustration at the overall situation.

When people talk about how we are all on a level playing field, I always think of former colonies:

André Gide was so horrified by what he found there, in 1947, he wrote “I cannot express the sorrow and impotence I feel.” When the French finally departed, 13 years later, they left a void: In a country of some 200,000 square miles (larger than France), there were almost no paved roads, little infrastructure, no professional class. The Central African Republic was “stillborn,” a historian observed. “It achieved independence in name only.”
posted by Dip Flash at 6:07 AM on September 2, 2014

I wonder what the goal of Chad and Sudan was, or is. How could they spark such violence knowingly?
posted by Thing at 6:28 AM on September 2, 2014

Two things struck me after reading. One, there seems to be a cycle of atrocities, and then revenge, but not on the perpetrators (who are long gone) but on locals that can be somehow associated with them. When the actions are so terrible, people want revenge so badly that the standards of guilt fall very far: more injustice leads to more revenge. Secondly, the power of the mob is recognized by both the politically powerful and the weak. There were a lot of instances of mobs incited by shouts of things like "She's a spy" or "He's a Muslim".
posted by 445supermag at 8:02 AM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

get rid of poverty and suffering

Get rid of suffering? I'll get right on that.
posted by empath at 1:22 PM on September 2, 2014

This was heart breaking but a fascinating read. Thanks for posting
posted by biggreenplant at 10:57 AM on September 3, 2014

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