One of the more interesting things about paying attention to international news is that one hears stories that one never would hear from one’s own national news sources with their parochial interests. Among the news stories that I find to be interesting and also somewhat depressing includes a discussion of the forgotten de jure capital of the Ivory Coast and its problem with aggressive alligators who roughly equal the number of people who live in a city that was founded by a longtime dictator and largely neglected after his death. It is a familiar story. Dictators are constantly building cities to glorify themselves to show others they have made it, turning their hometowns and villages into expensive demonstrations of their power, only to have those cities turn into ruins when they are gone. Such is, for example, the fate of Gbadolite, a town near the border of the Central African Republic that was the place of the places of Mobutu before he was overthrown from power and his expensive marble and mahogany palace was turned into ruins, all that splendor turned into waste, in a forgotten town that has memories of greatness but no electricity these days.
But one need not be dealing with palatial capitals whose glory days departed as soon as their animating spirit did in order to see failure that is so complete as to be forgotten. Let us consider the fate of the Central African Republic, a nation whose government has very little power outside of the capital of Bangui, and which has a complex group of military groups that have various agendas and various backgrounds. It is thought by some, at least those who think about the country, that the hostility between majority Christians (who make up something around 80% of the country’s population) and Muslims (who make up somewhere around 10% of the population but have been notable in the country’s military and paramilitary groups) has led to a rise in confessional violence, and the fear that the endemic civil wars of the country will ramp up further in violence. And yet it is a violence that the rest of the world hardly knows about, much less cares about.
Nor does one need to be in Africa, a place whose suffering the world knows well, if it knows anything about Africa, to look at suffering and trouble that has failed to reach the attention of the outside world. Let us take the example of St. Vincent, a small island nation in the Caribbean that I happen to have visited myself . The volcano that sits in the middle of the island has begun to erupt, leading tens of thousands of people to sensibly try to flee the volcanic ash that is covering the beautiful island. Unfortunately, due to the stupidity of public health efforts, so far refugees are only being accepted from the island if they have covid vaccines, thus potentially putting tens of thousands of people in harm’s way over a disease that is a far less deadly threat to the island’s people than the volcano is. And yet because hardly anyone has heard of St. Vincent, hardly anyone is upset about the disastrous nature of the island’s current volcanic crisis.
Failure is by no means a difficult matter. It is easy to fail, and there are many reasons why people do not succeed. There are some of us, myself included, who find a melancholy and reflective time visiting ruins of past civilizations and see how their hopes and dreams for lasting places were abandoned and often forgotten. It does not take too melancholy of a turn to see that our own hopes for lasting and permanent monuments to our civilization and our way of life are not any more likely to endure than those of the past or those of our forgotten contemporaries. To the extent that we can remember how others live and die in forgotten obscurity, we can hope that perhaps we will be remembered ourselves.
 See, for example: