In 2008, philosopher Dan Ariely published the book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. As the title states, it is a study of the very predictable manner in which people react to situations and that this reaction is not always the most reasonable or rational reaction.

This predictable reaction is why we get cycles in history. If you place people in a particular situation, they will react in a very similar way every time. It is why Mark Twain said that ‘history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes’.

These are important observations, because they allow us to look at history and find similar circumstances to the present in order to foresee what is likely to unfold.

Martin Armstrong, a financial market trader and student of history, points out that one parallel in history to the present is the similarity between the political lives of Donald Trump and Julius Caesar. In January 49 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army in defiance of the Roman Senate, whom he considered corrupt, and he marched on Rome. Caesar, like Trump, bucked the self-serving political system and won, and both could have had as their rallying cry, ‘Drain the Swamp’. Caesar’s actions marked the end of the Roman Republic, but by 44 BC Caesar had been murdered, and by the very same corrupt individuals he had tried to destroy. The result was civil war, and the start of the Roman Empire.

We know that Caesar was warned about the plans to kill him, and we can assume that Trump is aware of the danger, but the rest of us are more interested in the cycle at work and what it means for us.

Martin Armstrong also points out the following cycle throughout history. Democracy leads to socialism, as it is just too tempting for politicians to start buying votes by favouring one portion of the population above another. This is not because one portion of the population requires their assistance but because it is self-serving; it keeps the politicians in their privileged positions. 

Divide the nation

One of the side-effects of socialism is that it starts to divide the nation, as you are taking from one and giving to another. Eventually, socialism collapses because, as Margaret Thatcher observed, socialists in power run out of other people’s money.  The collapse leads to authoritarianism and oligarchy. In Roman times, the republic ended up as an empire with emperors who were chosen by their familial connection to the previous emperor. There was no democracy involved. 

A more recent example is Russia; socialism collapsed there in 1989, and the end result was oligarchs and, now, Vladimir Putin, who is very likely going to be president for life. There was no democratic stage in Russia, unless you consider the revolution as being the single democratic act which nearly immediately transformed into socialism. History doesn’t repeat exactly.

It is pretty obvious that the South African brand of socialism is reaching Thatcher’s end point. If this is true, we should be wary of the emergence of oligarchs and signs that democracy is being done away with. 

In his recent Daily Friend article, Nedlac: Protector of Big Business and Big Labour,  Jonathan Katzenellenbogen describes how government, big business and big labour are, through Nedlac, behaving in a self-serving manner to the detriment of small business and the unemployed. A loose oligarchy perhaps but an oligarchy nevertheless.

AgriSA has fallen into a similar trap. They are the supposed political representative of the farming industry. Unfortunately, they are now in business with certain portions of the agricultural industry and so now have a conflict of interests and they are another potential if not already existing oligarch. 

SAAI could see the problem

No wonder the South African Agri Initiative (SAAI) has split from AgriSA and has positioned itself as the representative of the family farmer. The founders of SAAI could see the problem from within AgriSA. It was, after all, AgriSA which stated as a solution to the expropriation without compensation problem that 80% of the food in the country was produced by 20% of the farmers – and that you could take 80% of farmers’ land without too badly affecting South Africa’s food security. 

Was AgriSA aligning itself with the state in order to benefit itself and its business interests?

History doesn’t repeat, it rhymes – and, just as Russia moved rather rapidly through the democracy phase to the detriment of nearly the entire population, so could South Africa move rapidly through the oligarch and authoritarian period lying directly ahead. 

We should resist any attempt at authoritarian behaviour from our government; the present authoritarian reaction to a disease that is only marginally worse than the annual flu is an example.

Oligarchs such as AgriSA should be discarded as they are self-serving. 

It is telling that AgriSA were nowhere to be seen at the recent farmer protest in Senekal. Perhaps they didn’t notice that during the apartheid years African National Congress leaders risked body and soul and were at the front line of protests. 

With or without AgriSA, the farmers in Senekal have, it is hoped, helped us to accelerate through the oligarchical and authoritarian period. We should all be very grateful and should follow their lead.

[Picture: Viktar Masalovich from Pixabay]

The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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  1. Excellent article Humphry.

    I would just add that there can be no justice without equality – for minorities. Racist legislation and regulation creates the notion of second class citizens that directly impacts farm security, economic participation and wellbeing, disaster relief and other injustices faced by minorities.

  2. Some questions that I would like to ask those in government : what do THEY see as the ideal society in South Africa? What is their vision? Food for everyone? Peace? Security for everyone? Good health for everyone? Happiness? Everyone with opportunities to live their lives as they choose? The answer of course is none of the above.

    • If I can put some alternative angle on your question: Flip Buys (Solidarity) in an interview said something to the following effect, and his statement still ‘haunts’ me with its probable truth:
      “Get 20 of the leading white South Africans in a room, and get 20 of the leading black South Africans in another room. Ask each group to agree a ‘top 10 vision list of a successful South Africa’. I can assure you that those two lists will differ significantly.”

      • Considering the nature of humankind, each of those groups of twenty representatives will express at least twenty-one different opinions.

  3. Well stated – and written! – Humphry. Farmer friends and family still making a good living on their farms have all joined SAAI; your comments on AgriSA need to be given a far wider audience.

  4. Well done, thank you. Roman history from Caesar onwards is a good comparison.
    Re Trump, Ex-farmer professor of Classics at Stanford university Victor Davis-Hansen likens Trump to General Patton or the gunslinger Shane.
    We need a gunslinger in a gunfight.


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