Thinking about the DA’s victory in the Bitou Ward 2 By-Election, and about Themistocles and his Great Lie
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Oudtshoorn. 7 December 2012. 23h00. I struggled to make sense of the crushing defeat Francois Geldenhuys suffered to the DA in the By-Election on the 5th of December 2012. 2060 votes against 190. This is an undeniable overwhelming victory in anyone’s books.
When I received the results late on Wednesday night, I immediately thought about Themistocles and his Great Lie. I don’t get into many conversations about Themistocles these days, but I wish I could. He was an amazing character.
Themistocles was a visionary, and perhaps the only political/military leader in Athens, who understood two things.
First that the Persians under Xerxes the Great were building up a massive military force in order to invade Greece and destroy Athens (as revenge for their humiliating defeat in the 1st Persian War).
Second that the only way to defeat the great Persian empire was by contesting mastery of the Aegean Sea with a great Athenian fleet. Land battles were important (as at Thermopylae) but without winning the battle at sea, they would be futile in the end.
Unfortunately for him, no one shared his belief that the Persians would attempt a second invasion.
And here is the interesting point. Themistocles had to lie to the Athenians in order to persuade them to do build a naval fleet. His deception worked and he got his fleet. He then led the Athenian fleet to critical and brilliant naval victories over the Persians (who did attempt a second invasion), culminating with the decisive triumph at Salamis. He saved Athens, and perhaps all of Greece, which in turn made possible our present Greco-Roman orientation in the West. It is thus safe to say that the Western Civilization today is thanks to a big lie. Without Themistocles we would have no democracy. Without Themistocles Western civilization would not exist. When the world’s largest empire threatened to invade his city-state, it was Themistocles who united the factious people of Athens and saved its fledgling democracy. To do so, Themistocles had to lie, cheat, steal, bribe and bully his way to the top of Athen’s fiercely competitive and fatal political game.
He told the Athenians the small island of Aegina was planning to attack merchant ships, and they need to invest in the navy to protect their commerce. The Athenians fell for this lie and agreed to give money to Themistocles’ navy. Before he could convince the Athenians hereof, he had to ostracize his political opponent of the day. This he did by framing him and destroying his reputation. With this obstacle out of the way, he could sell his big lie to the rest of the senate.
By the way, later, and in an ironic twist of fate, he was later cast out of Athens, not for the lie that he actually committed, but on fabricated evidence manufactured by the Spartans. What’s the saying again? What goes around comes around.
It is clear to me that the DA of today is perfectly comfortable with telling lies, bribing, bullying and ostracizing their opponents in order to achieve what they belief to be the “greater truth”. The greater truth off course being the belief that they should and must govern and that they are not capable of making any mistakes, neither are any of the municipalities they run capable of making any mistakes, commit any mismanagement or corruption. A further part of their “greater truth” is that it is perfectly justifiable that any obstacle (mostly persons) in their way may be framed and their reputations (and families) destroyed by their well oiled propaganda machine and financial strong arm tactics.
To name only two small examples of literally hundreds:
When the political blog O!O started reporting the truth about the DA, it was discredited on each and every possible occasion to do so. The opportunistic DA did not even spare the solemn occasion of Charles Dreyer’s funeral to jump at the opportunity. This directly resulted in more than 40% of the website’s advertisers to withdraw their business.
When Francois Geldenhuys launched court proceedings against the DA for their infringements and misconduct; attorney Perino Pama refused to even commission the affidavit out of fear for reprisal from the DA. For the same reason Postnet refused to email the application to the Electoral Court. Their fears were not unfounded, within a couple of minutes after the application was served on the DA, Leonie Baynes, the unfazed female attorney in Plett who represented Francois, received a sms from Donald Grant, nogal, “Attorney of record, duly noted”. Now what did he mean with this sms do you think?
So why did 92% of the voters vote for the DA? There are many theories but I narrowed it down to three possibilities:
If you feed a flock of sheep who’s lost in a dessert only manure to eat, they will eventually start eating it.
A flock of sheep that ate manure for too long and start to get fresh grass after a while is incapable of distinguishing between the two.
A flock of sheep who ate manure for too long and start to get fresh grass after a while is too intoxicated by the manure that they in fact prefer manure as to fresh grass and would rather continue eating shit for the rest of their lives before risking leaving their comfort zone.
Hardy Mills is a Local Government Law Attorney and Political Analyst.