Have you ever received those messages that get forwarded on WhatsApp or Facebook claiming to reveal supposedly shocking coincidences between two historical events?
If you’re like me, you probably can’t find the delete button fast enough. But if you are unlike me, you have probably seen the one about the remarkable similarities between the assassinations of US presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
While some of those claims have been debunked, others are true.
It is correct that both presidents were shot on Friday, with a fatal bullet to the head, after being warned not to go out.
It is also correct that their successors were both named Johnson and that Andrew Johnson was born in 1808 and Lyndon Johnson in 1908.
Again, it is correct that both assassins — John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald — have 15 letters in their names.
Most notably, Booth escaped from a theatre and was captured in a warehouse, and Oswald fled from a warehouse and was caught in a theatre.
Intriguing, not so?
However, both assassinations also have dissimilarities.
Firstly, Lincoln and JFK weren’t shot with the same gun. Secondly, it wasn’t the same time of day. Thirdly, it wasn’t even in the same city. I could go on and on.
Why then this obsession with the similarities while conveniently underplaying the dissimilarities?
While one school of thought says this is because it is the nature of man to look for patterns even when there really aren’t any, another school posits that the similarities are proof that history indeed does repeat itself, and when it does, the price goes up, hence the variations.
Let us synthesize this together by going down the annals of history.
In June 1812, Napoleon assembled an army of 600,000 to invade Moscow and subdue Czar Alexander I. As he marched into Russia, typhus-carrying lice, not enemy soldiers, began to decimate his forces.
But despite typhus and trench fever, a weakened French army reached Moscow on September 14 and declared victory in the already vacated city.
That was the easy part.
The return trip was, however, a horror movie. Temperatures plummeted to -30 degrees Celsius, freezing the beleaguered soldiers’ lips together and killing thousands of horses.
Facing such harsh conditions and with little food, only as few as 10,000 of Napoleon’s men made it back home.
With Napoleon’s wars being widely documented, one would think that no one with all faculties upstairs intact would dare try to conquer Russia again.
Well, Adolf Hitler dared.
In 1941 Hitler’s army began “Operation Barbarossa”, the invasion of Russia. Timing? The same June in which Napoleon started his quest in 1812.
Believing victory would be swift – and despite owning several books about Napoleon – Hitler sent his troops into battle ill-prepared for the impending winter.
As a result, just like Napoleon’s men, plummeting temperatures and a lack of warm coats and hats saw many soldiers return home without ears, noses, fingers and even eyelids due to frost.
After repeating itself, didn’t the price go up?
If we expand the scope from Russia to Asia in general, there are several other examples where it has been proved that land wars in Asia are not a very good idea.
Lookup if you wish, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Russian War in Afghanistan. Come to think of it, don’t even bother. Still on TV and all major media is the recent American debacle in Afghanistan, where twenty years of blood, sweat and toil, and US$2.3 trillion later, the country swiftly relapsed to “factory settings”.
This notwithstanding, I can confidently say we haven’t seen the back of war in Asia.
Why? Because, as per Mark Twain, it is the nature of man to always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.
What is the point I am trying to make?
I have three issues, viz. the fuel crisis, a looming forex crunch and Mr Tony Blair.
The recent fuel crisis reminded me of that from 2009 to 2012. The underlying causes, of course, are not the same. This current crisis is attributed to truck owners’ and truck drivers’ strikes, whereas from 2009 to 2012, it was forex scarcity.
However, the end result is the same: avoidable fuel crises causing suffering.
Talking of scarce forex, aren’t we heading in that direction?
You may have heard that our number one donor, the United Kingdom (UK), has cut aid by more than 50 per cent from £52 million (about K57 billion) per annum to £25 million (about K28 billion).
This follows a decision by the UK earlier this year to cut spending on foreign aid, a decision which is beyond our control.
If it is the nature of man to always make prevention of the repetitions of history impossible, what are the chances that after the truckers induced fuel shortage, the next one won’t be due to lack of forex?
If history does repeat itself, there will be hell to pay.
Coming to Mr Tony Blair, no one needs reminding that Blair was thrilled to be associated with the presidency of Madam Joyce Banda up until cashgate broke out.
After cashgate, Tony Blair wouldn’t even touch Joyce Banda with a ten-foot pole. The dude quickly quit as an adviser, as if Mrs Banda were a leper.
In my opinion, if Joyce Banda and Malawi ever needed help from Blair, it was that time.
Today, President Lazarus Chakwera, as if possessed with the demons that control people with delusions of grandeur, is obsessed with the same Blair. Yet experience has shown that Blair vanishes as fast as a racing cheetah at the first sign of trouble.
Given that this State House and its team of advisors are as scandal-prone as the prophets of Baal, how long does Chakwera think Blair will stick around?
Come to think of it, do we need Blair?
Why are we working hard to make history repeat itself?
Look here: Blair can offer no better advice and recommendations than the recommendations made in the Chilima Report that is gathering dust in the shelves of the Office of President and Cabinet.
Now, if homemade recommendations are either not good enough or too radical to implement, what chances are there that Blair’s recommendations will be implemented?
Does history really have to repeat itself before we learn?
Sadly, it is already repeating itself and woe unto those who will be at the receiving end of the people’s wrath. The one thing they will not be able to say is: we were not forewarned.