November 23rd, 2012 § 0 comments

Today’s picture is Caravaggio’s ‘Supper at Emmaus’ (Milan, not London)

It’s there for a reason, as well as because I like it But first, I should describe my career, or my mode of life, or something.

Most of my life, I’ve earned my crust as a mathematician, i.e. teaching mathematics to students in universities. The universities, increasingly, required that I should turn out research, publish papers etc,

If you’d told me when I was eighteen that I’d spend my life in this way, I’d have been amazed. At that age, like many of my friends, I thought I would grow up to be an intellectual, meaning someone who sat around in cafés and talked. When it turned out that that wasn’t an option, and that I was going to be a mathematician, there seemed obvious constraints. I didn’t mind the work (apart from the research), but none of my friends understood it and it had nothing to do with the class struggle. It was a poor way of attracting friends, never mind getting laid.

Luckily, I’ve always been interested in almost anything else (even, say, contract law, the French Revolution or the origin of domesticated crops) as much as in mathematics; and that has stopped me from getting bored and made it possible to have a bit of smalltalk.

And now recently I’ve become aware that mathematics is a central tool for the world’s bourgeoisie in imposing their rule – by finance, by drones, by statistics, by surveillance, by all sorts of complex technologies; and that this isn’t that well known. So I’m getting round – I hope – to writing a book on the subject, which picks up from where the ‘Conclusion’ to my 2005 history book left off. (NB there’s a paperback due soon, I’m told, so stay away from the hardback.) If any of you out there has ideas, or wants to contribute to the project, or can point out that it’s all been done already, go ahead.

And what about Caravaggio? Jesus appeared (in the picture) at dinner at a village called Emmaus; up to 1967, identified with ‘Imwas’, north of Jerusalem. It had a long history, Jewish, Roman, Arabic, Ottoman. In 1967 after the Six-Day War, the village was destroyed on the orders of Yitzhak Rabin.

Israeli soldiers entering Imwas.

A park, ‘Canada Park’, was created on the site if the village (and two others), with the help of the Canada Jewish National Fund. There’s more information provided by the Israeli organization ‘Zochrot’, which commemorates destroyed villages and campaigns for those who were expelled, here (and in other places).

I seem to have moved away from my life in, and out of, mathematics; but that’s the way it goes. More maybe tomorrow if there’s enough interest. Meanwhile, we can listen to Couperin on the desolation of Jerusalem (a bit long, but still).


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