Posts Tagged ‘David Tennant’

Benjamin Banneker, America’s First Black Mathematician

October 26, 2018

October is Black History Month, and there’s a concern to find and publicise the scientific achievements of Black people. Leafing through David Wells’ The Penguin Book of Curious and Interesting Mathematics (London: Penguin 1997), I found this chapter about the pioneering Black American mathematician, Benjamin Banneker. I should warn readers that the quotation seems to come from a rather dated text, and uses the term ‘Negro’, which many Black people don’t like. However, don’t let it put you off the passage, which is well worth reading and clearly comes from someone profoundly impressed by Banneker’s achievements.

‘There is much to admire in the life of Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806). He was the first American Negro mathematician; he published a very meritorious almanac from 1792 to 1806, making his own astronomical calculations; using a borrowed watch as a model, he constructed entirely from hard wood a clock that served as a reliable timepiece for over twenty years; he won the enthusiastic praise of Thomas Jefferson, who was then the Secretary of State; he served as a surveyor on the Commission appointed to determine the boundaries of the District of Columbia; he was known far and wide for his ability in solving difficult arithmetical problems and mathematical puzzles quickly and accurately. These achievements are all the more remarkable in that he had almost no formal schooling and was therefore largely self-taught, studying his mathematics and astronomy from borrowed books while he worked for a living as a farmer.

‘But laudable as all the accomplishments of Benjamin Banneker mentioned above are, there is a further item that perhaps draws stronger applause. In his almanac of 1793, he included a proposal for the establishment of the office of Secretary of Peace in the President’s Cabinet, and laid out an idealistic pacifist plan to insure national peace. Every country in the world has the equivalent of a Secretary of War. Had Benjamin Banneker’s proposal been sufficiently heeded, the United States of America might have been the first country to have a Secretary of Peace! The possibility of realizing this honour still exists – and the time for it is overripe.’ (p. 97).

He must have been an amazing man, not just intelligent, but also highly determined to educated himself and rise so far in American society at a time when Blacks were enslaved and heavily discriminated against, even as free people. And he clearly puts the lie to the belief that Blacks are automatically thicker than everyone else, although the racists now are careful not to state this quite so explicitly.

Last Sunday, the Doctor and her friends traveled back to ’50s America to meet Rosa Parks. Parks was the lady of colour, whose refusal to stand for a White passenger started the bus boycott that became one of the major starting points of the Civil Rights movement. And on the way, they also met Dr. Martin Luther King, who was then a pastor at her local church. It was good, inspiring stuff, co-written by prize-winning children’s writer, Malorie Blackman. Who is herself Black.

The Doctor, as he/she flies back and forth across time, regularly meets the great figures of the past, like Shakespeare, Richard the Lionheart and so on. In a David Tennant story, the Doctor travels back in time to Pompeii, just before it erupts. This is caused by the presence of aliens, made of stone, deep within the volcano. Bending the laws of time, he saves one Roman who would otherwise have been destined to perish. This is a young man, who wants to grow up to be a philosopher. The Doctor rescues him, and encourages him to pursue his dream of studying the deep nature of reality. If the Beeb ever decides they want to try a similar storyline in which the Doctor meets a Black scientist or mathematician of the past, looking at this they should choose Banneker.

And we definitely, definitely need his plan for a Secretary of State. The various departments and ministries of war have no been renamed ‘Defence’ following World War II, at least in the West. But the world’s countries are just as belligerent, and the wars now being fought by the West in the Middle East are still for reasons of economic imperialism, however much they’re being sold to the public as humanitarian interventions.

And it’s all the more pressing now that we have governments in America and Britain determined to sell arms to the bloodiest of dictators and despots. Trump is withdrawing from an anti-nuclear treaty with Russia and gearing up for an invasion of Iran.

We’ve had a Black president in the shape of Barack Obama, but Banneker’s dream is still to be realized. Perhaps if more people became aware of him and his achievements, more people would come to support a Secretary of Peace. And perhaps ending wars before they could even begin.

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Maoist Rebel News on Alex Jones Cursing Trump for Syrian Airstrikes

April 19, 2018

This is very interesting, and it made me think slightly better – but only slightly – of Alex Jones, the mad right-wing conspiracy theorist and his wretched internet show, Infowars. In this clip from Maoist Rebel News, host Jason Unruhe comments on a little piece of video which shows Jones screaming and cursing Trump for the airstrikes that hit Syria at the weekend. It was clearly shot before Jones went on air, so I assume the footage must have been leaked by someone.

Jones is one of the tin-foil hat brigade, who tells the world that there is a conspiracy by ‘the globalists’ to establish some kind of one world superstate and destroy all personal freedoms along with nation states. It’s standard right-wing conspiracy theory stuff, of the type that’s been a part of the right-wing paranoid fringe since at least the ’70s. Jones identifies the ‘globalists’ with the international business elites, who are under the control of demons or interdimensional aliens. Also involved in this are liberals, socialists and feminists. As for gay rights, they’re a transhumanist space cult to create a new race of genderless cyborgs and deprive us of our humanity.

Obviously, no-one has actually told the gays that. Or indeed, the producers and writers of Dr. Who. Since Russell T. Davis revived the show about ten years ago, it’s been very gay friendly. Which isn’t surprising, as Davis is not only gay himself, but way back in the ’90s made his name with the gay soap/ drama series, Queer As Folk. It’s also quite feminist, in that it’s been doing its best to break the stereotype of the Doctor’s female companions as just being there to scream and have things explained to them by the Doctor. The Time Lords are shown to change genders as well as appearance when they regenerate. The Master regenerated as a woman, and reappeared as Missy. And the next Doctor is going to be female as well.

But this liberal approach to sexual orientation does not mean a rejection of sexuality. Aside from the deep emotional bond between Rose Tyler and David Tennant’s Doctor, which saw Rose eventually settle on a parallel Earth with a human duplicate of the Doctor, there’s the Cybermen. Part of the horror of these monsters is the fact that not only have they had their humanity stripped away and replaced with steel and plastic, but they’ve also been deprived of their gender. They’re mechanical, neuter creatures, devoid of emotion, and determined to perpetuate themselves by turning humans, if not all humanoids, into themselves. All you have to do to see Jones is wrong about gay rights and transhumanism is simply watch a few episodes of Dr. Who.

Jones was initially a very enthusiastic supporter of Trump. He gave him much airtime when the orange buffoon was campaigning for the presidency. Jones thought that Trump was an outsider, who would defeat the globalists and drain the swamp of corruption engulfing American politics.

He’s been gravely disappointed. Trump has carried on with pretty much the same policies as his Republican and corporatist Democrat predecessors, and has, if anything, been even more corrupt in giving government posts to his friends and family, including positions where they would enjoy an unfair advantage as private businesspeople.

Trump’s decision to launch airstrikes against Syria provoked a particularly vehement reaction from Jones. Jones is very much a man of the right, but from here it looks like he belongs to that strain of American Conservativism which states that the country has absolutely no business interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. it’s why some American Conservatives were against the Iraq invasion, including a senior female Pentagon colonel. It’s peculiar, but some Libertarians can be very critical of American foreign policy and its programme of increasing tension with Russia, which can make them seem a bit more left-wing than they actually are.

Of course, Jones doesn’t go the whole way, and wake up to the fact that the reason Trump’s bombing Syria is because of American capitalism and the greed of American multinationals to conquer and exploit yet another middle eastern state, as well as the Neocons to destroy another threat to Israel. Instead he rants about how its all the fault of liberals, Democrats and other members of the left.

Unruhe makes some very valid, pertinent points himself in his comments on Jones’ screams of rage. He states that Marxists realise that the problem isn’t just individual capitalists, but with the system as a whole. But Jones’ anger at Trump shows how profoundly Conservative he is. Jones believes the present system is perfect, and that it’s only gone wrong because of a few individuals. This, Unruhe says, is the psychology behind conspiracy theories, such as those which see the world’s problems as being due to the Illuminati, or, in an anti-Semitic variant, the Jews.

He’s absolutely right on this point. The stupid, malign conspiracy theories which claim that there is a global plot by the Illuminati, the Freemasons, Jews or some other clandestine group, is an attempt to explain the failure of capitalism and laissez-faire economics, without challenging them. They’re seen as perfect, and so if they don’t create the freedom and prosperity their advocates promise, it must be due to some group operating outside the system and trying to pervert and destroy it.

I don’t agree with Unruhe when he says that individual figures aren’t of importance, and that what matters is the system as a whole. There are clearly good and bad employers and some Tories are definitely far worse than others. The present structure of society isn’t perfect, but the extreme right, like the current Tory party and the business people who donate and support it, are making it far worse. They need to be turfed out of office immediately.

In the meantime, here’s the video:

The Doctor Inadvertently Explains the Need for Socialism

May 1, 2017

This is for all the Dr. Who fans out there. It was posted by male feminist and internet campaigner against Alt Right bigotry, Kevin Logan. It’s a clip from last Saturday’s episode. The Doctor and his new companion, Bill, travel back in time to Victorian London, where they find that an evil lord has been keeping a sea monster chained up under the Thames. The monster also lowers the temperature in winter so that the Thames freezes over. This allows Londoners to hold frost fairs on the ice of the river itself, which the lord encourages. Once on the ice, the smaller fish aiding the monster luring human victims away from the crowd, where they are then eaten by the monster. After passing through the creature, their remains are then harvested by the lord and his team, to be used as fuel for Britain’s burgeoning industrial revolution.

Bill and the Doctor are determined to end this, but are seized by the lord and his men. The evil aristo has absolutely no moral scruples about killing people to aid British industry. He helps Britain move forward. As for alternative forms of fuel, like coal, he points out that men die in mines.

The Doctor then makes this speech, where he makes the point that the needs of the many outweigh those of the privileged, aristocratic few, and that the true measure of progress for a civilisation isn’t in its industry, but how it treats its people.

It’s not a party political speech, but it does capture the essence of the Socialist ethos. And it is acutely relevant, given that the Tories are bent on grinding us all into desperate poverty, just for the enrichment of themselves and the corporate elite.

The speech also fits in with the concern the revived show has always had with protecting the marginalised. Apart from promoting the acceptance of gays as normal members of society, the series has also made pointed comments about the marginalisation and exploitation of asylum seekers and the homeless. In the final episode of the first of the news series, Christopher Ecclestone’s Doctor is told by the Dalek Emperor that the Daleks that are surrounding and threatening Earth have been engineered from humans. They are what has become of the poor and desperate, who tried to find a better life, only to be transformed into the emotionless killing machines.

Similarly, when David Tennant’s Doctor encountered the new cybermen on a parallel Earth, they were being manufactured from the homeless of this alternative London. The evil scientist’s henchmen lured them in with offers of food, before removing their free will with radio receivers that controlled their minds, and then mutilating them into the emotionless cyborgs.

And I’ve no doubt you can find similar examples in the earlier, classic episodes of Doctor Who as well. There isn’t any explicit party politics in Dr. Who, but he consistently stands up for the weak, exploited, threatened and marginalised against the powerful, whether alien invaders or ruthless corporations.

David Tennant Reads Out Scottish Tweets Attacking Trump for Brexit Comments

October 27, 2016

Way back in July Donald Trump travelled to Scotland to open one of his golf courses. At the press conference there, one of the assembled hacks asked him what he thought about Brexit. Trump was very positive, stating that the strong pound had meant that Britain had lost trade. Now it was weak, trade would recover, and we Brits had taken our country back.

This annoyed the guid people north of the border, as the majority of Scots had voted to remain. In this clip from the American Full Frontal satirical news show, the former Doctor Who, David Tennant, reads out some of the tweets directed at Trump by outraged Scots. Warning – there is a lot of profanity, so be careful where you play it. As the Beeb used to warn audiences, it’s not really suitable for children and those of a sensitive disposition. On the other hand, some of the insults are highly inventive despite the obscenity. One of the show’s hosts, Samantha Bree, asks Tennant, as a former Dr. Who, if he could go back in time to stop people voting Brexit. Cue that clip from Dr. Who, of the Doctor explaining how he can’t go back in time to save people.

Here’s the clip:

Of course, it’s not just Trump’s stupid and ill-informed comments about Brexit that have angered people in Scotland and across the rest of the UK. He’s also managed to make himself massively unpopular by purchasing land and trying to get people evicted from their homes for his wretched golf course, in an area that already has far too many of them. Scots already had one good reason to despise Trump, quite apart the threat he poses to peace and any chance of international prosperity and justice throughout the world if he gets to be America’s next president. His remarks praising Brexit were just one insult too many, and so the floodgates opened to this wave of spleen and vitriol. Which he justly deserved.