Sunday, May 24, 2015

Talking number, too


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Illiteracy is a major problem in this place, but innumeracy is even worse. This is a common characteristic of primitive cultures, where counting is limited to "1, 2, 3, many". And even "many" gets flung by the wayside when politicians have to spin the number of citizens who want them kicked out of office.

This proves that mathematics is not universal. While you might think that two plus two equals four everywhere, this is clearly not the case for Government ministers, paid bloggers and political sycophants observing protesters in Port of Spain. So addition is a subjective process, which depends on whether the person adding believes the media are biased and photos provided by National Security Minister Jack Warner are not; or has won a National Award for journalism; or is aka Anand Ramlogan. It is therefore necessary to adapt number theory to this place in order to ensure that our citizens are never constipated.

While it is true that the average Trinbagonian can count to four once they're in a Carnival fete, it is now clear that members of Cabinet can't even count to 34. And not only do they have a problem with ordinal numbers, but also cardinal ones, which is why they can't tell the difference between 1,000 and 20,000 people marching against them. Of course, there are certain individuals in the Government who are very good at counting, especially US$40,000 in 26 plain brown envelopes. Such figures are called natural numbers and are defined as mathematical objects used to count but, when applied to citizens who object to corruption, count for nothing.

That is why Minister Warner called a news conference last Friday to refute news reports that the crowd calling for he and the Attorney General to resign was over 20,000 persons. Although the media took this figure from police estimates, Warner said that the police had told him the real figure was 10,000. Mind you, Warner had last October 10 announced that he had instructed the police to stop issuing crime figures, because his definition of negative numbers is any statistic related to homicides, economic downturn, and football scores published by a biased media. However, on October 11, Warner found out that he hadn't issued any such instruction: so we don't know if, like mathematician John Nash in A Beautiful Mind, he was also hallucinating last week's crowd estimate conversation with the police.

In any case, Warner's initial estimate of the crowd was 500 persons, which may seem an absurd disparity. However, it turns out that this sum can be calculated by applying a formula known as Jack's Theorem, which says that N=P~I, where N is number, P is protesters, is all, ~ is "not", and I is Indians. So, using figures from the Central Statistical Office, even if there are 481,000 Afro-Trinidadians who believe AG Ramlogan SC (Self-Awarded) should resign over Section 34, this doesn't matter unless 520,000 Indo-Trinidadians also think so. And, even then, those would have to be real Indians, which we can calculate by using the equation 0=fI (d + bh) where fI is an Indian father, d is his daughter and bh is her black husband: which, according to Maha Sabha leader Sat Maharaj, must always sum to zero.

Contrary to popular belief, however, Indians may not have invented this integer, since the first recorded zero comes from a Maya carving dated to 357 CE. Scholars theorise that the Mayans needed a mathematical definition of zero in order to predict how many rational people would believe that the Mayans could predict the end of the world in 2012. Indeed, the Section 34 furore might not even have erupted if local leaders relied on numeracy instead of numerology.

Mystics consider three to be a powerful number because it represents perfect balance: two on either side of one, remove any one and you are left with duality, remove two and you are left with oneness. Similarly, the number four is viewed as a fundamental reality: four directions, four humours, four limbs. It is therefore not surprising that Section 34 would have been created by a born-again Christian for a Hindu leader for people who could write them cheques with plenty zeros.

To calculate the extent of such dotishness, you would have to use real numbers, which are measuring numbers and so are never used for helicopter rides, trips to India, or insignificant Muslim coolies. Paradoxical though it may seem, real numbers here are the same as imaginary numbers, which are a square root of a negative integer, but are also 25,000 signatures on a petition which Opposition Leader Keith Rowley says exists but which has never been seen by any non-balisier person.

Which is why all politicians will continue to do a number on all of us. And I'll let you calculate what number I'm referring to.