The Euclidean Paradox
By Luke Sherlock
A youth who had begun to read geometry with Euclid, when he had learnt the first proposition, inquired, "What do I get by learning these things?" So Euclid called a slave and said "Give him threepence, since he must make a gain out of what he learns." - Stobaeus, Extracts
Went to see the movie "Lincoln" – it was phenomenal, and a good start to this month as we approach the Martin Luther King Holiday. I took a line from the movie and a coincidence from my every day to make a correlation of sameness and equality.
In the movie, the Lincoln character references an obscure mathematician from the days of Alexandria the Great; Euclid considered the father of Geometry but little known for it.
In any event, as President Lincoln is about to dispatch a telegraph on his plan for the Emancipation Proclamation, he asks the young Army officer at the telegraph desk in the White House if he has ever heard of Euclid, the mathematician. The young man says "No" of course. The President proceeds to tell the story in which clues us in on his view of the sin of slavery.
"Euclid", Lincoln goes on to say, "had a theorem which states that 'things which equal to the same thing are equal to each other'." He went on to tell the officer that it is so with human beings as well and felt whatever the politics, the facts were undeniable.
(In a movie with so much dialog such a short phrase could be easily missed, but I had encountered the name of Euclid just weeks ago in the recent snow/rain storm that followed Sandy, named after Euclid, which struck a chord because I pass a street called Euclid Avenue every day. Who knew?)
Concurrently, reading a book on the life of Thomas Jefferson in which covers life in British America leading up to the Revolution. Even at its very beginnings, America knew slavery was wrong, but could not seem to separate itself from the economic expediency of an owned labor force and doing the right thing.
Such irrational rationalization, false justification and self -delusion led to each passing generation indoctrinating the next into believing slaves were lesser beings, even when all evidence and reliance on those enslaved folks pointed to a contrary conclusion, and even when there was stark evidence of mixed race offspring and an expedient categorization for those souls as well.
Looking back it was a very sick a twisted thing, that lingers in today's society in the form of so many prejudices.
It is all so sad when a very simple and logical mathematical theorem from 300 BC so clearly portrays the truth.