At one point, going as far as saying “when will I ever use math in my life”. I came to regret those words in university when I was hired as a math program facilitator at the local non profit.
The role involved managing a space that brought educators and tutors in the math field, with high school kids from the neighborhood. Working on homework, or just chatting, the job did not directly stress a proficiency in math. A young graduate looking for a job when they asked about my knowledge of the subject, I lied.
Stuck in a new job with an old enemy, I suffered through, using my free time to teach myself the high school math I avoided learning in high school. Hoping I wouldn’t have to use it, that dream was shattered to the reality of underfunded nonprofits and unreliable volunteers.
Just learning enough one day to teach it the next, I found through self study & teaching others how interesting math is, and how relevant it is for my life. Over time my stint as a self taught math tutor radicalized my politics.
Using math principles I could better understand my own economic and political philosophies, and how we can build a real promiseful society with radical politics, love and numbers.
Imagine the look on my mothers face. Dealing with my dismissive and snarky comments on just how useless math was for everyday life. After my first day in my role as facilitator she, without fail, reminded me of those days.
Like I mentioned, most of the work was clerical or community related, until we got our students for the day. From there it was a rush of charts and graphs and numbers as I spread myself thin trying to replace the five tutors that never showed that day.
Filled with retired teachers and university students, someone was always missing, and usually a dozen were. Some had class, some had shuffleboard, there was always a reasons. So I quickly learnt the responsibility I had to try my best and help these kids out.
Spreading books in my old school library I opened old math books I hadn’t seen in ages, and when those did not work I picked up newer ones from the library. Reconnecting with those concepts, after four years of growth was interesting. It made more sense now.
Teaching these concepts solidified them in my mind. As a graduate in the liberal arts, math was so far from my mind. But seeing it again after all these years clicked concepts together. Like the Cartesian Plane.
The manifestation of two dimensional space, the x & y axis had given me problems from grades 9 to 12. These impossible to grasp concepts started to make sense as I considered them as political spectrums. The X-axis was the economic left/right paradigm. The communism-fascism matrix. I knew I was a little politically left. Like a social democrat, or a Swede.
But the Y-axis was something we did not talk much about. The power matrix, I knew it had something to do with authoritarian vs anarchy. But it was not until I learnt about anarchy as a philosophy I really got to learn how that paradigm of political power works in reality.
If we take to points on the cartesian plane, or any line, and look for a mean, we need to add them and divide by two. This is how you find the middle. Now consider the Prisoners Dilemma. Lets say these two dots on the line are prisoners offered the philosophical idea.
If point A & B agree on the same outcome (the middle point between them) they get to both walk free. Now here is my political spin:
Lets say the coordinates are A (7,0) , B(-7,0). If both A and B pick a point that is one point closer to to B than A, A has an extra year of B;s sentence. Essentially a tug of war, where every point on the plane takes away a year from your sentence.
A good strategy would be to pull as far back as possible no? Why do we not think of politics as that? Every election cycle the idea for progressives is to placate neoliberals each time. But according to statistics that would not work out for them. Better yet would be to aim for the moon and land on the stars.
After four years of a politics heavy course load it was teaching math to a ninth grader that really put perspective on what made credible sense. Energized by this reality I looked through the ‘radical left’. Socialism, Communism, Marxism etc. they all had some good points and I may very well be one of them. But neither description of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ or any state vision really connected to my sense of political needs. Then I remembered the Y-axis, and how power mattered into this.
My example was one dimensional. Only moving on one axis any solution quickly inverted on itself. Any socialist program eventually became corrupt, all neoliberal causes became fascistic. Without a grounded understanding of power, politics always got high on its own bullshit. That bullshit being the power of money. money is connected to our politics by the basic idea politics is how we express our will over society. A society paid for through greenbacks.
Corruption is a bunch of hot air, concentrating power higher into totalitarianism of a left or right variety. On the opposite of that was anarchy. Often misrepresented political anarchy attempts to decentralize power, or justify its need. It professed how the building blocks of power are hierarchies, and that capitalism was the latest form of the hierarchy. Same as white supremacy, the caste system and Call of Duty games. Pervading our society with a mentality of subordination instead of cooperation a successful society puts existence in relation with everything.
That sort of thinking networks human life, to animal and the planet, not with our exploitation of these ecosystems but with mutual reinforcement, a circle of life. Its a love of others, through a love of self. Not that success is bad, but that nothing about being successful puts anyone or anything above anything else. It was a long lesson, I just wish I paid attention in high school.
By: D.P. Ovasum
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