Cultural Appropriation

I have been reading Polybius’ histories lately – these are in many ways centered on the Punic Wars (which were a defining conflict of the day), and thus on the illustrious Barca family: Hamilcar Barca, his son Hannibal and Hannibal’s brothers (Hasdrubal and Mago). Now, what can we tell about these people: The word Barca is the same semitic word as Barak. Hamilcar means “brother of Melqart”, the latter being the patron god of Tyre (the word is again Semitic, and composed of Melekh (king) and qart (which still means City in Hebrew).
. The word for brother is exactly the same as the modern Hebrew word.  The word Hannibal means “Grace of Ba’al” (the word Ba’al still meaning “master” in Hebrew to this day). Hannibal’s name would be Yohanan (so, John) in Hebrew – “Yo” (for Yahweh) replaces “Ba’al” , the rest of the name is the same. Hasdrubal is the mangling of AzruBa’al (God Helps), which is the exact analog of Azariah (with Ya again replacing Ba’al – another cognate is Ezra). Finally,  Mago means the same as Matisyahu (Matthew) – God’s gift. The also sound similar. Let us now look at the pictures of some of these gentlemen (Mago’s countenance seems to not have been preserved for posterity). It appears that Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and their dad were immortalized in coinage, as follows. First, Hamilcar:

Dishekel_hispano-cartaginés-2

Now, Hasdrubal:

Hasdrubal_coin

And finally, Hannibal:

Carthage,_quarter_shekel,_237-209_BC,_SNG_BM_Spain_102

All of these gentlemen look like close relatives – Hamilcar and Hasdrubal look like my granfather Израиль Борисович (Israel ben Baruch), Hannibal like my cousin Daniel. I am sure any other Jew reading this can find similar resemblances, while any anti-semite will find a close resemblance between the schnozzes of the Barcas and those of the caricatured money-grubbing Jews.

Interestingly, the resemblance does not end at the Schnozz. It seems that, apart from the general staff, the Carthaginians outsourced their fighting to Numidians (Berbers), Spaniards, Celts, and other such, preferring to concentrate on business themselves. This did not work out in the end, because the completely unwarlike denizens of Carthage itself were easy prey for the Romans (this was their undoing in all three Punic Wars). Interestingly, this methodology was used  by Jews, off-and-on for two millenia, with variable success (the most famous, though not the most important, being the Jewish leadership of the Khazars).

You would think that at this point it will be clear that the Carthaginians (and in particular the family of Hannibal) were a Semitic people, culturally close to their cousins the Jews (this may, perhaps, explain why the Romans took their struggles against the Jews two-to-three centuries later so seriously).

But no. There seems to be a bizarre appropriationist streak trying to claim Hannibal was a Mandingo warrior.

Another reference, in addition to strange ethnological claims (about which see below) flying in the face of all evidence, points out that there is not one but two movies coming out about Hannibal, one starring Denzel Washington, another Vin Diesel.  Neither of these gentlemen bear any ethnic resemblance to the Barcas whatever (this, in addition to the other minor detail that Hannibal was in his late twenties at the beginning of the second punic war, so some forty years younger than Washington, and about thirty years younger than Diesel. But we will let that slide, because, well, acting. Anyway, this continued attempt to steal other people’s history is about the most pathetic display of racial insecurity I have seen…

Ethnological claims This claims that Phoenicians (and Canaanites in general) were black negroid people. This claim stems from the biblical story of Noah, where Canaan is a son of Ham. However, the Bible at no point claims that Ham was black, and his blackness was a much later uneducated invention (designed to justify black slavery). For more on this (and the Caucasian aspect of the Hamites) see the ever-trusty Wikipedia.

A follow-up to the follow-up

In my recent post I discussed  Alessandro Strumia’s CERN talk, where he provided statistical evidence for discrimination in favor of women in Physics (except in China, where women are, apparently, discriminated against). Curiously, the very next day more anecdotal support came for Strumia’s thesis. The Nobel Prizes in Physics were announced, and this year they were awarded 1/2 to Arthur Ashkin and 1/2 to Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland, the third woman in history to receive the award. It was immediately noted that Strickland was, at the time of the award (though obviously not for much longer) an Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo Physics department. There was immediate wailing, gnashing of teeth, and talk of glass ceilings.

However, the truth is, in a way, much worse. The standard metric in the hard sciences (less so in pure mathematics, which is a much smaller field) is the h-index. The h-index of a researcher equals N if he has N papers each of which has at least N citations (so, notice that the number of citations thus counted is equal to the square of N). Typically, prominent scientists (in physics and chemistry) have h-index in the forties and above. This year, Ashkin has an h-index of 52 (a little low, but then, but he is an industrial physicist), Mourou has an h-index of 110. Other relatively recent Nobel prize winners have h-index at least in the sixties. Dr. Strickland has an h-index of 15 (all numbers according to the Web of Science), which is consistent with still being an associate professor in a decent department. I have no expertise in photonics, so I don’t know the extent of Strickland’s contribution to her joint work with Mourou, but recent comments by the Nobel  Prize committee about the insufficient number of female Nobelists cannot help but come to mind.

Remark: Of course, the citation numbers in Mathematics (while less relevant) are also interesting: most recent Fields medalists have h-index around 16. The two notable exceptions are the late Maryam Mirzakhani (9) and C. Birkar (suspected by some as a political medal, being a refugee from the middle east) (also 9) [note, this is according to MathSciNet, since the Web of Science makes a mess of mathematics journals). Make of this what you will.

Fatwas-r-us

After what seemed to be a civil exchange of opinions on Lior Pachter’s blog post concerning Ted Hill’s paper (OK, Pachter was not civil, but I tried to be as civil as possible), I was amused (and a little shocked) to find that a fatwa was proclaimed against your humble author. And not only me, but all those who have anything to do with me. In other words, some people who I actually respected (at least as mathematicians) have decided to excommunicate me and the journals I was editorializing for (in perpetuity – even employing me once is deemed a mortal sin). Enjoy, but ponder that this is what we have come to.

 

andyputain

A follow-up to Hill’s paper or – is free speech dead in the West?

Things seem to come in bunches, and just (under) three weeks after Ted Hill’s Quillette.com article, and much discussion in the various blogs (Tao’s, Gowers’ and others) an even bigger fight has broken out.  Alessandro Strumia, a theoretical physicist at University of Pisa gave a talk at a “gender equality” conference at CERN where he cast doubt on gender equality in physics.  The result was that he was instantly booted out of CERN, and the Rector of the University of Pisa announced a disciplinary proceeding against him. The reader can read the slides (which, by the way, were immediately removed from the CERN repository, in a misguided attempt to send this work down a memory hole – that trick never works these days where information travels with blinding speed) above (click on “talk”), and decide whether or not Strumia is actually Hitler.  The reader can also make up her own mind as to whether she (or he) agrees with Strumia’s analysis. This writer would be doing the reader a disservice if he tried to make the reader’s mind up for her/him.