April 20. Lazy day.

Lazy day, I skip the excursion to Cafetal where the nine-step process of coffee production is explained. Washing the beans, sorting them, peeling them, sorting the big ones out for richer coffees, fermenting, drying, roasting, grinding. It’s an interesting science. So, if you’re in the area, put Cafetal on your list.

I meet Alberto the writer who writes short stories, plays, and mainly novels. He also sells plants, like the hipi-hapa that is used for the thatched roofs here, and even vanila. He is about seventy years old and his face reminds me a bit of Klaus Kinski. A writer, a man! Including everything: a big nose, lips, a deep voice, large hands, a sweaty hairy breast underneath an open shirt, impeccably combed grey hair, slow movements. What would it feel like to be that man, that writer, I wonder.

A few weeks ago, I wrote something about a theory of power. Today, we will continue with that. Whether you want it or not, ha! We have established that power is something relational. The dialogue was not really fruitful though. Let’s try to approach the phenomenon of power from a different angle. We can’t measure power like voltage or weight. In physics, power is not an elementary quantity. We use the term metaphorically for energy. The reason why power can’t be a scientific unit is that it presupposes individuality as the center from where the power is exerted. In science, we look at events, movements that we can measure. Imagine a cheetah hunting a gazelle. We could measure the almost equal speed of both animals, we could measure the flow of chemicals in their blood, the path they take, yet we won’t be able to conclude from it that the cheetah has more power without presupposing some intention of the animals. And that’s where we already started to think anthropomorfically. The cheetah is following the gazelle, and the actions of the gazelle are merely reactions to those of the cheetah (not the other way round!). We interpreted the scene and supposed a causal relation between the actions of the cheetah and those of the gazelle. We have understood them as individuals. So power is just a matter of interpretation. Some freak might deem the gazelle more powerful than the cheetah. But wait. That freak won’t be able to understand his own quantum of power. What I’m saying is that understanding power involves some kind of natural comparison with the power we exert ourselves. If a people acts upon the decree of a king, all that we observe is a number of organisms moving in a particular way. We might even find out that the decision of the king has been influenced by one of his subjects. Again, we can’t tell who is more powerful. Naturally, we assume the individuality of the king and his people, and arrive at the conclusion that the king is exerting his power. In order to do that, we must be able to see ourselves in the position of the king, or compare ourselves with him. We can say the king has power because we have the same kind of power ourselves. The power of the king depends on the interpretation of his subjects, and that interpretation is nourished by the fact that his subjects possess the same kind of power as the king does. A slave that doesn’t have the sensation of power himself can’t be owned. And there we have an empirically testable conjecture. To be continued…

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Kamiel Choi

Dutch philosopher and poet, sometimes sharing thoughts on the internet.

One thought on “April 20. Lazy day.”

  1. I would have loved to have taken this picture! You came so close and started talking about power, and thus you hypnotized these wild creatures! Amazingly wonderful!G.

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