Existential dialogue 7: what relation between guilt and power?

guilt and power, dialogue existential 7


Mickael: Charmide, I think I hear someone coming.

Charmide: you are right my friend, let’s run away.

Socrates: deer, wait, where are you going?

Mickael: Socrates, it’s you! What are you doing around here?

Charmide: we thought you always stayed beyond the Outer Reaches

Socrates: I like to vary my outings and I just met Niccolò.

Mickael: ho, yes, he is often in the leaves at the bottom of the path; he plans his future misdeeds.

Charmide: have you managed to see him? In general, he is discreet.

Socrates: he was sleeping in the sun, he did not hear me coming.

Mickael: that’s his problem, despite all his tricks, he lets himself be surprised.

Charmide: so he strikes and it does not help his reputation.

Socrates: he told me what happened with Eve; he is still very contrite.

Mickael: don’t believe everything he says; he wanted to control her, he succeeded.

Charmide: and now humans are mistreating us because they have lost their ignorance.

Socrates: dear Mickael, how can you say that he controls Eve when he himself has lost the main of his greatness.

Mickael: his speech established a new standard in her and in humans in general. They felt guilty, and guilt and power go hand in hand.

Charmide: they also have become susceptible and aggressive; now they take revenge on us who cannot defend ourselves.

Socrates: but he is no longer the beneficiary of this guilt.

Mickael: think again, dear Socrates, it is enough that it exists for him to benefit. Besides, he always generates fear.

Charmide: it is more effective than direct threat and it allows him to carry out his underground transactions.

Socrates: it’s a subtle means of social control that I hadn’t thought about, but some humans are aware that they know nothing. How then could they be charged or feel concerned?

Mickael: do you mean the unruly? The freelancers? The crazy ones?

Charmide: those who seek temperance and moderation?

Socrates: yes, the very ones who question opinions and seek the truth.

Mickael: they will be caught up in the culture of their time! There always needs an order to keep the world together and any order supposes a dominant power. They will be imprisoned, sidelined, punished if nothing else is done, but first they will have to fight against social pressure. It’s a very strong normalizing power. This is why we stay away from the ponds.

Charmide: wisdom is a laudable ideal, but it requires living alone, and it is not always possible or pleasant.

Socrates: my friends, they should not give up the search for pure ideas that would give them intimate knowledge of the world, beyond appearances that deceive them. This is our only chance to be able to commune with them again.

Mickael: so that this knowledge becomes for them a new tool of power? Dear Socrates, you believe in a human nature that could regain its original goodness, but nature does not exist for them, it is only their history that shapes their characters and develops their ideas. This history is always that of class and species struggle.

Charmide: as far as we are concerned, we are looking for peace and tranquility in this corner of the forest, but when humans arrive, it’s better to run away.

Mickael: we cannot be friends with those who want to dominate us in order to feel that they exist.

Charmide: because of Niccolò, they forgot everything that came easily to them in the garden.

Mickael: he sowed in them the will to know but he did not tell them how this knowledge should be used. Those who know a little therefore believe they know a lot and take advantage of it to exercise their power over others.

Socrates: yet Gottfried loves them.

Charmide: oh, he doesn’t have a lot of brains, that’s all.

Mickael: he’s a city bird. By relying on the goodwill of humans, he lost his freedom.

Socrates: which is not your case.

Mickael: we don’t try to please them so we don’t depend on them. We do not share our knowledge with them so they cannot use it against us.

Charmide: since they forgot that things are done in due time and that one has to be patient and attentive, this gives us our chance when they hunt us. Otherwise we would already be trophies on their chimneys.

Socrates: you are right, wisdom is a long apprenticeship.

Charmide: and even among young nonhumans, the precipitation of newborn babies kills more than one.

Mickael: those who, like Gottfried, no longer make the effort to hunt, they get fat and become dependent.

Socrates: it’s true that he’s a little fat at times, but I like him and he’s always happy.

Mickael: it’s the joy of the ignorant…

Charmide: come on, Mickael, he is not so ignorant as he has figured out how to live easily!



Want to think a a little more? See Discipline and punish, the birth of the prison where Michel Foucault shows how the definition of deviances allows effective surveillance of all.

Want to help improve these dialogues? Write your comments and questions below.

Want to know more about the tastes of Socrates, Charmide, Mickael, Niccolò, Gottfried? Their favorite books are in the domain library.

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