There is no king without a custom

The genealogy of politics has been closely tied with the animals’ nature. The sagacity of the fox, the fierceness of the tiger, the domain of the lion, the silent steps of the pigeon, the sneakiness of the mouse, the force of the rhinoceros.


We have gradually lost our self-description as animals, as mammals. Plato says that humans were second rate animals, and that this disadvantageous situation could be seen in how our nails had become a mockery of claws. Our skin is also fragile, unprotected. We arm ourselves with the skin of the strong. Furthermore, it is with the animals’ horns, figurative phallus, with which men re-invigorate themselves to rule. There are no animal vaginas portrayed as powerful. How would the world look like when we are all –finally- naked? When we recover our own bodies and the phallus will no longer be erected as the sole monument of government.

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The power comes with garments, there are hierarchies of symbols and of clothes. The skin of the one becomes the crown of the other. Every political act is a performative act. 

There is no king without a costume. There are no queens without thrones. Does every political act need a stage for it to be believed upon?

Part of the “Multiple Gazes of a Country’s Photographed Past“, a publication by African Photography Initiatives – APhILink to the publication

Dialogue between Henry David Thoreau, Socrates and Don Juan*

They, being commonly out of doors, heard whatever was in the wind.

Don Juan: You always felled compelled to explain your acts, as if you were the only man on earth who’s wrong.

Henry David Thoreau: I never dreamed of any enor- mity greater than I have committed. I never knew, and never shall know, a worse man than myself.

Socrates: But it is right, my friends, to bear in mind that if the soul is immortal, we need to care for it, not only for the sake of this periodic time which belongs to what we call life, but also for the sake of all time, and now it will be clear that if we are going to neglect it, we shall be running a great risk.

Don Juan paused in search of a word, he seemed to be dumbfounded. Then he looked at them and began to laugh uproariously.

Socrates: But if you are convinced of this, Don Juan, look at the matter in this way, and see if you agree. You doubt whether what is called learning can be recollection?

Henry David Thoreau: Fishermen, hunters, woodchop- pers, and others, spending their lives in the fields and woods; in a peculiar sense a part of Nature themselves, are often in a more favorable mood for observing her, than philosophers or poets even, who approach her with expectation.

Don Juan said that they were going to camp there, that it was a very safe place because it was too shallow to be a den for lions, too open to be a nest for rats, and to windy for insects. He laughed and said that it was an ideal place for men, since no other living creatures could stand it .

Henry David Thoreau: The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem at a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.

Socrates: Then, let us see whether what you say is true from another point of view, for very likely you may be right, you affirm virtue to be the power of attaining goods?

Don Juan: Well, let’s say that I know all kinds of things because I don’t have a personal history, and because I don’t feel more important than anything else, and be- cause my death is sitting with me right here.

Henry David Thoreau: I see youngmen, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools, for these are more easi- ly acquired than got rid of. Men labor under a mistake.

Socrates: We are agreed then, that in this way the living have been born from the death no less than the dead have been ‘born’ from the living?

Henry David Thoreau walked and sat down in the shade – An old man who used to frequent this pond nearly sixty years ago, when it was dark with surround- ing forests, tells me that in those days he sometimes saw it all alive with ducks and other water fowl, and that there were many eagles about it.

Don Juan: You think your life is going to last forever?

Henry David Thoreau: He is blessed who is assured that the animal dying out in him day by day, and the divine being established.

Socrates: What is it? Has the ship come from Delos, at the arrival of which I am to die?

Don Juan: Stick close to me. This is an unknown region to you and there is no need to take chances. You are go- ing in search for power and everything you do counts.

Henry David Thoreau: What recommends commerce to me is its enterprise and bravery. It does not clasp its hands and pray to Jupiter.

Don Juan: I don’t care how you feel. In order to be a hunter you must disrupt the routines of your life. It takes time. You could begin by not eating lunch every single day at twelve o’clock.

Socrates: No doubt. But what is this subject about which, being knowledgeable himself, the sophist makes his student knowledgeable as well?

Don Juan said that both of them were being careless with power by acting morosely and that they had to put an end to it or power would turn against them and they would never leave those desolate hills alive.

Socrates: For in my stupidity I believed the truth had to be told about anything that was given a eulogy, and that by selecting the most beautiful parts of the truth one was to arrange them in the seemliest manner possible.

The reader will perceive that I am treating the subject rather from an economic than a dietetic point of view.

Socrates: And what do you think of this Sophists, who are the only professors? Do they seem to you to be teachers of virtue?

Henry David Thoreau: I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his high or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind.

Socrates: This, then, Henry David, is why the true lov- ers of learning are moderate and manly; it is not for the reasons that most men suppose.

Don Juan: What would be a resolution that is real then?

Henry David Thoreau: You need not rest your reputa- tion on the dinners you give.

Don Juan: I was thinking that you haven’t changed at all in the time you’ve been trying to learn about plants.

Socrates: Do you believe there is really war among the gods, and terrible enmities, and battles, and other things of the sort our poets tell?

Henry David Thoreau: They are sound sleepers, I assure you.

Don Juan: I know, I know. To achieve the mood of a warrior is not a simple matter. It is a revolution.

Socrates: Then consider. If I escape without the state’s consent shall I be abiding by my just agreements or not?

Henry David Thoreau: I consider that I enhanced the value of the land by squatting on it.

Don Juan: Someday you might need to catch a moun- tain lion. They have special powers. They are terribly smart and the only way to catch them is by fooling them.


* Dialoguecomposedbyquotes(withminor changes) formthefollowingbooks:

Castaneda, Carlos. Journey to Ixtlan. The Lesson of Don Juan, Washington Square Press,

New York, 1991 (1972).

Plato. The Dialogues of Plato, Bantam Clas- sics, New York, 1986.

Thoreau. Henry David. Walden, Beacon Press, Boston, 2004 (1854).

Frida Robles

2014 Clermont, NY


Ya no hay palabras. Se agotaron, quedaron huecas, vacías como sus creadores. Durante siglos las buscaron, las chuparon, las arrastraron. Gracias a ellas se edificaron instituciones, parábolas, discursos. Con su fervor se gestaron las más despiadadas guerras. Fueron estrujadas hasta su conversión en seres menguantes; sus respiros, entreverados en la niebla eran difíciles de asir.  Resoplan exhaustas, las palabras. Caminan con el afán de quien ya lo ha dado todo, como quien – en una angustia irremediable de insomnios y alaridos – busca quedarse dormido para poder despertar a la mañana siguiente y seguir con la sonrisa y la voz y los ojos.

Después de tanta puja, de tanto vivir muriendo, de tanta insensatez insana, las palabras restaron vacías. Lo hueco, lo hueco y que no es nada más que hueco. El fondo siniestro de la envidia humana, del sinsabor y el incesto. En el amar al hermano no hay revolución, hay insurgencia. Insurrectos rectos. Insaciables apetitos de anidados deseos. Funesto esperpento, el mundo hueco de vocales. Hueco de apertura y alegría. Hueco de gratitud y esperanza.

En consonantes sin vocales se sentenció el mundo. El mundo ganado después de tantas exigencias, de tantas competencias y rebatingas.  Palabras carentes de significados, irremediablemente desterradas de la vivaz significación. Rituales apagados a prueba de palos. Recluidos los burgueses al interior de sus pantallas. Burgueses que pretenden ser burgueses. Aspiraciones nulas, realidades nimias. Guijarros de espadrapos atados a nuestros cogotes. Muerte por elección propia, restitución de la esclavitud original. Nos restaron meros sonidos maquínicos y fríos. Puro mundo sin vocales.  La gloria no esta en el sofá, en el certificado, en el contrato. La gloria no se saborea en la desquiciada añoranza de fronteras y vómitos.

Las palabras arremetieron contra sus creadores. Los aventajaron. Se auto-inmolaron para no continuar con la farsa, la farsa aquella de hablar.

Love letters for free

Photo by Alessandro Grassi

“I do not understand love stories”, was the starting point of an investigation about romantic love; followed by an act of public writing. During three months I worked as a scrivener at the Santo Domingo public square in Mexico City. My scrivener duty was to write love letters, for free.
Scriveners are the professionals that write letters or documents for legal purposes, or for people who cannot read or write. Mexico City still maintains this dying tradition and a community, of approximately 40 scriveners, goes to work everyday at the arcades of the Santo Domingo public square. This square was founded in the 16th Century as part of the catechist and urban activities of the Spanish colonial period in the -at the time- recently conquered Tenochtitlán. Being a temporary scrivener was for me a nostalgic act and, as well, a means to have a direct interaction with passers-by. The scrivener writes in the public space and his or her writing is affected by the other, the client.

As the philosopher Alain Badiou states, love must be reinvented, but more importantly, it must be protected, because it is threatened by many fronts. Mexico, and many parts of the world, is currently experiencing alarming social situations where violence and gore showmanship are the currency of exchange for public discourse. What then can be elaborated from a public and written call to reflect on our ideas about love? Is love something more than the “romantic”? Can we think of love as a daily action? As a social setting? As a conscious act?

Photo by Julio Llorente