Friday, November 27, 2009

Terrinches Relived Again

I've written about Terrinches before, so I won't go through it all again. It's a little village in the SE corner of the province, very near Jaen, the Sierra de Alcaraz and the world's finest olive oil. I go there every year at the same time with more or less the same people, to celebrate someone's birthday. It's always a good party, but, unlike some of the group, I like to take an occasional break from the consumption of alcohol, good food and idle gossip, during which I wander through the neighbouring landscape, frightening the sheep and freshening up the blood for the next meal.

This year I came across, the cleanest, fattest, healthiest and juiciest-looking herd of sheep I think I have ever seen. I wonder what a farmer gets out of such exaggeratedly meticulous care. Good wool, good meat and good milk I imagine (the best cheese down here, and it's very good, is made from ewes' milk), but it surely can't be worthwhile economically.

I ran* through the next village and out into the country on a path I didn't know which goes down into the valley some way, then levels off. To get back you have to do it the other way round, which isn't so much fun. Mountains, green hills, water, olive trees, wide open skies, all the kinds of stuff which were made for us to live in and enjoy.

*The term 'jogging' is terribly passé. We super-fit, 'I shall never be middle-aged' types run.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Internet Cutoff Laws

From the EU Observer 24-11-09:

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU telecoms chief Viviane Reding has warned that the European Commission would take action against Spain if the government moves to cut the internet access of content pirates.

"Repression alone will certainly not solve the problem of internet piracy; it may in many ways even run counter to the rights and freedoms which are part of Europe's values since the French Revolution," information society commissioner Reding told a conference of the Spanish Telecommunications Market Commission (CMT) in Barcelona telecoms on Monday.

Viviane Reding has warned that internet cut-off runs counter to EU telecoms law

"If Spain cuts off internet access without a procedure in front of a judge, it would certainly run into conflict with the European Commission," she said.

This month, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, representing the member states, came to an agreement on a wide-reaching package of telecoms laws that included a provision that outlawed internet access cut-off without an official procedure.

Some internet civil libertarians feared at the time that the language in the agreement was still too soft to prevent such laws, but it appears the commission has taken the ball and is running with it.

"The new internet freedom provision now provides that any measures taken regarding access to and use of services and applications must always respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens," Ms Reding reminded the Spanish CMT.

Apart from the obvious fact that Europe has never had anything resembling common values either before or after the French Revolution (a long period of bloodthirsty tyranny, a kind of proto-communism, which it rapidly became clear was not going to work, to the extent that on several occasions a return to absolute monarchy seemed a better bet), the values held by the EU are not good, and are not what she would like us to think they are. On the other hand, she defends the idea that only a judge can decide to cut off your connection, which is as it should be.

El País reports the same news this way:

El dicho manido "cambiarlo todo para que nada cambie" se escenificó hoy en Estrasburgo. El Parlamento Europeo dio luz verde hoy a la controvertida directiva que regula el acceso a Internet. Al final no hubo sorpresa, y la enmienda pactada el 5 de noviembre entre el Consejo y la Eurocámara sobre la regulación de las restricciones a la conexión a la Red, sin necesidad de una procedimiento judicial previo, fue aprobada casi por unanimidad con 510 votos a favor, 40 en contra y 24 abstenciones.

The bolded line says that the decision by the EU Parliament was to allow countries to cut people off from the internet without any judicial procedure, not at all what Miss Reding was suggesting.

La Razón (which has since removed the article) is not happy that each country will be allowed to interpret the reasons for cutting people off and the process by which it is done in its own way. The paper mentions the highly restrictive laws passed in France, and just recently in Britain, but not the proposed law in Spain. It cites the text (I can't find a link to the complete text) agreed by the Parliament as saying that such measures must be 'necessary and proportionate', that their must be a 'fair procedure', and that the defendant must be heard. Which means a campaign to whip up a storm about whatever they want us to fear and a bureaucrat with a clipboard and a stopwatch who will give you five minutes before ticking the box he had intended to from the start. No need for a magistrate, no defence, no justice, no problem.

With regard to the new internet law in Britain, Boing Boing has this (and more, follow the link) to say, and he seems to know what he's talking about:

The British government has brought down its long-awaited Digital Economy Bill, and it's perfectly useless and terrible. It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the "three-strikes" rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial)

So it's bad. £50,000 fines if someone in your house is accused of filesharing. A duty on ISPs to spy on all their customers in case they find something that would help the record or film industry sue them (ISPs who refuse to cooperate can be fined £250,000).

But that's just for starters. The real meat is in the story we broke yesterday: Peter Mandelson, the unelected Business Secretary, would have to power to make up as many new penalties and enforcement systems as he likes.

In Brussels it’s all about power, of course. And in Spain, at least, it’s the latest in a series of concessions to the SGAE. Or, more accurately, of kowtowing to a few superannuated singers and second-rate actors who constantly whine that people don’t buy their work and so must be forced to pay for it anyway. The SGAE is the pseudo-private arts union/quango that inter alia lobbies to defend intellectual property rights and administers the royalty money that comes in from indirect sources. I’m a member of it, in fact, but I’m a writer and the government doesn’t listen to us (we don’t appear on the television enough).

They have recently persuaded the government to put a specific tax on any object which can be used for copying anything which might support someone else’s intellectual property- computers, photocopiers, MP3/4’s, e-books, CD’s and DVD and a number of other things. You have to pay it whenever you buy any of these objects and it goes to the SGAE who do things with it according to arcane rules which don't appear to include me.

This is not about child pornography or terrorism. It's about politics, as usual, and (once-)fashionable actors and singers and their demands, and such things, for our leaders, are much more important than basic freedoms, judicial guarantees and like trivia.

It is right that people should be prevented from gaining financial benefit, and causing financial harm to others, by claiming as their own work which is someone else's, but that is very different from copying something and selling it cheap to someone who would not have paid the price the creator was asking. And very different again is copying something to share it freely with friends, which is like lending a book or inviting people round to listen to music or admire a new painting. But some people who have power because others listen to them have made a fuss, to protect their income and their sense of self-importance, and that is a more important reason for controlling the internet than child-molesters and terrorists. Not that they won't try to control the internet anyway, it must be terrifying for those who want to rule over us, but they can't think beyond the next morning's headline, and it will be the egos of aging crooners that will cut us off, not the desire to protect us from criminals. Sad, really. Fortunately it's quite easy to ignore all this. All they want is the headlines, the result doesn't matter to them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Barroso on Democracy

Barroso is quoted here on the subject of an EU tax controlled entirely by Brussels (via Open Europe):

"We have promised it to the parliament, the programme with which I was elected was to look at possible 'own resources' and this is in the programme that was adopted by this European Parliament."

Well, of course, whatever deal he cooked up with the lot he wanted to appoint him to the job, he wasn't elected by the people who will have to pay that tax, which rather reduces the legitimacy of his position. Taxation without representation, anyone?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thought on Those CRU Emails

The release (by whatever process) of communications and data from the Climate Research Unit at Norwich has been covered by half of my blogroll, it appears. (And a few who aren't on it, but probably should be.) I am not going to attempt any kind of analysis, not having the time (I don't know how anyone else does, either, but some clearly do) nor the competence. By the way, the response at Real Climate is an attempt to brush it aside with a general 'that's just the way scientists talk' kind of bluff. It isn't, and a much better explanation/defense is required, which may yet be forthcoming, but so far I haven't seen it.

But one thing that is clear to any real scientist is that these communications are not about science, but politics. Science is the search for a certain kind of objective truth, and must be carried out in accordance with certain procedures, which include transparency, collaboration, openmindedness and freedom from preconception, if it is to have any chance of identifying that truth with some confidence. Another thing that science does, as part of this search, is to quantify ignorance.

Scientists do not work in a vacuum. In Universities they are subjected to very considerable political pressures, they experience personal pressure from their own professional ambition- to publish more, to be respected by their peers, to get a better post; industrial scientists are under commercial pressure from their companies; all are human, and instinctively want the world to be a certain way. It's when they fail to recognise this in their work that they stop doing proper science. Their are extracts from the communications which clearly indicate that the unit was, at least at times, prepared to sacrifice the truth to the pursual of some other purpose, apparently social, political or personal, and that is not science.

Those who have done some analysis of the data (which the CRU has never wanted to publish- see transparency above) suggest that it wasn't quite what it seemed either (see preconceptions above).

As I say, I'll let others do the work, and they'll do it much better, but it is worth remembering what science is and what it isn't.

David Thompson; Real Blogger

Blogging is a compulsive, almost addictive thing. In the same way that for an alcoholic the next drink is always the one that will make the world a perfect place, to a blogger it is the next post that will set the blogosphere alight and provide that sense of having written something that justifies all the work (not to mention the narcisism).

Blogging also becomes highly competitive. You see that other blogs have more traffic, more comments, more backtracks and even get noticed in the real world and you wonder about the cause of the injustice. Then you compare your writing to theirs and you begin to understand, possibly.

David Thompson's blog is what this one wants to be when it grows up. Magnificent images (passim), putting my little snaps to shame. Fine writing, taking apart the ignorant, empty pronouncements of the idiots who run too much of the academic world, as opposed to my meandering rants (try this, this and especially this). Showing up in all its naked pomposity the worthless, infantile, self-absorbed junk vomited out by so many of our supposed artists (try this one, or this one). Denouncing the very real consequences of political ideas still fiercely defended on theoretical grounds by the willfully perverse, stupid or evil, and doing so in a way that might even get him listened to by those responsible for those evils.

So while I work on making this a little better, I shall be reading David Thompson every day, and I suggest you do the same.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More Jobs for the Boys

Watching the media and polictical circus surrounding the appointment of the President of the European Council and High Commissioner for Strutting around Self-Importantly and being Ignored by Barak Obama, one is struck by the total lack of concern for democratic accountabilty and 'bringing the EU closer to its citizens'. A major purpose of the exercise was supposed to be precisely that, to try to persuade us all that we created it ourselves because we wanted to and that we it is a structure through which the people express and carry out their will. it has now degenerated into the usual horse-trading, power-sharing, bullying and Buggins-ism, with no reference to or consideration for the poor citizens who are paying for it with their money and their political freedom.

All completely predictable. They haven't answered Kissinger's question, either, which was also meant to be an important purpose of all this. I don't see the Kissinger's of the world calling the number of some harmlessly obscure Belgian ex-postmaster general when they want to talk to 'Europe'. I don't imagine they take much notice of Barroso either.

So a couple of corrupt or failed non-entities will be appointed because the ones who will decide it are concerned about the stability of their own little social world and their own position in it. We do not matter. They could not have said it more clearly. And nor could the press, which is mostly too busy claiming to be able to interpret the games politicians play to defend our freedoms as it claims to do.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

That Education Stuff; Why do we do it?

(Leg-iron has a long post on education, most of which I broadly agree with. It's not especially relevant to this post of mine, but it's worth a read.)

If government ever understood the purpose of education it has long forgotten it. And it is probable that the state never did know or care why it was a good thing to make sure children were educated. (Or even what education is.) Governments have always used education, as they use everything else, to defend their own interests. (That is only to be expected, since it's what we all do, but it means that we need to make sure that the government's interests coincide with our own, and the People are not very good at bringing it about.)

The early presence of the state in education was intended to compete with the church, or in some cases with other private bodies that were getting too powerful. It has at times been used directly as an excuse to increase taxation, and it has for decades been an idealogical tool controlled for the purpose of indoctrinating the young. Everyone is constantly trying to indoctrinate the young into having one or other set of beliefs, moral principles, traits of character, strengths, weaknesses, philosophical handles, etc, and the state often loses the struggle, but it doesn't stop trying, and education, real education, is lost along the way.

So what is the point of education? What is it that someone, whoever, should be doing for children?

It is generally agreed that the main idea is to prepare them to take their place in the world. What that place is depends partly on the world and partly on the child, which in turn depends on the formation they have received. Children need to learn basic literacy and numeracy, but that won't get them far on its own. They need to understand the world they will be taking their place in, they need to be physically strong, to have strength of will, intellectual curiosity and the analytical tools to satisfy that curiosity. The world needs them to be able to contribute to making it a better place, and they need to be able to make a living, with as many options as possible, and to be happy and fulfilled. The last one is notoriously tricky, but I think we can be certain that filling their heads with rubbish, exhorting them to know their place, pandering to their (quite natural) indolence, and generally depriving them of any real knowledge, enthusiasm or aspiration is not the way to do it.

The ten or twelve years that children are in full-time education should be sufficient to achieve all of these things several times over. If it happened, they would all have to compete with each other, of course, as we do now, and some would win and some would lose, but the world they lived in, and helped to create, would be a much better one for all of them. Yet large numbers emerge knowing nothing, with no concept even of knowledge or ambition or satisfaction, having had their childhood wasted and their future ruined by ideologues, incompetents and tyrants.

I am completely certain that that is not what education was invented for, and it would be an excellent thing to recognize this, and at least try to work out what the real end of education is and think about how to achieve it. But first you have to know how to think, and ideologues don't think, they only believe.

"Is This Going to Involve Getting Up"

Thus does Garfield, wisest and most human of cats, encapsulate the abyss that separates our plans and aspirations from reality. Idly wondering how to become richer, more successful, happier, better-looking, fitter, more powerful and all the other things we know we could and should be, it seems so easy. But putting it into practice. Ah, now that's another matter. There are always distractions and excuses, it's not our fault, the world is against us, we have too many other things to do.

Legions of fat people lie on sofas eating Mars bars and whining that no one understands them, and that nobody will give them a magic pill that will let them be simultaneously lazy, greedy and thin. They could try the tapeworm, I suppose. Or they could buy a bicycle, but that, of course, would involve getting up.

Or those who don't progress at work because everyone has it in for them. Is it possible that if they were more punctual, more cheerful, more diligent and more imanative, took fewer days off sick and acually did what they were paid for they might find a greater spirit of co-operation from their bosses, but that, of course...

Most of us have a thousand unrealized plans, dreams and schemes. Unrealized because we 'don't have the time.' We have little trouble making time for watching TV, gossiping idly with friends, drinking beer, lying in bed half the morning and going to the footie, but for the things that we repeatedly tell ourselves and others are important to us, and to our sense of personal fulfillment, we just 'don't have the time.'

But Garfield was funny and he really didn't care. If you do care, stop moaning, get up and do it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lisbon and Those Democratic Provisions

The EU Observer makes a big thing about one of the supposed democratic initiatives in the Lisbon Treaty, while at the same time explaining how such freedom must be greatly constrained in case we get carried away by the sheer joy of it.

Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty, in the section grandly entitled 'Provision on the Principles of Democracy, says the following: In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.

This has, of course, nothing whatever to do with democracy, so it's not a good start. The unfortunate people of the late Soviet Empire were not only promised, but probably actually received, equal attention from the agencies that were busy destroying their lives, simply because as far as their leaders were concerned, they were all equal. None of them mattered. The next sub-section is ominous as well:

1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.
2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.
Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.
3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.

4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

1. The Union is clearly founded on the principle of sharing the power among unaccountable bureaucrats and friends of friends, regardless of the public good or the public will, and grafting on a few elections and referenda here and there, the results of which can be freely ignored.
2. MEP's are not directly elected by the public, nor do they represent them.
3. There is next to no meaningful democratic life to take part in.
4. Political parties are private organizations of free people and as such will do as they damn well please. To attempt to define and control the role of political parties is highly totalitarian.

An important point about this and many other articles in the Constitution/Lisbon Treaty is how it makes perfectly clear that there are two types of people in the EU, the rulers and the ruled. Any real democracy at least pretends that the leaders have been temporarily and conditionally given authority by their fellows in order to perform certain necessary functions. The EU makes no such pretence.

Consider point 3 a little further, and then look at Article 8b:

1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.
2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.
3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union's actions are coherent and transparent.
4. Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.
The procedures and conditions required for such a citizens' initiative shall be determined in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 21 [actually Article 24] of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Civil society doesn't mean you. Don't imagine it does. It means groups specially created or allowed to exist by our leaders, and paid by them with our money to lobby them, the purpose being to justify what they have already decided to do. You are merely a citizen. You don't count. Point 4 appears to introduce a mechanism for any of us to initiate legislation, but this is of course quite the opposite, being in fact an excuse to ignore us even more thoroughly than they do now. As the article gleefully makes clear, there will be so many problems with verification and uncertainty about the number of signatories from each country that any such petition can easily be rejected by an apparatchik long before it is in danger of sullying the exalted hands of a commissioner. Even if you manage to find a million people in a dozen countries who will not only sign to say they agree with but will give you vast amounts of personal data to support verification. Even if you can couche your intention in such a way that it appears to be required for the purpose of implementing the treaties. Even if you get past the army of paperpushers looking for a flaw in the presented paperwork. Even if you manage to reach the stage where the Commission can no longer avoid taking a look you will have achieved precisely nothing. Six months later you will become the proud possessor of a letter with a laser-printed fascimile signature telling you that the Commission doesn't feel your legislative initiative is appropriate and that, due to the nuisance clause in the standing orders they will not consider any proposal on a similar subject for at least 15 years.

No one is going to go through all that for nothing. Except for one reason- publicity. The press would certainly become interested but they are also easily nobbled by the powerful, and you might find yourself the victim of a mob rather than a popular hero. On the whole I think we can say that the provision is yet another of those decoys the EU likes to create, something to point to when there fundamental lack of democracy is pointed out.

There was a time when you went to see your MP, or wrote to him, repeatedly if necessary, and he would ask a question in the House or take the matter up somewhere, or you wrote to the relevant minister, and encouraged others to do the same and if enough people showed enough interest something might be set in motion. There was a time when the people's represenatives represented them- however imperfectly- but they understood that was their job. There was a time when legislation could be enacted by the will of the people, brought before Parliament by their elected representatives, with no need for mechanisms and constraints to be set out at length in endlessly interreferential protocols.

The provision is of such bureaucratic complexity that it is clearly designed to be impossible to fulfil, and thus those who rule us without our consent can remove themselves even more completely from the foulness and impurity of the world which we mere citizens must inhabit.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Freedom Gone

Tomorrow it will become illegal in Spain not to give a series of personal details to your mobile phone company when you buy a phone. This information will be available for the government to use to check up on who you talk to, but it will be collected and stored by the companies, so in the end it will mean the prices will go up as well.

The information you give or ask for when you enter into a contract is surely a matter for you and the other contracting party to decide. The government need not usually be involved, either in determining what information should be asked for and certainly not in having access to that information. But they do so love to get involved, don't they, especially if someone else is paying (which someone else always is).

In the case of a pre-paid phone the company doesn't even need to know your name, but it has been decided by our betters that we can no longer enjoy the freedom to speak to whoever we choose without having the fact recorded in perpetuity and used against us later on the whim of some official. So from tomorrow you can't have a phone unless they know exactly who you are and where to find you. (In fact, you haven't been able to for some time; tomorrow is just the last date for giving all that info to the phone company. After that, you're a crook.)

This has been justified as part of (go on, guess) the fight against terrorism, because pre-paid, anonymous phones were used in the Madrid bombs in 2004. When I say justified, I mean the minister genuinely seems to believe that if they hadn't been able to use pre-paid phones the murderers would have given up and gone home.

It's just an excuse, of course. They do it because they can. It shows very clearly that the only reason we are not obliged to register every contact we make, every conversation we take part in, every friend we have, is that our masters haven't worked out a way to make us do it without paying a higher political price than they are currently prepared to contemplate.

I'm not paranoid, but I think it's a bad idea to imagine that people who want power over you and/or an easy life at your expense can automatically be trusted with your time, money or freedom. Experience suggests otherwise.

On another matter, the Spanish Communist Party has a new leader. This should not be significant, as they have only two MP's, and that's because of PR but El País thinks it is. They used to have rather more, but now they shouldn't matter. They used to have more because they made a big thing about some of their leaders being jailed by Franco and how they fought against him. Some of them were indeed jailed, but a lot of people liked to claim they had been jailed by Franco a posteriori, it was a badge of legitimacy in the transition, whatever the real reason for being in jail (v. Jesús Gil y Gil).

They Communists like to make themselves out as being brave fighters against Franco and an important part of the transition to democracy. Their role in the transition consisted of allowing themselves to be legalized, and though it is true that they opposed Franco, there was a democratic opposition which did far more, while the communists postured and offered- or rather tried to impose- a tyranny far worse than the one that already existed.

Said new leader talks the usual cobblers. I've written about it here, but I can't be bothered to translate it. He's not worth it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Attitudes to Education

Among those who take any interest in education and the role the state plays in it, there are a few positions which probably cover most of the ground:

- Education should be completely controlled by the state so that children are only taught what the government of the day wants them to learn (transmitting any of your own values to them is treason against Progress).
- Education should only be done by the state because otherwise wealthy children will have an advantage. The desire to see other people forced to fail rather than aspire to something better yourself is an extraordinarily common mental affliction.
- Education is the responsibility of parents but should be provided by the state etc, and exclusively controlled by it.
- Education is the duty of the state/government/society to all children who want it and can’t get it by other means, and only state education is the business of the government. Probably the middle class default position.
- F*** off and leave my children alone.

Your position on this depends as much on your circumstances and background as it does on your politics. More so, probably, since those who actually have a choice, such as Labour MP's, almost invariably prefer to lay themselves open to charges of hypocrisy than to deprive their children of an opportunity. It would be better still if they did neither, but at least they recognise openly the importance of education, while trying to deny it to others.

Most people who understand the importance of education, which means most of the well-educated and not a few of those who were not so lucky, do everything possible to find the best school for their children, moving house, lying, pretending to be Catholic, and so on. Those who have the money use good private schools, or private tuition as a supplement, and those who have the time and the capability educate their children themselves, rather than trust anyone else to do it. All of this makes perfect sense to anyone who is not blinded by ideology.

State schools exist for those who are not able to provide for their children themselves. It is unlikely in any case that the standard will be as high as a privately bought service, and the politicization of it guarantees this absolutely.

The standard is almost certain to be lower because state schools do not usually attempt to achieve high standards. Their aim is generalised middlingness, and far more effort is spent on finding ways of pretending to attend to those who cannot or do not want to learn than on stopping them from preventing others from learning.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Real Life

If work is the curse of the drinking classes (and it most certainly is), then real life is the curse of the blogging classes. Real life has intervened this week, resulting in limited blogging. There are many things I dislike about the world we live in, and many I should dislike far more if I were unfortunate enough to have to find out about them. And so I am happy to have real life distract me from other, minor matters this week, especially the particular kind of real life that I have experienced these last few days.

La Cueva de Montesinos

In the Lagunas de Ruidera, in the rocks above one of the larger lakes, there is a cave known as the Cueva de Montesinos. I have mentioned it before, but until this weekend I had never gone further in than the entrance. It is a karstic formation, consisting of a narrow passage leading down to a chamber with a raised floor surrounded by water and contained a great deal of clay of high purity (it is said that the Romans mined clay here and there was a kiln and buildings on the spot whose foundations can still be traced), and a roof of iron-lined rock, on which patterns of crystallized calcite deposits make patterns which can be interpreted (with some imagination) to tell the story of the cave itself.

Don Quijote visited this cave, spoke with the spirit of Merlin, who had enchanted it, and with the Lord of Montesinos, and other spirits, and came out the next morning with tales of visions and promises and predestination. Sancho was sceptical from the start, and Don Quijote himself later admitted more or less that he had made it up, but the cave, which already had a legend of enchantment, became famous around the world, and is visted for that reason, more than for its geological interest, which isn't great.

In these days of micro-inspection, ultra-regulation and obsessive concern of authority with everything except that which actually benefits the country in general and allows the individual to make a living, where it is forbidden to burn rubbish or stubble, requiring it to be packed up and thrown away, where it is forbidden to maintain any kind of animal except in accordance with rules dreamt up by people in offices in Madrid, where farmers are told what they can grow, when, where and how, and where the market is manipulated by Brussels in order to prevent them from earning a proper living, where all economic activity can be shut down on the orders of an urban bureaucrat if certain animals or birds are reported to be on your land, where the local and national socialist governments think all land is really theirs and you are just their servant, to keep it looking pretty for the people who they allow to walk all over it, or to have it taken from you if they decide to build a road or a new town hall, in these days, I say, it is refreshing to be shown the cave by the nephew of the old game-keeper at the farm, who has been showing it for thirty years, as his father did before him, with a handful of torches and asking only for 'la voluntad'.

He knows every rock, every pattern, every angle, every story, and he knows where every foot should be placed to avoid the danger of tripping in the dark or falling into the water below. And he describes it all, bringing to life the cave, the book, the colours, the minerals and the rocks themselves. The cave has a story, a mythology, older than Cervantes, Don Quijote has a story, there to be read, and the guide himself has a story, in which he has become the rocks he has spent his life observing and describing, reading and writing his own story in the figures on the wall.

Above, a hare issuing from a magic lamp, and below, the reclining Dulcinea.