Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Zimbabwean Identity: National Identity In The Internet Age

"Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life" - Joseph Conrad.

I know from my National Identity Number that I am Zimbabwean, but is that enough?
by Kudakwashe Kanhutu

Having deliberately skirted the subject for the longest time, my next big project finally sees me discussing Zimbabwe in explicit terms. Though I have not engaged in any public debates about Zimbabwe thus far, I have always been well aware of all the discussions making the rounds in both the academic and social circles. The one thing I have noticed which the academic and pub discussions of Zimbabwe hold in common is an abysmal ignorance of the Zimbabwean processes. 

If only these people had been born and lived there like I did, then they wouldn't be so ignorant of what is happening and why. If only they knew the motivations, the personality, the national identity, and the mentality of the quintessential Zimbabwean, then they would not be so mistaken in their discussions. On reflection, by thinking in these terms, I was actually being very conceited myself, because who really knows what a "quintessential Zimbabwean" (or for that matter a quintessential American, Frenchman, or Tswana) is anymore?

My conceit has not been idle either because I have had, since 2010, a blog where I write about every topical issue under the sun. On this blog I have (subtly) suggested that I am in possession of the knowledge of what the quintessential Zimbabwean looks like: I have, as my header, a banner of me engaging in various activities which I think Zimbabweans surely identify with. Beneath this banner is the legend by Virgil: "behold a nation in a man compris'd."

The banner in question.
"Behold a nation in a man compris'd?"

This, surely, would be the high watermark of conceit if it wasn't tempered by the fact that I have realised, on my own, that it is not possible for one person or group of persons to claim to know what the national identity ought to be. We can only hope that at least fifty plus one per cent of the population identify with the image of national identity we possess in our minds. This realisation has made me ask myself the question: "what then is the Zimbabwean national identity?" Today's blog entry does not answer this question, instead I am just going to tell you how I intend to approach that question: through seeking out what is Zimbabwe's foundational story. 

A nation's literature is the repository of its identity.
All nations have a foundational story from whence their chief characteristics are drawn. The older nations can rely on fictional accounts such as that of Greece and its 10 year siege of Troy story (and the derivative accounts of Brutus who found Britain and built New Troy - now London - after vanquishing the nation of giants who lived there and; as well, Aeneas who found the Latin civilisation at Rome et cetera). The newer nations can only but rely on true accounts for events that unite them. Modern people have so many tools at their disposal to question fantastic stories such as those told by Homer in The Iliad. 

If you take for example the context from which I extracted that quote, "behold a nation in a man compris'd," you will understand my angle in arguing that a foundational story is the repository of a nation's identity. My first degree was in English Literature so my point of view with regards how we can know a nation's identity may be overly influenced by the tenets of that guild. Still, I think literature can explain how identities are formed from a nation's myths and how other factors cross-pollinate and impact local identities (this has always been the case even way before the invention of the internet age). 

Case in point: the quote "behold a nation in a man compris'd" comes from the Roman/Italian poet Virgil's epic poem; The Aeneid, itself a 'spin-off' from the Greek poet Homer's epic poem; The Iliad. I have already written elsewhere about this phenomenon - intertextuality - so will only make the point here that this borrowing from each other's stories in antiquity is the proof of the cross-pollination in foundational stories I mentioned above. 

Homer was the pre-eminent poet of antiquity and his poem, The Iliad, is the earliest literature book in existence, it tells the story of Greek heroes fighting a 10 year war at Troy. The siege at Troy ended when the Greeks devised an ingenious plan - the Trojan Horse plan. In The Iliad, Homer mentions the Trojan Horse plan in passing, it is Virgil who picks up this story in earnest and further expounds what really transpired - keep in mind that none of this actually happened. In Virgil's account, the only reason why the subterfuge of the Trojan Horse succeeded was because one Greek allowed himself to be captured by the Trojans so as to tell them the false story that the horse was a symbol of the Greeks' supplication to the might of the Trojan gods

Meantime, with shouts, the Trojan shepherds bring 
A captive Greek, in bands, before the king; 
Taken to take; who made himself their prey, 
T' impose on their belief, and Troy betray; 
Fix'd on his aim, and obstinately bent 
To die undaunted, or to circumvent. 
About the captive, tides of Trojans flow; 
All press to see, and some insult the foe. 
Now hear how well the Greeks their wiles disguis'd; 
Behold a nation in a man compris'd. 
Trembling the miscreant stood, unarm'd and bound; 
He star'd, and roll'd his haggard eyes around, 
Then said: 'Alas! what earth remains, what sea 
Is open to receive unhappy me? 
What fate a wretched fugitive attends, 
Scorn'd by my foes, abandon'd by my friends?' 

In this regard, Virgil tells us that Greeks, to a man, are purveyors of deceit. That their chief characteristic is deceit and subterfuge. Of course, he would say this because his poem represents the point of view of those who survived the Greek siege at Troy. What I took from this passage however, was the inkling that it is possible to assign to a nation, its characteristics: a national identity. This can be done by looking for the nation's foundational stories and what positive self image they project of themselves. While not everyone will be able to live up to this self image, it represents what the collective strives for, and whoever approximates that image will be held in high esteem by their nation. 

Now, the foundational story for the Roman (now Italy) civilisation is The Aeneid, while that for the Greek civilisation is The Iliad. From these stories the elites and those who are held in high esteem in these countries have learnt their conduct. Why, even though these stories did not happen, Plato and Aristotle, in their teachings often dipped into these accounts to put a point across. 

Plato tells us in Apology that: "Someone will say: And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end? To him I may fairly answer: There you are mistaken: a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong - acting the part of a good man or of a bad. Whereas, upon your view, the heroes who fell at Troy were not good for much, and the son of Thetis above all, who altogether despised danger in comparison with disgrace; and when he was so eager to slay Hector, his goddess mother said to him, that if he avenged his companion Patroclus, and slew Hector, he would die himself." While Aristotle is reputed to have taught Alexander the Great to emulate Achilles.

All I have said above is in support of one point and one point only: a nation's identity can be found in its literature. The nation's identity is also not static, it borrows from and is influenced by other nations' cultures and identities on point of contact. This is my entry point into the discussion of what constitutes the Zimbabwean identity in the Internet Age. I will look to Zimbabwe's literature and foundational stories and how they relate to other competing narratives. As Zimbabwe is only 35 years old, I think the main foundational story to rival the Greeks' The Iliad is that of Chimurenga II. It would seem that this is not much to go on but, fortunately, my English literature taught me to read road signs, monuments, dances, cultural ceremonies and so on the way one would read a book. 

A national flag is actually a thick-volume-book-length text

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Does Customary Law Permit Pre-Emptive Strikes?

"No man's error becomes his own Law; nor obliges him to persist in it" - Thomas Hobbes.

A word of caution to myself in everything I do.

I would be very disconsolate if anyone, after reading this paper I only wrote to satisfy the requirements of my Defence Studies MSc, starts believing I even doubt the currency of the maxim; "might makes right."

by Kudakwashe Kanhutu


To what extent, if at all, has there emerged a customary legal rule permitting pre-emptive self-defence (as an exception to the prohibition on the use of force in international law)? 

Introduction: 

The idea that a customary legal rule permitting an action in international relations has emerged, requires us to take a closer look at how customary international law is formed. There are controversies as to how customary law forms, but these controversies do not overburden the subject of this paper as the law on the use of force is well developed. The major issue, with regards this branch of public international law, seems to be differences in the interpretation of what the letter of the law says. As the prohibition on the use of force is codified in the UN Charter’s Article 2 (4), the relationship between treaty law and custom will also yield some useful insights as to whether this Article, in conjunction with Article 51 of the same Charter, have altered or reinforced a pre-existing customary rule of pre-emptive self-defence. The Caroline case of 1837 is cited by most authors as definitive of what pre-emptive self-defence implies (Brownlie, 2008: 734; Sands, 2012: 352) and others actually use it to argue that the right to pre-emptive self-defence has thus always existed as customary international law (Van Den Hole, 2003: 95; Arend, 2003: 89; Franck, 2002: 97). 

This paper takes the view that the Caroline case is a specious argument when used as an example of the existence of a customary rule permitting pre-emptive self-defence. Pre-emptive self-defence as articulated in the Bush Doctrine has no legal basis, while anticipatory self-defence which adheres to the imminency, necessity and proportionality criteria of the Caroline case may be defensible in law.

The Prohibition on the Use of Force:

The most important prohibition on the use of force is Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter, which was affirmed to have attained jus cogens status by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Nicaragua case (Gray, 2010: 617). Article 2 (4) itself is not widely contested with regards self-defence, it reads that; “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations” (Gray, 2010: 617). Instead, it is the exception to this prohibition which raises disagreements among those who feel there is a long standing legal rule permitting pre-emption which was not modified by the coming into force of the UN Charter. 

Article 51 of the UN Charter allows the right to use force in self-defence as an exception to Article 2 (4). It reads; 

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and the responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security (Gray, 2010: 625) 

The debate around whether pre-emptive self-defence is permitted after the Charter came into force revolves around the question whether Article 51 has reinforced or altered the customary right to self-defence. The protagonists in this debate look to the language of Article 51 and, depending on their interpretation, either argue that the right exists unaltered or it has been replaced by this treaty provision. I will turn to this debate after first having established how customary law is formed and its relationship to treaty law. 

Customary International Law: 

The definition of customary international law can be found in Article 38 (b) of the International Court of Justice Statute which refers to it as “international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law” (International Court of Justice). Thus, customary law refers to how “the way things have always been done become the way things must be done” (Thirlway, 2010: 101). This only becomes law if it is seen to be done out of a sense of legal obligation rather than as a courtesy towards other bearers of rights (Thirlway, 2010: 102; Malanczuk, 1997: 39). So, for the formation of customary law, there is a requirement of the existence of these two elements: an established, widespread and consistent state practice accompanied by, opinio juris sive necessitatis – the belief that to do so is required by law (Thirlway, 2010: 102). Evidence of widespread and consistent practice can be found in actual state practice and statements of legal principles, while opinio juris can be found in such things as United Nations General Assembly Resolutions, compatible treaties and, statements made by state representatives (Dixon, 2007). 

The first controversy in the formation of customary law arises with regards a paradox noted by Thirlway (2010: 102) that; “how can a practice ever develop into a customary rule if  States have to believe the rule already exists before their acts of practice can be significant for the creation of the rule?” There are two ways out of this paradox which are significant for the subject of this paper. The first way articulates the likely origins of opinio juris, as well as, more importantly: the role of other States’ acquiescence or objection in the creation of customary law. The second way out of the paradox is useful for establishing what the rule is in cases such as that of pre-emptive self-defence where there is bound to be insufficient practice. 

The first way out of this controversy is as advanced by Cassese (2005: 157) who wrote; 

usually a practice evolves among certain states under the impulse of economic, political or military demands. At this stage the practice may thus be regarded as being imposed by social or economic or political needs (opinio necessitatis). If it does not encounter strong and consistent opposition from other states but is increasingly accepted, or acquiesced in, a customary rule gradually crystallizes. 

For our subject at hand, a group of states may attempt to use force pre-emptively, compelled by military or political needs, if other states do not object persistently in various international fora available to them, or instead if they actually endorse this activity; a customary legal rule permitting pre-emptive self-defence will then emerge. 

The second way out of the above stated paradox is whereby opinio juris is made the essential element and State practice merely evidence, this then would be useful in establishing what customary law is in instances where there is insufficient practice anyway (Thirlway, 2010: 103). Case in point: pre-emptive self-defence would not satisfy the test of widespread and consistent practice anyway because of the nature of the activity. So, by looking at General Assembly Resolutions on the matter, we would then be able to establish whether, although there is no widespread practice, if; opinio juris supports the existence of the rule. It is from this formula that we can argue that anticipatory self-defence (as formulated in the Caroline case and not the Bush Doctrine) is a crystallized customary rule, despite limited practice, because its affirmation in international multilateral fora such as the UN High-Level Panel is evidence of opinio juris. The same formula thus rejects the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence as many states objected to it at the same UN High-Level Panel summit. Also, the 120 member countries of the Non Aligned Movement invariably issue statements objecting to this doctrine (Ruys, 2011: 342), so it could not possibly have emerged as a customary legal rule if there is such widespread and persistent objection to it. 

The other significant controversy that attaches itself to the discussion of the formation of  customary international law is; “regional or particular custom” whereby customary law can emerge because it is particular to either two states or a regional block such as in the early stages of the law concerning space (Klabbers, 2013: 28). These nuances do not apply to the subject of the use of force, because every state in the world is concerned by this branch of law. 

The Relationship between Custom and Treaty Law: 

Thirlway, (2010: 114) does not see any reference to a hierarchy of sources between custom and treaty in the text of Article 38 of the International Court of Justice Statute. The only possibility he sees of a hierarchy is in this formulation: lex specialis derogat generali: the special rule overrides the general rule (Thirlway, 2010: 113). In that regard, treaty law can be a higher source as “it will normally be the case that a treaty is lex specialis, and as such prevails over any inconsistent rules of customary law, or at least as existed at the time of the conclusion of the treaty” (Thirlway, 2010: 114; Dixon, 2007: 38). An example would be the modifications made to any pre-existing customs that were contrary to Article 2 (4) when the UN Charter came into force (Ruys, 2011: 18). Conversely, should a customary rule accepted as jus cogens emerge, then “any existing treaty which is in conflict with that norm becomes void and terminates” (Thirlway, 2010: 114; Dixon, 2007: 39). What this tells us about the relationship between the two sources is that, in theory, they are capable of replacing or modifying each other. With this in mind we can now turn to the debate about whether pre-emptive self-defence as customary law pre-dates the UN Charter, and if so, has it remained unaltered? This debate as noted above is, in essence, rooted in the different interpretations of what the text of Article 51 of the UN Charter implies. 

Anticipatory or Pre-emptive Self-Defence in International Law: 

Having looked at how customary law is formed and what that implies for this paper, it is important to now clarify the distinction this paper has made between anticipatory and pre-emptive self-defence. Anticipatory self-defence and pre-emptive self-defence are different in this author’s eyes, even though the existing literature tends to use the terms interchangeably. 

Anticipatory self-defence, for this essay, is seen to be as was articulated by the United States Secretary of State Daniel Webster in his exchange of letters with his British counterpart – Lord Ashburton – over the Caroline incident (Franck, 2002: 97; Doyle, 2008: 12). In Webster’s formulation, justifiable anticipatory self-defence arises only when the defender can show the existence of “…necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation” (Brownlie, 2008: 98). This formula then means anticipatory self-defence is permissible when the conditions of necessity, imminency, and proportionality are met. The majority of states are not opposed to use of force that meets this criteria as can be the discerned from Bowen’s logic that “no state can be expected to await an initial attack which, in the present state of armaments, may well destroy the state’s capacity for further resistance and jeopardise its very existence” (Franck, 2002: 98). As was shown above in the section discussing how customary international law forms – despite insufficient practice – states’ opinio juris can be argued to support the existence of this custom. Evidence of such opinio juris can be found in the UN High-Level Panel on Threats Challenges and Change which says that "a threatened State… can take military action as long as the threat is imminent, no other means would deflect it and the action is proportionate" (UK Parliament, 2013). What, on the other hand, is indefensible as customary law; is the so-called Bush Doctrine. 

Pre-emptive self-defence, properly conceived, refers to the doctrine articulated post 9/11 by President George W. Bush in his 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS). The aspect that makes it necessary to distinguish this doctrine from the anticipatory self-defence as advanced by Webster in his Caroline incident communications with the British, is that the Bush Doctrine seeks to ignore all the criteria set by Webster and instead sets a new subjective standard. The 2002 NSS document pronounces that; 

The United States has long maintained the option of pre-emptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively (The White House, 2002: 15). 

This pronouncement, insofar as it seeks to relax the rigour of imminency and necessity, finds no support among even the United States’ closest allies and, again, as was shown above in the section dealing with how customary law forms; objection by a majority of states to a practice or statement of intent will stop a customary legal rule from crystallizing. 

To the above Bush Doctrine, the UK Parliament (2013) rejected it and said “it is difficult to find any legal justification for pre-emptive self-defence in international law.” Furthermore, international lawyers and scholars such as Brownlie (2010: 734; Sands, 2012: 352) also say that this doctrine lacks a legal basis. Brownlie (2010: 734) also, further notes that Operation Iraqi Freedom, which came in March 2003 after the doctrine had already been pronounced, was not justified on the basis of this doctrine but, instead on a “revived” Security Council Resolution (SCR) 678. This does not bode well for the existence of a customary rule if the chief proponents of it did not rely on it in a situation which arguably fitted their set criteria. 

So, anticipatory self-defence as described above finds a basis in law but the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption does not. With regards to the question whether pre-emption is permitted under customary law today, we still have to look at the arguments advanced by the scholars who defend that position. Their arguments revolve around the proposition that the current technological advances in weaponry and, an expansive interpretation of Article 51 supports the legality of pre-emptive self-defence. 

Article 51 and Pre-emptive Self-Defence: 

The claim and counter claims as to what Article 51 means is between “restrictionists” and “counter-restrictions.” A “restrictionist” reading of Article 51 would require states to only act in self-defence after an armed attack has commenced or is so imminent that it satisfies the conditions of imminency, necessity and proportionality as set out in the Caroline incident (Doyle, 2008:). “Counter-restrictionists,” on the other hand, argue that there has always existed a legal rule permitting anticipatory self-defence and that this was not modified by Article 51 as the text still refers to the “inherent” right to self-defence (Arend, 2003: 92). 

They further argue that the term “armed attack” was just one circumstance that invokes the right to self-defence among others, and to this end they cite Judge Stephen Schwebel’s dissenting opinion in the Nicaragua case that; “Article 51 does not say, if and only if an armed attack occurs” (Arend, 2003: 93). They then factor in technological advances in weapons delivery systems and increased destructiveness of modern weapons so as to allow the right of pre-emptive self-defence more or less as articulated in the Bush Doctrine (Doyle, 2008: 18; Arend, 2003: 97). 

The restrictionist view seems to be the one that is supported by international law as it currently stands. The condemnation by both United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council of the Israeli pre-emptive attack on the Iraqi Nuclear Reactor at Osirak in 1981 is evidence that the expansive interpretation does not find support in international opinio juris (Gray, 2010: 628). With regards the concern that the current weapons of mass destruction and the changed environment since 9/11 require a different approach than the restrictionist view permits, this concern was dismissed too. Gray (2010: 631) observes that; “a UN High-level Panel of Experts was set up to respond to the new challenges to the collective security system after 9/11; in its Report of December 2004 it accepted the controversial right of anticipatory self-defence, but firmly rejected the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence. It said that there is no right to self-defence if the attack is not imminent.” Thus, the counter-restrictionists’ arguments are not supported by existing law. 

Conclusion: 

This paper has attempted to answer the question whether a customary legal rule permitting pre-emptive self-defence has emerged as an exception to the prohibition to the use of force in international law. Proponents of the view that it has, claim that it has always existed as evinced by the Caroline case and, was not modified or replaced when the UN Charter came into force because Article 51 refers to the “inherent right” to self-defence. Further, they say it is urgent that this rule be recognized because the new threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction and the myriad threats from new actors demand that Article 51 be expansively interpreted. In this essay, such a position has been said to be disingenuous since the Caroline case which they cite actually set the strict criteria of imminency, necessity and proportionality. It also does not reflect customary law because there is neither widespread and consistent state practice nor opinio juris. Israel’s pre-emptive attack on Iraq in 1981 was rejected by the majority of states. The Bush Doctrine was also rejected by the UN and even the United States and its allies did not invoke this doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence when they invaded Iraq in 2003. Because customary law requires widespread state practice and acceptance, any multilateral forum that objects to this doctrine means it will not crystallize. This has been the case with pre-emptive self-defence. Those who are arguing that this rule exists are not arguing on the basis of law as it exists (lex lata) but perhaps with a view to either what the law ought to say (lex ferenda) or on the basis of military or political exigencies (opinio necessitatis).

This is not a good look: during an all nighter at the Durham University Library, this would be around 04:30 am



Bibliography: 


Arend, Anthony (2003), ‘International Law and Pre-emptive Use of Military Force.’ The Washington Quarterly, 26: 89 – 103. 


Brownlie, Ian (2008), Principles of Public International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Cassese, Antonio (2005), International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Dixon, Martin (2007), Textbook on International Law. Oxford; Oxford University Press. 


Doyle, Michael (2008), Striking First: Pre-emption and Prevention in International Question. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Franck, Thomas (2002), Recourse to Force: State Action Against Threats and Armed Attacks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 


Gray, Christine (2010), ‘The Use of Force and the International Legal Order,’ in Malcolm Evans (ed.), International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 615 – 647.  


International Court of Justice, Statute of the Court, http://www.icjcij.org/documents/index.php?p1=4&p2=2&p3=0&#CHAPTER_II  Accessed 20 March 2014. 

Klabbers, Jan (2013), International Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Malanczuk, Peter (1997), Akehurst’s Modern Introduction to International Law. London: Routledge.

Ruys, Tom (2011), 'Armed Attack' and Article 51 of the UN Charter: Evolutions in Customary Law and Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 


Sands, Phillippe (2012), Operationalizing The UN Charter Rules on the Use of Force,’ in Antonio Cassese (ed.), Realizing Utopia: The Future of International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 343 – 348. 


The White House, (September 2002) The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/63562.pdf Accessed 20 March 2014. 


Thirlway, Hugh (2010), ‘The Sources of International Law,’ in Malcolm Evans (ed.), International Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 95 – 121. 

UK Parliament, (November 2013), Intervention: When, How and Why? http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmdfence/writev/intervention/ int10.htm Accessed 20 March 2014. 


Van Den Hole, Leo (2003), ‘Anticipatory Self-Defence Under International Law.’ American University International Law Review, 19: 69 – 106.   

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

My 2012 Madrid Visit

"Always leave something to wish for; otherwise you will be miserable from your very happiness" - Baltasar Gracián y Morales, Spanish Philosopher.

Nick of time at Madrid Barajas Airport on arrival. Time to departure again: 8 hours flat!

by Kudakwashe Kanhutu 

I made a mistake when I went to Madrid. I must have already told you about it when I wrote about my trip to Milan last year. No? I will tell you again, just in case: I did not properly record what I saw and did there because I (fallaciously) thought I would be returning to Madrid very soon. It's been two years since my last visit and the truth has just sunk in: I may never see Madrid again. Money, time, other competing destinations, you name it... My trip there was very short - too short - because that very same week I had also been invited by the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to his Command in Mons, Belgium. So the Madrid trip was just a quick break from my preparation for the NATO HQ visit. On 17th January I was in Madrid and on 19th Janury I was in Amsterdam en route to my meetings at NATO HQ, Mons.


Flying over Bordeaux, France en route to Madrid
I travel to countries so that I can immerse myself in their cultures, hear their stories and learn their peculiar ways of doing things. This goal is usually difficult to achieve even given a lifetime, to then attempt this during a day trip is futile. My mistake then manifests itself in this manner: firstly, I can't tell you anything useful about what I saw in Madrid because I thought I would do that after a proper visit. Secondly, I can't claim to have immersed myself in their culture or learnt how they do things there because I didn't. There is salvation yet because, next year I will be travelling to Barcelona for slightly longer, so will be able to tell you how they do things in that part of Spain. Meanwhile, I can only introduce you to the book I am reading in preparation for my visit. It is reputed to be the best literature book of all time to come out of Spain. A nation's literature goes to some length in capturing its population's pecularities either by describing them or by setting the gold standard that everyone then aims at. Below are the opening lines from Don Quixote followed by my photo essay of the few things I did in Spain.


The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha

CHAPTER I 

Which treats of the character and pursuits of the famous gentleman Don Quixote of la Mancha:

In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing. An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of his income. The rest of it went in a doublet of fine cloth and velvet breeches and shoes to match for holidays, while on week-days he made a brave figure in his best homespun. He had in his house a housekeeper past forty, a niece under twenty, and a lad for the field and market-place, who used to saddle the hack as well as handle the bill-hook. The age of this gentleman of ours was bordering on fifty; he was of a hardy habit, spare, gaunt-featured, a very early riser and a great sportsman. They will have it his surname was Quixada or Quesada (for here there is some difference of opinion among the authors who write on the subject), although from reasonable conjectures it seems plain that he was called Quexana. This, however, is of but little importance to our tale; it will be enough not to stray a hair’s breadth from the truth in the telling of it.

You must know, then, that the above-named gentleman whenever he was at leisure (which was mostly all the year round) gave himself up to reading books of chivalry with such ardour and avidity that he almost entirely neglected the pursuit of his field-sports, and even the management of his property; and to such a pitch did his eagerness and infatuation go that he sold many an acre of tillageland to buy books of chivalry to read, and brought home as many of them as he could get. But of all there were none he liked so well as those of the famous Feliciano de Silva’s composition, for their lucidity of style and complicated conceits were as pearls in his sight, particularly when in his reading he came upon courtships and cartels, where he often found passages like “the reason of the unreason with which my reason is afflicted so weakens my reason that with reason I murmur at your beauty;” or again, “the high heavens, that of your divinity divinely fortify you with the stars, render you deserving of the desert your greatness deserves.” Over conceits of this sort the poor gentleman lost his wits, and used to lie awake striving to understand them and worm the meaning out of them; what Aristotle himself could not have made out or extracted had he come to life again for that special purpose. He was not at all easy about the wounds which Don Belianis gave and took, because it seemed to him that, great as were the surgeons who had cured him, he must have had his face and body covered all over with seams and scars. He commended, however, the author’s way of ending his book with the promise of that interminable adventure, and many a time was he tempted to take up his pen and finish it properly as is there proposed, which no doubt he would have done, and made a successful piece of work of it too, had not greater and more absorbing thoughts prevented him.

Many an argument did he have with the curate of his village (a learned man, and a graduate of Siguenza) as to which had been the better knight, Palmerin of England or Amadis of Gaul. Master Nicholas, the village barber, however, used to say that neither of them came up to the Knight of Phoebus, and that if there was any that could compare with him it was Don Galaor, the brother of Amadis of Gaul, because he had a spirit that was equal to every occasion, and was no finikin knight, nor lachrymose like his brother, while in the matter of valour he was not a whit behind him. In short, he became so absorbed in his books that he spent his nights from sunset to sunrise, and his days from dawn to dark, poring over them; and what with little sleep and much reading his brains got so dry that he lost his wits. His fancy grew full of what he used to read about in his books, enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, wooings, loves, agonies, and all sorts of impossible nonsense; and it so possessed his mind that the whole fabric of invention and fancy he read of was true, that to him no history in the world had more reality in it. He used to say the Cid Ruy Diaz was a very good knight, but that he was not to be compared with the Knight of the Burning Sword who with one back-stroke cut in half two fierce and monstrous giants. He thought more of Bernardo del Carpio because at Roncesvalles he slew Roland in spite of enchantments, availing himself of the artifice of Hercules when he strangled Antaeus the son of Terra in his arms. He approved highly of the giant Morgante, because, although of the giant breed which is always arrogant and ill-conditioned, he alone was affable and well-bred. But above all he admired Reinaldos of Montalban, especially when he saw him sallying forth from his castle and robbing everyone he met, and when beyond the seas he stole that image of Mahomet which, as his history says, was entirely of gold. To have a bout of kicking at that traitor of a Ganelon he would have given his housekeeper, and his niece into the bargain.

In short, his wits being quite gone, he hit upon the strangest notion that ever madman in this world hit upon, and that was that he fancied it was right and requisite, as well for the support of his own honour as for the service of his country, that he should make a knight-errant of himself, roaming the world over in full armour and on horseback in quest of adventures, and putting in practice himself all that he had read of as being the usual practices of knights-errant; righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger from which, in the issue, he was to reap eternal renown and fame. Already the poor man saw himself crowned by the might of his arm Emperor of Trebizond at least; and so, led away by the intense enjoyment he found in these pleasant fancies, he set himself forthwith to put his scheme into execution. 

The first thing he did was to clean up some armour that had belonged to his great-grandfather, and had been for ages lying forgotten in a corner eaten with rust and covered with mildew. He scoured and polished it as best he could, but he perceived one great defect in it, that it had no closed helmet, nothing but a simple morion. This deficiency, however, his ingenuity supplied, for he contrived a kind of half-helmet of pasteboard which, fitted on to the morion, looked like a whole one. It is true that, in order to see if it was strong and fit to stand a cut, he drew his sword and gave it a couple of slashes, the first of which undid in an instant what had taken him a week to do. The ease with which he had knocked it to pieces disconcerted him somewhat, and to guard against that danger he set to work again, fixing bars of iron on the inside until he was satisfied with its strength; and then, not caring to try any more experiments with it, he passed it and adopted it as a helmet of the most perfect construction.

He next proceeded to inspect his hack, which, with more quartos than a real and more blemishes than the steed of Gonela, that “tantum pellis et ossa fuit,” surpassed in his eyes the Bucephalus of Alexander or the Babieca of the Cid. Four days were spent in thinking what name to give him, because (as he said to himself) it was not right that a horse belonging to a knight so famous, and one with such merits of his own,  should be without some distinctive name, and he strove to adapt it so as to indicate what he had been before belonging to a knight-errant, and what he then was; for it was only reasonable that, his master taking a new character, he should take a new name, and that it should be a distinguished and full-sounding one, befitting the new order and calling he was about to follow. And so, after having composed, struck out, rejected, added to, unmade, and remade a multitude of names out of his memory and fancy, he decided upon calling him Rocinante, a name, to his thinking, lofty, sonorous, and significant of his condition as a hack before he became what he now was, the first and foremost of all the hacks in the world.

Having got a name for his horse so much to his taste, he was anxious to get one for himself, and he was eight days more pondering over this point, till at last he made up his mind to call himself “Don Quixote,” whence, as has been already said, the authors of this veracious history have inferred that his name must have been beyond a doubt Quixada, and not Quesada as others would have it. Recollecting, however, that the valiant Amadis was not content to call himself curtly Amadis and nothing more, but added the name of his kingdom and country to make it famous, and called himself Amadis of Gaul, he, like a good knight, resolved to add on the name of his, and to style himself Don Quixote of La Mancha, whereby, he considered, he described accurately his origin and country, and did honour to it in taking his surname from it.  

So then, his armour being furbished, his morion turned into a helmet, his hack christened, and he himself confirmed, he came to the conclusion that nothing more was needed now but to look out for a lady to be in love with; for a knight-errant without love was like a tree without leaves or fruit, or a body without a soul. As he said to himself, “If, for my sins, or by my good fortune, I come across some giant hereabouts, a common occurrence with knights-errant, and overthrow him in one onslaught, or cleave him asunder to the waist, or, in short, vanquish and subdue him, will it not be well to have some one I may send him to as a present, that he may come in and fall on his knees before my sweet lady, and in a humble, submissive voice say, ‘I am the giant Caraculiambro, lord of the island of Malindrania, vanquished in single combat by the never sufficiently extolled knight Don Quixote of La Mancha, who has commanded me to present myself before your Grace, that your Highness dispose of me at your pleasure’?” Oh, how our good gentleman enjoyed the delivery of this speech, especially when he had thought of some one to call his Lady! There was, so the story goes, in a village near his own a very good-looking farm-girl with whom he had been at one time in love, though, so far as is known, she never knew it nor gave a thought to the matter. Her name was Aldonza Lorenzo, and upon her he thought fit to confer the title of Lady of his Thoughts; and after some search for a name which should not be out of harmony with her own, and should suggest and indicate that of a princess and great lady, he decided upon calling her Dulcinea del Toboso - she being of El Toboso - a name, to his mind, musical, uncommon, and significant, like all those he had already bestowed upon himself and the things belonging to him.**

Photo Essay:


At London Luton Airport for a very early morning departure

Boarding my Airbus A320 or A321 for the 2 and 1/2 hour flight to Madrid

Golf - Echo Zulu Echo Zulu

Sunrise over Bordeaux, France

Now flying over the Bay of Biscay

Flying over the snow covered peaks in North-West Spain

The strangest sight I have seen in years. Looked like clouds or foam filling that great big gully below, or something...

Finals onto Madrid Barajas Airport

Thrust reversers engaged, we have arrived!

Entry into Madrid

Entering the Metro at Barajas Airport for a quick 8 hour tour of the city before leaving Spain on the same day.

Getting my bearings right, well, sort of...

My first ride here, it is ever so different from the London Underground I will tell you that for sure.

Arrival at my first stop - one of the holiest places in the footballing world.

A Place of Worship

Quietly impressive


The author at the Santiago Bernabeu


Tithe paid

Tithe receipt

One of the biggest derbies on planet earth

A full view of the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

Madrid to the world!

The World Greatest Footballer ever - bar none.


I am from over there  - Zimbabwe!

The best Real Madrid team ever by a country mile

The best player never to play for Real Madrid

Midfield Maestro

Real Madrid Club de Futbol


Calm all the time


Cometh the hour, cometh the super sub!



"For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these 'It might have been'" - John Greenleaf Whittier

Next stop?

The Europa Towers

Puerta de Alcala or Alcala de Puerta. One of the two anyway.

I think this is the Parliament Building but I won't swear to it


Puerta de Europa Towers. Plaza de Castilla. Madrid.


Puerta de Europa Towers. Plaza de Castilla. Madrid. 


Policia!



Real Jardin Botanico - The Royal Botanic Garden Madrid


Just outside the Botanic Garden

The Central Park in  Madrid



Walking in the Central Park whose real name I have since forgotten

Puerta de Alcala or Alcala de Puerta. One of the two anyway.


Real Jardin Botanico de Madrid



Entrance to the Royal Botanic Garden, Madrid



The Main Prize in Madrid  - Museo Nacional del Prado



Prado Museum, Old Entrance.

Old Entrance


"Roman Charity." Perhaps the most beautiful story ever put on canvas. A story of filial devotion: the daughter who would not let the father, imprisoned by a certified tyrant, starve to death. 

Atalanta and Hippomenes: "When men who were struck by Atalanta's beauty watched her run through the forest, she became angry and told them "I will race anyone who wants to marry me! Whoever is so swift that he can outrun me will receive the prize of my hand in marriage! But whomever I beat - will die." Atalanta raced all her suitors and outran all but Hippomenes, who defeated her by cunning, not speed. Strategy before strategy was a field of study!

There is a Ministry of Social Equality?

NOTES:

**De Cervantes, Miguel (1922), The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. Translated by John Ormsby. Pennyslvania: Pennyslvania State University, Available online:  http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/cervante/quixote.pdf