Is it ethical to save Venice?

Our ethical columnist on why the Italian city should be left to sink beneath the waves.

Ethan Greenhart

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Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

I have been invited to attend a discussion about the future of Venice and I was wondering what you thought about it. I know that humans interfere with Nature too much, but it would surely be a tragedy to lose this unique and fascinating city, wouldn’t it?

Claire Waters
North London

Dear Claire,

We shouldn’t shed any tears for Venice (particularly not in Piazza San Marco where there is quite enough water as it is). After all, was the salty lagoon not unique and fascinating enough before humans came along? What of the creatures who made their home in the marshes before men (it’s always men) decided to slaughter trees and drive the wooden carcasses into the sand to provide the foundations for their city?

What we have here is a classic example of Eurocentrism. While the Maldives and many other small islands – simple, undeveloped spots – drown because of the filth that cars, factories and power stations belch into the sky, intellectuals wring their hands over the fate of some crumbling Italian port. (And no doubt wring their socks out during the acqua alta, too.)

Why all the fuss? It seems it is all to do with the art and the architecture. Apparently, there are fantastic paintings and frescos, marvellous statues, classic buildings and bridges – and, of course, the canals. And what do these works represent? The arrogance of man, pure and simple. Take the Basilica di San Marco: a hugely impressive creation, so we’re told, and all for the glory of ‘God’. But we all know that religion is just a form of mass schizophrenia in which the ‘voice of God’ is really just putrid human desire echoed in the minds of men.

And really, did ‘God’ tell them to do it? It’s just showing off, frankly. Showing off how much the doges (practically an anagram of ‘gods’) could plunder raw materials from Nature around the world and fashion them into a great, gawdy monstrosity for their own amusement. The great bell tower is like a huge finger stuck up to Gaia that screams ‘FUCK YOU!’. Well, ever-patient Poseidon will soon swallow-up their creation forever.

Remember what Venice was: the first great modern trading city, where merchants delivered silks and spices from the East. Still, perhaps they were just as bad in China, if Coleridge is to be believed:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Frankly, if merchants from the West like Marco Polo (and the fighting men they had in tow) later screwed over the East for centuries, it’s a just comeuppance for anyone who thinks they can just decree a pleasure-dome whenever they feel like it. But while the Chinese were the architects of their own downfall, Nature never had a say, did she?

This is the start of globalisation. It’s a straight line from a few deliveries of nutmeg and silk on a ship from the East Indies to Ronald McDonald’s gurning face enslaving humanity to a diet of rotting flesh. When you’re sickened by living under the tyranny of interactive, push-button, multi-channel, budget airline, multipack, shrink-wrapped, fucked-up global culture, just remember it was Venice that started it all. In truth, we shouldn’t wait for the city to drown, we should be burning it down (but let’s not – think of the emissions).

Talking of emissions, there are the droppings of the ‘flying rats’ in Piazza San Marco to contend with. Not, I should add, the poor pigeons trying to eke a living where once there was a wilderness. No, the ‘flying rats’ are those moronic, greedy, convenience food junkies who traipse up and down the city, following tour guides like they’re being dragged along by a ring through their fat noses. ‘People’ long since stopped living in Venice. It’s only tourists these days, generating emissions of carbon, burgers, fizzy drinks and tourist tat by the tonne.

Not only should we condemn Venice for the art, the trade and the tourists. It was the Republic of Venice that bankrolled the career of someone who enabled many other crimes against Nature: Galileo, also known as the ‘father of science’. And what an in-bred bastard his child (science) turned out to be, providing the knowledge to carve up Mother Earth in the name of ‘progress’. If Galileo had never been kept in food and shelter by his Venetian paymasters, he might never have had the time to develop his ideas on ‘observation’ and ‘experimentation’. We might still be in the Happy Era of Natural Wonder (also known to some historical idiots as ‘the Dark Ages’) were it not for the Venetians and their support of the bearded weirdo Galileo and his telescope.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is at least one feature of Venice that I do approve of: there are no cars. Instead, people are transported from one place to another using only the power of the gondolier. It’s slow, physically demanding, ludicrously expensive and has a very short range. This is surely the model of transport for the whole of society.

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”Ethan.Greenhart@spiked-online.com” title=”Ethan.Greenhart@spiked-online.com”}. Read his earlier columns here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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Topics Politics

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