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Toward a radical middle

a time for fear
Wednesday, June 18, 2003  
On a calm summers day in 2100, Venice will be at least two feet more under water than it was in 1900.

Venice, the greatest medieval city state, and the world's most beautiful monument to the ability and venality of man, is sinking. Actually, it's not as bad as I thought, my mother goes on about this all the time and she makes it sound apocalyptic, as if the city itself is actually sliding back into the mudflats on which it was built. The main problem, though, is the global rise in sea level (about 9 inches since 1900), which means that the city is being slowly eroded from its very foundations. Some think this is undignified, but that's not it, in fact the city crumbling has a certain romantic/decadent appeal - J.K.Huysmans would love Venice now, the dying, fetid carcass of a once glittering world power, haunted by its own past, shadows of beauty and corruption etc. But he would have hated the one thing that keeps the city alive (in a loose sense): tourism. The really tragic thing about Venice in decline is the theme park aspect which is a disaster for a city that is all about secrecy, hidden pacts and deals, liasons, dreams, prayers, betrayal, that breathes its own enigmatic, delicate mystery, works a fine occult spell...completely ruined by a group of fools falling out of a gondola. In one sense Venice is made for tourism - it has all the reducible elements - but on the other it was never meant for this, and remains in some ways admirably resistent to the hordes (they get lost, don't like the smells, the oily canals, swarms of cats...). But Venice doesn't work as a city now: families move out, industry and finance is negligible, nightlife is virtually nonexistent, so that leaves only...a playground, a package holiday destination, a corny romantic weekend break away...meanwhile Venice, this sickly, dark, dying demon, feasts on its flickering shadows, gazes at its own fading image, and slowly expires. And I don't really know how you reverse that, or what the point would be, but anyway...

A good cause to leave money to when you die.

10:28 AM

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