europe: the immigrants are coming


One evening, as I was taking the vaporetto no. 2 from Ponte dell’Academia to the San Marco stop on the Riva delgi schiavoni, I noticed that entire sections on this part of the Grand Canal were without light. Huge palaces were steeped in darkness, as if nobody lived there. These are the summer residences of the rich. But among them are also palaces that belong to the city and that the city is selling off, explained a friend of mine who lives here. Because change comes in many ways, not just with the poor wretches who make it in one piece to Lampedusa or some other patch of Italian soil; not just through food, fashion, custom and music, but also via banks, investments, money-laundering, corruption of the local administration. And while Europeans ponder future changes and whether to put up a wall around Europe (if only they knew what its boundaries were), while they contemplate measures that will contain immigrants at that same imaginary border and Europe’s culture and the values that need to be preserved (although globalization, in other words Americanization, has already utterly changed them), the Chinese are freely investing, buying palaces in Venice in order to turn them into hotels, thus making even more money out of Europe’s cultural treasures. From the Venetian viewpoint, in comparison with the investments of the Chinese – nota bene, some people here call it money-laundering – fear of Muslim immigrants in France and Germany and further north looks almost pathetic. My neighbour says that Venice is increasingly turning not into a museum, as I romantically thought, but a Disneylandish amusement park owned by the Chinese, who alone profit from it.

more from Slavenka Drakulic at Eurozine here.