Michelis deemed the signatures garnered by outside supporters online worthless. He claimed, they were garnered only as a result of a centuries old irrational “death of Venice syndrome”. Michelis even threw the “Veniceland” expression back in the face of protestors, accusing them of trying to maintain Venice as a “Disneyland of the arts” removed from the economic life of the contemporary world. In short, according to Michelis, the only voices to whom the government should listen on the matter of the Canale Contorta Sant'Angelo are those with the most commercial interest in the project because they are the only people seeking to maintain the commercial relevance of the port of Venice in the contemporary world.
Michelis' conclusions do confuse me a bit... I was under the impression that commercial ships entering and exiting Venice use and will continue to use the Canale dei Petroli whereas the only commercial purpose of the Canale Contota Sant'Angelo is to provide an alternate path to the cruise terminal for large ships full of people who wish to visit the “Disneyland of the Arts”. (If I'm wrong, please correct me.) I am also under the impression that an alternative proposal, the construction of docks just outside of the lagoon, might enable the port authority to continue bringing passengers from large ships into Venice with less economic and environmental impact than the dredging of the new canal. It is not at all confusing that Michelis concluded that only wealthy snobs and idiots could object to the Canale Contorta Sant'Angelo.
These Old Sticks & Stones
There could be new accusations of snobbery and economic protectionism as the Tour Guide Association of Venice protests the enactment of Italian and European Union rules that will allow unlicensed European tour operators to offer historical tours in Venice. Venetians have pointed out that licensed tour guides have extensively tested local historical knowledge, an understanding of the city's unique geography and that they work in cooperation with sight managers to ensure the regulation of flows of people throughout the city's fragile monuments. (I would add that their experience also gives them the unique ability to plan and deliver tours of appropriate depth and length, something that is both difficult and important when escorting tired sightseers through a labyrinth.) But, one response will most likely be that Venetians wish to prevent competition in the local tour industry and to isolate their economy from the free movement of labor throughout the European Union. Ultimately, I suspect that a larger number of tour groups than usual will get lost in Venice, many facts about Venice itself will get lost in translation, and that working with a licensed Venetian guide will become much more of an exclusive luxury than it already is.
Outnumbered 3 to 1: Venice' Elusive Exclusive Society
Venetians live every day outnumbered 3-1 by transients in their town. That situation alone could very well make them look like, and be, a very insular or “exclusive” society. What continuity of life can be achieved in three day intervals constantly in the company of strangers? How challenging is it to plot out space for everyday activities in an environment where the laundry on your clothes line is considered part of the entertainment? There are some good reasons that all levels of Venetian society are, or appear to be exclusive, some ways. They couldn't exist otherwise.
This is not to say that there is no snobbishness in Venice, because snobbishness there certainly is. And, I can't pretend not to personally consider snobbishness a character flaw and a vice of cowards. But, all kinds of people live in living cities. So, as long as Venice is alive there will be some snobs there. In my own experience, virtually every Venetian I've ever met has given me a chance, even if that chance does sometimes involve the obligation to describe my ancestral lineage in three minutes or less. In fact, the biggest snobs I've ever met in Venice have invariably been fellow frequent visitors and expats who seem to adopt snobbish attitudes in an attempt to fit in. A few months ago, I attended a dinner party where someone actually told that wretched joke, “Venice would be perfect if it weren't for the Venetians”. She and I were the only non-Venetians in the room.