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    Finale Grande.

    Everybody knows that Venice is spectacular and stunning, so is the Taj Mahal, so are the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, but do we filter away gruesome realities in order to enjoy them?

    All the great monuments of the world, the so-called wonders, the man-made ones, have been erected by the bones of slaves cemented in their own blood.

    The Doge Palace may be an architectural masterpiece, but who were the Doges? Look at their eyes, their hands; do they show charity or love? Justice? Not according to Bellini, Tiziano or their fellow artists. Rather they show cruelty, avarice and jealousy.

    The dark Dungeons of the Palace show a complete disregard for their fellow men who they committed there for the most part on false testimony which they could not have failed to identify as such. But their power rested on the perception that the severest punishment is at hand at their say-so.

    This pattern is repeated all over the world, in all epochs. Whilst we express sighs of admiration for the bas-reliefs, the mosaics and the marble carvings of the Taj Mahal, we forget that the Shah Jehan wasted a year's budget on fulfilling his dream, caused mass starvation in building a monument for his dead wife. When we know how many concubines he had, are we not entitled to moot the point that his Mumtaz Begum was just a cynical pretext? Worse, did he have to cause the superlative artists who toiled day and night for him to be blinded afterwards so that they would not offer their craftsmanship to other potentates? Different times, different mores? Or the most spectacular flowers grow from the worst-smeling manures?

    How many Russian artisans fell to their deaths or spent the rest of their lives wheezing after having inhaled the copper and gold powders used in building those fabulous shining domes?

    We might be excused for taking the view that, paraphrasing Donald Rumsfeld, stuff happened, but in what way was all that different to what Elsa Koch did. The Beast of Buchenwald only made lampshades from the tattooed skin of people she and her husband sent to the gas chambers. By all accounts they were amazingly beautiful to look at, but would you handle them?

    A gloomy analysis perhaps; I've postponed publishing this for months, but its time has come.
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