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Is it really right that £800 million has been pledged to save a cultural building?


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On 15th April 2019 smoke filled the air of Paris as the Notre Dame – a cathedral that took centuries to build – was engulfed in flames.

The fire was later contained, but the cathedral's roof and one of its spires collapsed. Much of its artwork was destroyed. 

It is undeniable that this event was a tragedy.The cathedral was one of Paris’s landmarks, with over 14 million visiting it per year. Many Parisians and people around the world were left devastated by its assumed loss.

However, the events after the fire have also shown us some pretty tragic truths about the state of the world we live in.Two days after Notre Dame had first started burning, £870 million had already been raised for its restoration.

Eight-hundred-and-seventy-million pounds – pledged by some of France's wealthiest invididuals, as well as other millionaires and organisations around the world.

So, is it really right that this money has been pledged to save a cultural building when there are arguably much more significant issues at hand in the world right now?

Image Credit: Digital341 // Pixabay

The cathedral - just like other landmarks that have been destroyed through wars or fires in the past - should be rebuilt. That is out of the question. But the speed at which this amount of money was given towards what is essentially a building is shocking.

The cathedral desperately needed repairs before the fire, and the French Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for its regular maintenance, repairs and renovation, had already for quite some time been reaching out for financial aid after the French State decided not to support the cathedral financially any longer

Why is it that a cathedral, which nobody wanted to donate this sort of money to previously, is now receiving millions and millions of pounds when there are other tragedies in the world?

Notre Dame is not the only landmark that was ever in need of donations. There have been others, such as the fire of the Brazil National Museum – a fire which destroyed the building and its ancient artefacts entirely. Yet, the latter has not even received a fraction of what has been donated to the cathedral so far.

It is essential to consider is that during the Notre Dame fire, despite its impact on people's lives, nobody was injured or killed. When Grenfell Tower burned down in June 2017, 72 people died. According to an official government report, money raised in the nearly two years since the tragedy is a mere 3% of what was raised for Notre Dame in two days.

The Disasters Emergency Committee, has since October 2018, been appealing for donations for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia. As a result of these natural disasters 2,100 people were killed, 1,300 are still missing, 4,400 were seriously injured and 200,000 survivors are still in need of humanitarian assistance. Again, only approximately 3% of what was donated to Notre Dame in two days was given to these people in six months.

This list could go on and on. We live in a time where species are going extinct, and every year nearly 100,000 people across the globe will die of something as simple as an infected wound or the flu because they do not have access to medical care. Shockingly, 26 people own the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. 3.4 billion of these people subsist on less than £5 a day.

Closer to home, France is experiencing upheaval and riots by the ‘gilets-jaunes’ movement – a working-class movement against wealth inequality in France. Protestors have been fighting against tax increases from the poor, but now have to face the harsh truth that they live in a society where the elite can afford to donate these vast amounts of finances towards a building.

So while the act of donating to a destroyed landmark - an arguably important landmark - should still be seen as an act of kindness, the readiness to give such large sums in such a short time should be questioned. In a world where there is more at stake, in a country where there's upheaval over income inequality, this act of generosity should maybe not have gone to a cathedral.

Lead Image Credit : Digital341 // Pixabay

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