There’s no doubt that the Notre Dame catching fire and its spire collapsing on itself is a tragedy. The beautiful building is over 800 years old and is a symbol of both beauty and rich history. Despite this, its burning has forced into light the proof that the top 1% are capable of so much and yet squander it on what are — objectively — less important things.
In fewer than 24 hours, over $700 million was raised in donations for the historic cathedral. Now, it’s over a billion. Outpourings of support came from around the world, including offers of donations from Disney, Apple and even the White House. While at first glance this might seem like a magical moment — a coming-together of love and support worthy of Hollywood — it ends up leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth. Because if so many people, so many corporations and governments, are willing to fork over millions to repair a building that’s older than any of them, what does that say for all the people suffering around the world?
Flint, Michigan has been without clean water for 1,642 days. It would take $55 million to provide them with the clean water they need — a small portion of what’s been donated to the Notre Dame. This is just one example of people whose suffering could be ended with just a bit more compassion from those who are capable of donating such massive amounts to needed causes. People living on the streets, people suffering from illnesses that they have to set up GoFundMe pages to get treatment for, people living in Burkina Faso who have to walk 5 to 10 miles a day to get water when it costs just $10,000 to build a well — all these people could be helped so easily.
While it’s heartening to know that people from all over the world are willing to come together like this, it also emphasizes the sheer hypocrisy of it all. Some might say that there are so many donations because people want to preserve the culture, but if that’s the case, then there should be more of an outcry toward the indigenous lands in the U.S. that have been taken and ruined without a thought. This isn’t something of the past, either. Right now, President Trump’s wall is threatening to trample and divide the territory of the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Others might argue that the reason there has been so much support is because the Notre Dame isn’t just a symbol of history and culture, but one of religion as well. But the Notre Dame isn’t the only holy place to catch fire. On the same day as the Notre Dame’s burning, a blaze broke out at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque. Granted, the Mosque didn’t sustain as much damage as the Notre Dame, but it still stands to reason that if religion were the driving factor for all the donations, then other places of worship would received similar amounts of attention and funding. Another example of this is the burning of the Notre Dame de Lourdes in 1982, a fire which ultimately thrust the cathedral into debt and had the building abandoned for good just last year.
None of this is to say that these people and companies shouldn’t be donating to the Notre Dame. However, it’s difficult to deny the perspective this event provides. The wealthy could easily solve a substantial amount of the world’s biggest problems, and yet, they haven’t. It’s time that actual, living people be given the same amount of attention and support that this old building has received.
Jillian Carey is a freshman media arts and design major. Contact Jillian at email@example.com.