Notre Dame raises question about values

ARE buildings more important than people? Does it depend on which building, and which people? How does that work? Who decides? Obviously, old buildings matter. Old is important. Heritage, history, cultural identity embedded in every stone, every beam. But still. Does anyone else feeling vaguely nauseated at the speed with which billionaires and multinationals have been hurling their millions at Notre Dame?

Does anyone else slightly despair at how the financial elite are falling over themselves, undoubtedly with a view to having their names engraved on future plaques nailed to future walls, as the real world — the natural world — continues to go up in smoke? Can’t the luxury goods billionaires, the fossil fuel billionaires, the tech billionaires, see even the tiniest irony in their stampede to fund the rebuilding of a famous monument when their money is so desperately needed elsewhere? Elsewhere everywhere? All over?

And seriously, can the burning of an old building – even an old building which has housed a mountain of history from Napolean to that fictional hunchback — really be described as a tragedy? The dictionary says a tragedy is an event which involves death or suffering; stone and glass and wood don’t suffer. People suffer, animals suffer. It’s regrettable that stained glass and priceless paintings and an internationally famous bell tower were destroyed, but it’s hardly a tragedy, is it? Unless actual people were burned alongside the building material — which they were not.

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