On Monday April 15, a seemingly average day for most of us, one particular disaster took the world by storm. The Notre-Dame Cathedral located in France caught fire and was ablaze for hours. This forced the world into awe and shock as parts of one of our finest pieces of architecture fell to ash and rubble.
Or at least, that's the narrative we've been fed. The Gothic Cathedral, constructed in 1345, took almost 200 years to build and has been standing as a resilient pinnacle of French history and culture ever since, lasting through the French Revolution and even predating the world's most revered time stamps: the birth of The United States of America; and the most abhorred -the Trans-Atlantic enslavement of the Africans, by centuries.
However, despite the influx of news headlines detailing the nine hour-long horror show and the trending hashtags pouring words of sadness and devastation, the Notre-Dame Cathedral has, and always will be, just fine. Aside from some property damage and the fall of the Spire, the cathedral is, relatively, in good condition. It will be refurbished and built back like brand new similarly to the many times it has been done in the past.
This is especially thanks to over one billion US dollars in fundraising that has since been given to the reconstruction and refurbishing of the monument in less than two days. According to CNN in a day after the fire, “France's three wealthiest families are coming to the rescue…spearheading a fundraising drive to rebuild Notre Dame that has topped $700 million.”
We're looking at the billionaires that own LVMH Group (think Louis Vuitton), Kering (think Gucci) and L'Oreal that have pledged a combined total of €500 million. It is truly incredible to see how, as a people, we jump rather quickly to save that which we care about with the utmost fervency and ardent passion. But then, this quick action to salvage a mummy of a building helps to a larger extent to contextualize exactly what it is that we, as a people, care so much about. It quickly brings into question our priorities and values, especially those of the ruling class, and demarks quite vividly the privileged from the disenfranchised.
Puerto Rico, an entire country, went almost ten months with no power. The Flint, Michigan water crisis that began in 2014 rendered piped water completely unsafe to drink and even to this day, residents and officials still express their doubt about the cleanliness of the water. To bring the point home, according the UNDP, in 2016, 406,000 of Jamaica's citizens live either near or in extreme poverty (that is, below US $1.90 per day). Realizing all of these events co-exist in the same globalized society, it becomes glaringly apparent that the human race seems intent on disproving its own humanity.
It rings similarly to the GoFundMe campaign made to build Trump's wall that raised US $20 million in 25 days. Though in this example money was deliberately pushed toward the endangering of people, it should still be considered that whether we directly oppose or ignore, we are still not helping. Thus, we perpetuate the problem.
Spend your money how you want, of course but when we exist in a world where there are millions surviving without food, shelter or clothing, and what you choose to do is throw millions at a scathed pile of bricks, you ask for judgement. It says a lot about you and your your values, or perhaps it says even more about all of us, since we fold our hands and accept it. Every day, we deem material things to be more valuable than another human being's life and we refuse to help the unfortunate, silently thanking a higher being that we're not them.