The Authentic Lie of Notre-Dame’s Fire

Aoife Smith
Apr 17 · 5 min read

The problem with the reactions and donations following the fire of the iconic building.

Image of the Notre-Dame fire from Sky News

The news of the Notre-Dame fire has not only consumed newspapers and publications front pages and headlines, but also our Social media. The tragic fire that engulfed the roof, the iconic spire, and the beautiful stain glass windows have been unavoidable, with videos of the disaster at the touch of a button.

Yesterday, pictures of trips to Paris from five years ago, copy and paste google images and unrelated content filled news feeds to commemorate the monumental church.

You might be forgiven, for assuming these out poor’s of anguish and acknowledgment are acts of true grief. However, on closer inspection, it could be just another example of societies manipulating power to gain attention and display alleged compassion through something tragic.

‘Live, Laugh, Love’-esk captions sprinkled through, claims of new C’est Le Vie lifestyles with no wasted opportunities, no lost moments and more appreciation for the simple things.

But none of these factors, these merely modern and humane reactions to breaking news, are parallel to the sickening donations that have poured out to help France rebuild Notre-Dame.

I find it painfully ironic in times like these, times of tragedy and shock that simple onlookers truly believe their outlook on life has changed, and they won’t go back to filtering pictures of their food on Instagram, ignoring beggars on the street and mindless metro journeys in silence, pretending they are sitting in solitude while surrounded by others doing the exact same.

Image of one of the gargoyles of Notre-Dame from The Daily Beast

On top of this growing egotistical outlook that is becoming a reoccurring theme of our generation, was that this unison of grief was generated over the fire of a, albeit iconic, . Apart from one fireman, there were no injuries, and the structure of the church has been luckily maintained.

Awful and unfortunate yes, but incomparable with recent events such as New Zealand’s terrorist attack, Cyclone Idai, The Parkland school shooting or even the Grenfell fire.

But none of these factors, these merely modern and humane reactions to breaking news, are parallel to the sickening donations that have poured out to help France rebuild Notre-Dame.

In the last measly twenty-four hours, multi-million-dollar incorporations have contributed tens of thousands to the rebuilding process.

What could be interpreted as an act of good will and kindness, or at the very least a clever PR stunt has a much darker undertone that is beginning to surface.

Companies such as , , French oil giant and more have donated and the pledges have nearly reached a shocking one billion euros, all in the space of a day.

These philanthropist actions have generated an enormous backlash with Twitter and Facebook users debating the topic, and rightly so.

Where’s the money for these true tragedy’s? Where’s the money for the starving people, for the people trying to emigrate from poverty-stricken countries in hope of a better life?

Without the intention of sounding crass and jealous, that is a stomach-turning nauseating amount of money to fork over in mere hours to simply rebuild a famous church. Perhaps the UNESCO’s president’s clever use of a time limit on beginning the operations encouraged these quick donations, or maybe it is simply to gain another seat in the spotlight.

After the Grenfell fire, the donations reached an impressive but unmatched amount of 29 million, and this tragedy has still left people traumatized and homeless. The homeless problem in Europe, especially Paris, is becoming increasingly worrying. The Death toll of the Cyclone Idai in Southern Africa is still rising and they’re only beginning to recover from the trauma now.

Where’s the money for these true tragedy’s? Where’s the money for the starving people, for the people trying to emigrate from poverty-stricken countries in hope of a better life?

Evidentially, these companies have chosen this situation for charitable acts, because it trumps the tragedies in Venezuela, or the Mexican border, or Zimbabwe in the news.

It begs the question; when does capitalism end and authenticity begin?

In our modern society, where money trumps all, kindness and real personality is limited, how can we deifier between capitalist driven acts and authentic acts of compassion?

We live in a world where it literally pays to be authentic, and everyone wants a piece of it. How can anyone be authentic, if everyone is authentic?

It is no secret that the Catholic Church is a wealthy estate, and they should be the prime donator for this matter, especially when the Catholic mantra is to give back to those in need.

Throughout this whole ordeal, the Catholic Church’s reaction could be considered as tame and nonchalant. Their prime offering is sympathy and technical expertise, which tops off this philanthropic debate paradoxically.

Image of Pope Francis from The Pakistan News

Though an architectural and collectively memorably symbol of Paris, Notre-Dame a church. We have gone so far concerning the separation of church and state, but somehow this line is blurred relating to Notre Dame because the famous building has brought much tourism and capitalism to Paris and inflated the cities appeal.

And this cruel awakening brings with it a sobering realisation; that the money to fix the world’s worst problems does exist, and it’s just in the wrong hands.

In any case, regardless of Notre-Dames’ touristic appeal, it is still a church and should be treated as so. It is no secret that the Catholic Church is a wealthy estate, and they should be the prime donator for this matter, especially when the Catholic mantra is to give back to those in need.

This tragedy has created copious amounts of food for thought, most significant being the impossible existence of authenticity in a capitalist world. And this cruel awakening brings with it a sobering realisation; that the money to fix the world’s worst problems does exist, and it’s just in the wrong hands.

Aoife Smith

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Writer | Reader | Teacher | onebrokegal.com