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Thu Apr 18, 2019, 09:59 PM

Aditya Chakrabortty: The billionaires' donations will turn Notre Dame into a monument to hypocrisy

Source: The Guardian

The billionaires’ donations will turn Notre Dame into a monument to hypocrisy

Handouts from France’s super-rich make them look pious, and lend credibility to gross inequality

Aditya Chakrabortty
Thu 18 Apr 2019 14.59 BST Last modified on Thu 18 Apr 2019 16.48 BST

In 2017, a welter of stories appeared in the international press pointing out the brokenness of Paris’s Notre Dame. Cathedral officials showed journalists how patches of limestone would crumble at a finger’s touch. Gargoyles that had lost their heads were patched up with plastic pipes, while fallen balustrades were replaced with wooden planks. All this decay was caused by pollution, acid rain and eight centuries of use – but also official neglect was to blame. Keepers of the building had begged for more money, but neither the belt-tightening French government nor the wealthy grumbling about higher taxes gave enough.

Then came Holy Week 2019 and the inferno by the Seine and all of a sudden, nobody can give too much. After years of preaching the shrinking of the public sector, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, now wants to mobilise the full resources of the state to get the roofless cathedral rebuilt within just five years. And money from France’s billionaire class keeps raining down. In three days, the cathedral has been pledged €100m (£86m) from Francois-Henri Pinault, the ultimate owner of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent; €200m (£172m) from the Arnault family of Louis Vuitton fame; another €200m from L’Oreal owners the Bettencourt Meyers family, and €100m from French oil giant Total.

From these two episodes just two years apart, we can draw two conclusions. The first is that what is happening this week is a remarkable display of public-sector coordination and private generosity, in the service of a great thing: the restoration of one of the world’s treasures. And the second is that the rebuilt cathedral will be a monument to the gigantic hypocrisy of austerity politics.

A heritage site that roused barely a shrug two years ago means the world this week. A billionaire class that shrieked at the wealth taxes of the former president François Hollande is happy to stump up whatever it takes now. A politician, Emmanuel Macron, who has repeatedly told the poor they must live on less and the workers that they must give more to bosses, now plays at being a national leader – like Charles de Gaulle with more hair wax. And a capital city that over the past few months has been under siege from the working poor of the gilets jaunes is reminded once again of the enormous wealth held by a very few of its citizens. Everything that was impossible as late as 2017 is now deemed essential in 2019.

Of course, we would prefer private millions to be pulled out from under goose-feather pillows and spent on public works. But we should also be asking why it takes an almighty conflagration to force this to happen; and why those generous donors are so averse to giving their money to democratically chosen priorities, which is what taxes represent. If the ultra-rich can chuck in so many millions of euros for a building, then what stops them ending hunger and poverty?

-snip-


Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/18/billionaires-donations-notre-dame-france-inequality

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Reply Aditya Chakrabortty: The billionaires' donations will turn Notre Dame into a monument to hypocrisy (Original post)
Eugene Apr 2019 OP
msongs Apr 2019 #1
Haggis for Breakfast Apr 2019 #2
MaryMagdaline Apr 2019 #3
comradebillyboy Apr 2019 #4
shenmue Apr 2019 #5

Response to Eugene (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2019, 10:02 PM

1. as a monument, being to hypocrisy might be an improvement nt

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Response to Eugene (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2019, 10:08 PM

2. Once again, Chakrabortty strays from his field of expertise

Sadly, revealing how little he truly comprehends events larger than himself in this world.

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Response to Eugene (Original post)

Thu Apr 18, 2019, 10:51 PM

3. The poor you shall always have with you

Not to be flippant (the piece is well written and a stab at the conscience) but it could very well be that the poor in France care very deeply about what Notre Dame represents to their national identity

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Response to Eugene (Original post)

Fri Apr 19, 2019, 12:48 AM

4. Utter nonsense. As Vespasian said about the proceeds from Rome's piss tax

Pecunia non olet ("money does not stink". Why shit on people doing a good thing?

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Response to Eugene (Original post)

Fri Apr 19, 2019, 01:36 AM

5. Um, it's about goddamn time that billionaires did something good

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