If you are a Christian, last week might not have been your favorite. Chances are that even if you are not religious, the past week might have proven difficult. The (Holy) Week started with the Notre – Dame fire and ended with terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.
The death toll in the attacks on Sri Lanka has now reached 290 people…
After taking a moment of silence, I would like to talk today about money.
As soon as the flames of the cathedral’s fire were extinguished (or maybe even sooner), millions of dollars were pledged for the rebuilding of the damaged building. First, it was Salma Hayek’s husband – François-Henri Pinault, who pledged 100 million euros ($112 million). Soon after, Bernard Arnault vowed to give twice the amount Pinault donated. The Bettencourt Meyers family matched Arnault’s pledge, and Patrick Pouyanne matched Pinault’s donation.
That is 600 million euros from 4 people/ families. I am aware of the difference in wealth between an average Joe, and the rich, but such events just remind you how distant their reality is from ours. If you were to ask me what I would do with such an amount of money, chances are I would not know what to do with a big chunk of it. And somewhere out there, some people see it as an amount they can donate. What?
Suddenly, a couple of dollars to a homeless person here and there does not seem so noble anymore.
Such numbers did not spark any jealousy in me. They just reminded me of the rift between them and myself. Between their lifestyles and mine. However, it did not depress me. It just shook me back into reality. Life is not fair. Some will always have more than others. I am grateful for what I have.
Notre – Dame (translation: Our Lady) is a medieval cathedral, which was placed on UNESCO’s world heritage list in the year of 1991. It is the symbol of French history and culture. A prime example of Gothic architecture. Its construction started in the year of 1160 and was mostly completed a hundred years later. it got desecrated during the final years of the 18th century during the French Revolution. It was rebuilt in the following century.
It is too early to know how much money will be needed to rebuild such an iconic building. However, I somehow feel that there will not be any issues with fundraising. The Venice Opera House needed 60 million euros to reopen eight years after a fire. The Windsor Castle needed almost fifty million dollars to open five years after the fire.
Because it shocked me to see how quickly the money came pouring in for Notre – Dame, I knew that it would cause some friction in the world. Before I knew it, people started complaining about the cause for the donations. All of a sudden, different groups came out with their own goals in need of donations.
The “Yellow Vesters” speak the loudest. It is a group of demonstrators protesting against France’s economic trends and social inequality. They have been taking it to the streets since November of last year. Even though they say they are impressed by the solidarity illustrated by pledges to Notre – Dame, they are also very disillusioned with the inequality and lack of fairness. The pledges show that there IS money to help.
“In just a few hours today, 650 million euros was donated to rebuild Notre – Dame,” South Africa-based journalist Simon Allison tweeted. “In six months, just 15 million euros has been pledged to restore Brazil’s National Museum. ” The disparity is tremendous. The reality, however, is that we will always be more worried about our own neighborhood than that of a different continent. Of course, French businessmen will spend more on their own country than on a place they have no sentiment towards. It might sound cold, but that is human nature – taking care of ourselves and our own first.
Many people asked why poor people are not being helped with similar zeal that Notre – Dame is. Some feel like the money should be directed towards reversing, or halting climate change. I think the Culture Minister – Franck Riester summed it up nicely: “of course, there is need elsewhere […]. But Notre Dame is not only a collection of old stones. It’s a part of our identity.”
The theory of effective altruism urges us to look at three factors when considering donating money:
- importance (to affect many if a big way)
- easy to control (your input will have an impact)
- not too popular (when not many others donate)
However, the truth is that our pledges are governed by a multitude of things. Chances are you are donating to a specific organization, because they helped you and your family, or YOU hope to help someone and their families because you could not help your own. We give towards something we are passionate about. And that passion can be seen in different aspects of our lives.
Ultimately, how would you feel if someone told you what to spend your money on? I know I would not like it. And although I think some money would be better spent somewhere else, I cannot fathom spending other people’s money. Their money, their pledges. Whether I like it, or not.
Did you know that there are bees living on the roof of Notre – Dame? They survived the fire and are expected to recover.
How do you decide where to donate your money?
Have you been to Notre – Dame?
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