The other day, standing in a bar looking at a photo of the Notre Dame cathedral in flames on the front page of the newspaper, I had to stop myself from laughing with joy. Unlike most, I see the cathedral as a monument to the many crimes of the Catholic Church: organized sexual abuse of minors, the perpetuation of a patriarchal society, the social rejection of minority groups such the LGTBQ community, and the amassing of tens of billions of E taken predominantly from the poor. Others may see it as an architectural wonder, or a historical monument, but I prefer to focus on the human impact of our physical infrastructure, not its high-minded and often unfulfilled intentions.
That said, if the Catholic Church wants to rebuild, that’s their business. What’s truly reprehensible is the flurry of self-serving do-gooders who wasted no time in trying to use the “tragedy” for their own interests. French billionaires started donating millions of euros almost immediately, and just as quickly began suggesting that their “gifts” be 90% tax deductible. While these individuals claim that “in many other countries, we’d be congratulated”, they are simply hiding a twisted scheme where they make money, polish their public image, and screw over everyone else. Business as usual.
If Mr. Pinault’s 200 million euro donation is given a 90% deduction, this means a 180 million euros aren’t being given to the French government in taxes. In other words, the French government is being forced to pay 180 million euros to the Catholic Church, a tax-exempt organization with tens or hundreds of billions of E globally. At the same time, Mr. Pinault gets to promote his image as a benefactor to society.
Today’s world is one in which the rich have consolidated more wealth than ever in modern history, legally or extralegally have avoided paying taxes, and have branded themselves as the saviors of the planet for throwing crumbs our way. A single day after the fire, close to a billion E had been raised from people such as this. For a rooftop.
The true lesson is how easy it would be to fix today’s problems if the rich really wanted. Pinault alone has 26 billion euros that he is welcome to hand out on the streets. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t. The lesson is that these people can, but won’t give back the money that they have amassed. If we want it, we’ll have to take it. The government doesn’t seem willing to do so, but maybe the yellow vests can? They’re the only one’s paying attention to the real tragedies in French society, and a lack of churches most definitely isn’t one of them.
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