LET’S TALK ABOUT WHY really rich people paying for the restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral might be the best plan going. And while we’re doing that, let’s also chat about why I think last month’s Cathedral restoration/financing moment typifies a public attitude that continues to bother me.
You’ll recall how several extremely wealthy individuals stepped forward and within days of that disastrous Cathedral fire, raised over a billion Euros for its restoration. The speed with which they raised the money was astounding and was only surpassed by the speed with which many from around the world vilified them. “Why,” the public cried out in anger, “didn’t you use the money to solve world hunger instead?”
Missing from this public display of rich people loathing, was thoughtful reasoning and perhaps a mirror to make finger pointing a little easier.
On the logic side of things, the needed billion will have to come from somewhere. Without those donations, the only other source of funds would be the French taxpayer.
Think about that for a moment. Using tax dollars could mean less public money for the many pressing social issues that currently trouble France. It’s even possible the massive restoration task would require an increase in taxes or a decrease in spending, both of which would hurt those dependent upon those badly needed social programs.
But the day was saved when France was given a gift of a billion Euros, money that the public no longer had to come up with.
It is obvious though that the people of France, and the world for that matter, think a billion should be spent on helping to solve world hunger. Thanks to those damn rich people, though, France now has a billion Euros of tax money that will not be required for the rebuilding. So given the outcry, is this not the perfect opportunity for France to use that money to begin solving the serious world hunger problem?
Of course it would show sincerity and commitment if all the people complaining from other countries, told their governments to each kick in a billion as well. If taxes have to go up, the public’s outrage suggests that’s okay because the need is more important than the burden of increased taxes.
Of course, we know from experience that the latter is a lie. It is okay to be appalled by a billionaire giving money to what many felt to be a wrong cause. And it is righteous to be sickened by the plight of the poor and want to help. But the moment tax dollars are touched is the exact same moment many cry out, “Not with my money! I worked hard for every dollar I earned and no foreigner or lazy socialist bum or country is getting a penny of it.”
Is it possible this mimics, on a smaller scale, the same attitudes many have accused the rich of having? Perhaps self-interest and greed instead of the common good isn’t exclusive to the super wealthy? Which brings me to the most troubling issue; the all talk but no action mindset of many people today.
We complain about the real social, moral and fiscal inequities that exist in our community, country and around the world. I’ve listened to so many people tell me how we need to solve world hunger, house the homeless, make peace with the world’s indigenous populations or stop killing each other and our planet. The list is unfortunately long and growing.
Some complainers are very sincere, very intense and very caring but I can usually stop them in mid sentence by asking a simple question or two like: So what have you personally done to solve it? How have you directly helped by using your own efforts, labour, knowledge, skills, time and privilege?
Over 95 per cent of those I ask can’t answer. It is so much easier to complain, to blame, and to shame those deemed responsible or worse yet, wrongly seen as uncaring. So much so that when several wealthy people raised a billion Euros for a good cause, these same all talk no action complainers break into tears and call them monsters for not solving the world’s problems.
It is always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it?
Bill McQuarrie is a former Kamloops entrepreneur who has retired to Vancouver Island where he spends a lot of time fly fishing. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @bafflegabbed.