by Frank Schnittger
Tue Apr 16th, 2019 at 12:49:40 PM EST
There is not much I can say about the fire in Notre Dame that has not already been said better elsewhere. At over 850 years of age it is a testament to the stability and enduring qualities of the society which created and sustained it. It took over 200 years to build and has survived many different regimes, revolutions and world wars.
Encouragingly European leaders have rallied to the cause of its reconstruction saying it is a symbol of not just French but all European culture. It's good to have something positive to unite around, rather than the enduring negativity of Brexit.
For many, of course, it is a symbol more of the past than the future. Few attend religious services there any more, even as 30,000 visitors a day come to admire its architecture and artworks. When I visited it some years back it reminded me more of a past we have been fortunate to leave behind rather than an inspiration for the future.
But it is difficult to conceive of a project now that would still hold a central place in our society in 850 years time. We seem so obsessed with destroying the planet we live on that there may not even be a human society in the year 2869. Everything now is for the short term and we can't plan for 5 never mind 850 years ahead.
But we also don't have any strong uniting ideology, mythology or religion which would encourage us to think so far ahead. Neo-liberalism worships private wealth, and Brexit has sought to reduce the European project to a beggar thy neighbour exercise in greed and short term self-interest. Militarism seeks to industrialise the process of killing others.
Perhaps readers here can contribute towards a vision of what might sustain us as a common humanity for the next 850 years. Saving the planet from a devastating mass extinction event would be a good start...