Notes on the Notre-Dame Cathedral
France is soooo fucked. Intellectually and existentially, of course.
“I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating.” ―Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness
The 850-year-old edifice had weathered war, revolution, the Black Death and Nazi occupation, a symbol of resistance in the face of a constant political and cultural upheaval. It was the site of Napoleon’s coronation in 1804 and the inspiration for seminal literary works, most famously Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, visited by 13 million tourists each year. Notre Dame was at once a living place of worship for the French Catholic church and the property of the French secular state: a symbol in itself of the country’s history and its present, in all its glorious, totally fucked contradictions.
The grief felt by many as they watched nine centuries of history dissolve in flames was hardcore and heartbreaking. Bertrand Delanoë, the former mayor of Paris, called the cathedral a “jewel of the heritage of humanity.” President Macron, who had been preparing to give a televised address to the nation in the wake of his “great national debate”, cancelled the speech and went straight to the site of the conflagration.
It will take time and a full-on forensic investigation before the precise cause of the fire is established. Early analysis from the local fire services suggested that it was not a work of arson but an accident that broke out in the central roof, where construction was underway to renovate the 19th-century spire. But already critical questions are being asked about the overall competence of the French authorities and their disaster-planning abilities for a monument of this scale, cultural importance, and vulnerabilities to threats like the nihilistic Gilets-Jaunes (‘yellow jackets’), peeved Muslims living in and around Paris, and annoying anarchists or Antifa elements who agitate against the authorities at any opportunity.
The search for somebody to blame will consume France for weeks to come. The public prosecutor has opened an inquiry, of course. When shock and disbelief turns to anger, many will want to know exactly what precautions were taken by those working on the renovation, and why it was so difficult for firefighters to position close enough to the blaze to effectively contain it. Five hundred firefighters were deployed, but it took the first brigade almost 40 minutes to get there and set up, according to Le Monde.
In terms of terrorism, conspiracy theories and subversion (blame ranges from Varg Vikernes to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on the interwebs), video is emerging of an alleged Gilets-Jaunes in black clothes at one of the two towers thirty minutes before the start of the Notre-Dame inferno. A dozen Catholic churches have been desecrated across France over the past few weeks in an egregious case of anti-Christian/anti-Western vandalism. This has puzzled the French police and ecclesiastical leaders, who have mostly remained silent (and indifferent) as the attacks have spread throughout the country.
Last Sunday, marauders set fire to the church of Saint-Sulpice — one of Paris’ largest and most important churches — shortly after midnight mass. And the vandalism that occurred there was utterly disgusting (the mischief-makers smeared poo (above) all over the chapel and even fashioned a cross made of human feces — yuk!). Even more disturbing was the schadenfreude expressed by France’s ginormous Muslim population on social media and in various hoods (not to mention in places like Palestine, Yemen, Indonesia and the Maghreb, where hard-line Islamists rejoiced via their scuzzy social media feeds, streaming oodles of 😃 emojis and cheering on the demise of the Christian relic during Holy Week — a topic deemed ‘too taboo’ and politically charged to discuss here). But the inferno that has engulfed the Notre-Dame cathedral will no doubt be seized upon by all flavors of haters to spread anti-Muslim sentiment and other lightning rod conspiracies. Virtue signallers and multicultural czars get ready!
Anyway, Edmund Burke once characterized the French way of life (back in 1790) as “the conquering empire of light and reason” referring to that country’s revolutionary heat and rational cool. France, after all, gave us Coco Chanel’s little black dress, the science of fine wines and gastronomy, ‘246 varieties of cheese’, the Modernist paintings of Henri Matisse (above), the political-economy of badass laissez-faire thinker Jean-Baptiste Say, and even a ‘liberty goddess’ plunked smack dab in the middle of NYC’s majestic harbor since 1886.
So WTF happened?! In short, the Gallic national character, which had dazzling qualities way back in the day, succumbed to goofball philosophes, political radicalism and cultural cannibalism. Jean-Paul Sartre became a local and global symbol of the intellectual who dared speak truth to power in all its forms, while Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex‘ seduced (brainwashed) the culture in the worst way possible. A few decades later, ‘French theory’ ruptured and reshaped the contours of a broad swath of European academia and overseas institutions (inspiring madmen like Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh and Laurent-Désiré Kabila) and retards like Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Jean-François Lyotard remain to this day among the most cited thinkers in France’s post-modern mental quagmire.
“Never were we more free than under the German occupation,” said Sartre at the end of the Second World War, and this French love of paradox has given rise to mystical rationalists, communist revolutionaries, nihilistic zealots, spineless political weasels (right and left) and of course the concept of the glorious defeat. Just observe the idiotic Mouvement des gilets jaunes. So gross. Needless to say, ideas are the motor of history, and the French have an unbridled fetish for self-defeating concepts and epistemological straw men, which has made them hyper-anguished over their country’s shrinking place in a world increasingly dominated by Anglo-American capitalist culture, encroaching ideologies and homegrown insurgents.
The inferno that engulfed the Notre-Dame Cathedral is a potent metaphor for modern France in all its decrepit and combustible intellectual culture. It is laughable that Thomas Piketty is France’s most acclaimed economist (of course he is!) while Bruno Latour and Roland Barthes are amongst the most celebrated and quoted social theorists there. Barthes once wrote, “Don’t say mourning. It’s too psychoanalytic. We’re not mourning. We’re suffering.” LoL!
France, having once produced unprecedented success but increasingly unsure of its own value and identity, is in danger of losing itself, its institutions and its achievements to a seething cauldron of self-negation and a raging wildfire of irrationality. ‘La forêt’ burns fast when severely parched. Just sayin…
Images Wikimedia Commons + AP
VIVISXN MEDIA – France is dead + Notre-Dame Cathedral Fire + Art + Fashion + Tech + Music + Pop Culture + 深度学习 + AI + Machine Learning + 音乐时尚 + 艺术 + 高科技 + 流行文化 + 大众文化 + 前卫艺术 + Mouvement des gilets jaunes + Michel Foucault + Jacques Derrida + Jean-François Lyotard + Paris is burning + Bruno Latour + Roland Barthes + Thomas Piketty is a silly economist