Notre Dame and Lateral Thinking 377

France is a country which has spent hundreds of billions of euros on nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction, and hundreds of billions of euros on other military capabilities. France possesses the technological capability to utterly flatten a city the size of Paris in minutes. Yet it does not possess the technological capability to prevent one of its greatest buildings from being destroyed by fire.

If the many trillions spent all around the world on the research, development and production of instruments of destruction had been devoted to peaceful purposes instead, what new technologies might we have now? It is not a huge step in lateral thinking to imagine that in such a world, more might have been available to save Notre Dame – and Grenfell – than too short ladders and hoses squirting water.

I posted this simple idea on twitter a couple of hours ago. As with all my twitter posts, right wing trolls came in to dispute my point very quickly. Their posts are worth reading because they so stunningly miss the point. They talk about standard lengths of firefighting ladders and about water pressure. They appear completely unable to even register, let alone extrapolate from, the notion that had the resources mankind has squandered on agents of destruction been better used, we might have different technologies.

John Stuart Mill once stated in parliament: “I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any hon. Gentleman will question it.” I have always believed that right wing “thought” is a misnomer, and right wing views are rather characterised by absence of meaningful intellectual activity. Furthermore, those touted as right wing “thinkers”, such as Roger Scruton, Patrick Minford or David Starkey, if studied with any rigour, are the greatest proof of this. But it is seldom that you see such clear evidence as the responses to that little tweet. If I had devised that tweet as an experiment to demonstrate the hypothesis of the intellectual incapacity of the conservative mind, it could not have worked better.

My condolences to all for the loss of a great building. One day, perhaps mankind will learn that we do not in reality defend what we have by spending vast amounts of our available resources and capacity for communal activity in preparing to destroy as much as we are physically capable of destroying.

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377 thoughts on “Notre Dame and Lateral Thinking

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  • DiggerUK

    If Salisbury cathedral had an equally destructive fire, some more diplomats from the Russian embassy would be packed off home…_

    • michael norton

      Yes, the only reason those Russians came to Salisbury was to “enjoy” the cathederal, they did not even know Julia or her father.

  • N_

    The Guardian editorialises about Notre Dame: “The Guardian view on resurrecting Notre Dame: the struggle for meaning“. Strapline: “Catholic conservatives are trying to recruit the disaster as a symbol of their cause. They will fail.”

    Bwahaha! Clueless! The article is full of disconnected statements. And no argument is given in support of the statement that Catholic conservatives will fail. Indeed no understanding is offered of what French catholic “conservatives” are all about, or of the lines along which they’ve developed and sailed since the Revolution.

    But interestingly it’s a very Christian editorial, possibly quite High Church.

      • Sharp Ears

        Very droll Glenn Nl! Thanks for your earlier message btw. I have been visiting recue centres thinking about another dog. They resemble dog prisons. Many dogs are being ‘rescued’ ie imported from Romania and other E European countries. I think there is a racket going on. Probably too many dogs already in this country.

  • Antonym

    The Black Stone in Mecca suffered various attacks by fanatics in the past, so nothing should be ruled out a priori.

    It is ironic that during the 1979 siege of the Grand Mosque of Mecca the French were called in to assist
    Why didn’t the Saudi royals with their vast oil wealth didn’t secure that central religious place better? Why didn’t the French learn from this?

    • Laguerre

      The Notre Dame fire is not known to have been a terrorist attack. The roof space where the fire started is not open to the public. I saw an interview with a specialist tourist guide with 20 years experience, and she said she had visited the roof timbers (‘la forêt’) but not often, and it was difficult to get into.

      • Paul Barbara

        @ Laguerre April 17, 2019 at 09:46
        ‘Difficult’ does not stop a determined arsonist. If a female tourist guide had visited the space a number of times, so could an arsonist.
        Tossing or placing a time-delayed incendiary device would probably have been a doddle.

  • Martin Hawes

    On April 16 Kim Willsher of The Guardian wrote, ‘Notre Dame Cathedral was commissioned by King Louis VII who wanted it to be a symbol of Paris’s political, economic, intellectual and cultural power at home and abroad.’ To the extent that this is true, its construction had nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus and everything to do with the glorification of Earthly power – the very antithesis of those teachings. The building has incalculable cultural value, and should certainly be restored; but unless we see through falsity of organised religion, it will remain less a monument to ‘God’ than to human self-aggrandisement.

  • Sharp Ears

    Collective noun for a gaggle of Guardian critics?

    This group has been assembled to opine on the cathedral’s meaning for us.

    Notre Dame and the culture it inspired – from Matisse to the Muppets
    It mesmerised Proust, terrified Homer Simpson and gave us the Hunchback – Guardian critics celebrate Paris’s gothic masterpiece at the heart of the modern imagination
    Oliver Wainwright, Stuart Jeffries, Peter Bradshaw, Jonathan Jones, Fiona Maddocks, Michael Coveney and Keza MacDonald
    17 Apr 2019

    Nice photo of the window though.

      • Ian

        Olive Wainwright is a very good writer on architecture, as are a couple of others on their subject areas. Decent piece. Anthony Gormley was good on it this morning on Today. i guess you just can’t stand anything Guardian related, although you appear to read it obsessively, if pointlessly.

    • Ken Kenn

      It’s a lovely building and needs to be restored but I’ll guarantee that non of the worthies or commentators will lay a stone or lift a wooden beam.

      Chipped fingernails are not de rigeur amongst the Haute Classes.

      The Artisans will be saying ” What do you mean WE will rebuild it? ”

      Good luck to the Artisans and I hope they charge accordingly for their skills.

      The President does – so why not them.

      En Marche has become En Arrette at the moment.

      Meanwhile an other with skills is walking in the countryside.

      You all know what happened last time.

    • Laguerre

      I can understand the urgent desire to present the fire as an accident, but it is in fact the case, see my 09.46. The space where the fire started is difficult for an outside person to get into.

      • michael norton

        No problem for a committed arsonist to get up into the roof disguised as a workman, leave a delayed fire bomb.

  • Casual Observer

    Interesting to see the pictures now coming out of the interior of the cathedral. Seems the fire was largely kept from the interior of the cathedral by the stone vaulted ceiling, note the unmelted or even bent candles in the pictures of the altar. The ceiling looks to be breached where the spire fell through, but the debris seems to show that the pompiers must have extinguished it fairly quickly.

    Hopefully the new timber work will employ some sort of fire retardant in its treatment.

    Above everything else, the event will prove a godsend for the burial of awkward news.

  • Doug Scorgie

    Police in Paris are acting on a tip-off that a man wearing a rucksack under his shirt was seen running away from Notr Dame as the fire erupted.

  • N_

    First it was that the judiciary have opened an inquiry into the accidentally started fire at Notre Dame.
    Now it’s that the fire was “probably” started accidentally.
    Certainly several churches have been smashed up since February this year.

    Meanwhile the churches with mainly black congregations in Louisiana, US, that were destroyed by arsonists have received a big spike in donations since the Notre Dame fire. As I said, church attendance in France at the coming Easter weekend will be huge and feelings will be strong too. From resurrection to restoration? You can be sure that Stephen Bannon will be burning the midnight oil and Marine Le Pen will be on her uppers.

    Meanwhile, there’s an elephant in the room: the Extinction Rebellion street actions in Central London. Here’s the big question: how come they managed to seize and HOLD such important sites in central London (Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus) without being KETTLED? What’s the answer? Are the Tarquins and Jemimas really far better at streetfighting tactics than the Black Bloc, student protestors, and so on? I DON’T think so!

  • Robert

    Wooden roofs like that are a known fire hazard so why don’t they have sprinklers fitted? Once a fire gets going in one it’s next to impossible to extinguish so the emphasis needs to be on prevention.

    • Trowbridge H. Ford

      Why post nonsense which the mods don’t delete? The fire was started by someone or some thing, and then the brave firefighters put it out. You make it sound like it was an accident without any evidence,

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