Notre Dame and Lateral Thinking 413

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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413 thoughts on “Notre Dame and Lateral Thinking

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  • John Goss

    Like Craig I would like to see the money wasted on weapons of death, including collateral murder, used for the greater welfare of mankind. Herald the day.

    Like Craig I have been doing some lateral thinking myself but the topic is a no no on this blog. So if you want to know my thoughts on the subject you will have to click on my name.

    • Trowbridge H. Ford

      Just saw a photo from Channel 3 News of the cathedral’s floor with the collapsed wood from the celing still burning, must be a couple of feet thick , and the inspectors have already gone through it in less than 24 hours. Whatever started the fire must be at the bottom of the burned rubble.

      Some people will accept any official gobbledigook.

        • Trowbridge H. Ford

          I have suggested repeatedy on this site, only to see them soon deleted, and others it was ISIS, And no need to throw in irrelevant ones I have discussed elsewhere not in this thread now.

          You see the world in too simple black and white ternm.

        • Jo1


          The photos are stunning. Thanks so much for the link showing so much detail from the inside. Tragic to see something so beautiful destroyed.

          • glenn_nl

            You’re welcome, Jo1… it was quite surreal, to be honest, to be standing there with a number of other residents, watching this fine building burning away on a beautiful September evening – while the clock tower was standing before the encroaching braze, still bravely sounding its chimes to mark every quarter hour.

          • glenn_nl

            Sorry, blaze, not braze. Got confused between “brand” and “blaze” (“Brand” = Dutch for “fire”).

  • Deborah

    200 million euros pledged overnight to reconstruction of Notre Dame. 15 million euros pledged to dying in Mozambique by EU. Priorities?

      • Ken Kenn

        I suppose you could say it’s a portent akin to the roof in the Commons caving in.

        Then again there are better Old Moore’s than me on here.

        Most of them support the Tories so there you go.

        I’m more Bobby Moore .

        1966 and 1066 and all that.

      • Babuška

        The word ‘Reichstag’ has been walking across my brain ever since I heard the news about this major fire in Paris. I resolutely refused to watch this ‘news event’ as it broke my heart just knowing the fact.

        I was mortified when I read some time ago that several thousand churches across France were slated for demolition: ‘cheaper than restoration’ was the logic.

        So this event comes as no surprise. God is dead in the so-called western system.
        God have mercy on us all. History is showing what comes next, as we approach Good Friday.

  • John Welch

    President Macron went to view Notre Dame while it was still ablaze. After the usual homilies re a sad day for France and all the French people, he then opined it was an accident. Bloody hell! We should assign him to the McCann case. With such insight he could solve it in five seconds.

  • Ady Cheale

    Interesting how so many people, especially the obsessive media, are banging on and on about a European church roof, yet the people of Iran and Mozambique have suffered mnassive flooding, loss of life, cholera, devastation etc and are all too quickly forgotten. 76 dead in Iran so far, 725 bridges totally destroyed, 14,000 km of roads damaged,25 out of 31 Iranian provinces affected, yet a French church roof garners more sympathy. It’s a racist narrative, yet again, to be so obsessed with relatively minor problems in the west whilst totally forgetting the problems of the non western world. If that were to happen in France/Western Europe ,then we’d never hear the end of it. Remember when the Seine nearly flooded- that got more attention than Iran etc- NEARLY flooded!!! Also, these problems are vastly exacerbated by the evil US/western sanctions.
    I don’t care a fig about a church roof.

    • Jo1

      I do feel very sad about Notre Dame.

      You are, however, right to mention the other issues you raised and you’re also right that not enough attention is paid to tragedies that occur in other far lands deemed unimportant. It is a despicable world we’ve created.

  • BrianFujisan

    Concern and dismay is being felt by many around the world over the ND fire.
    Now imagine that the damage to this historic and religious site was caused by a Pipeline running through it, by Fracking, or due to Development. This shock and dismay is the type of feeling Indigenous people feel when Their lands and sacred sites are damaged or Big Oil Dollars.

    The Mountains are Sacred
    The Forests are Sacred
    The Oceans are Sacred
    The Rivers are Sacred
    The Earth is Sacred.

  • Noit a Lever

    It’s all highly suspicious if you ask me.

    It would seem that the building needed a lot more work done and was a bit of a ruin. Also the whole hunchback thing to keep people away so that they don’t discover the bad state of the place is suspicious. I’m starting to think we need four kids with a dog and a camper van to investigate. If they can just track down the hunchback and rip his mask off… and underneath…

    …it’s Macron!

    And he would have got away with it if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids!

  • DiggerUK

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

  • 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,

  • Sharp Ears

    Compare and contrast the content of this piece in Ha’aretz with the Notre Dame outpourings. Nary a peep about Palestine.

    53 Mosques and Churches Vandalized in Israel Since 2009, but Only 9 Indictments Filed
    The many unsolved crimes are a question of police priorities, says head of monitoring group. ‘Without a doubt, they aren’t looking hard enough’

    Over 50 Christian and Muslim sites have been vandalized in Israel and the West Bank since 2009, but only nine indictments have been filed and only seven convictions handed down, according to Public Security Ministry data.
    Moreover, only eight of the 53 cases are still under investigation, with the other 45 all closed.
    The ministry data only goes through July 2017, but the vandalism hasn’t ended.

    The latest attack occurred last Wednesday, at St. Stephen’s Church in the Beit Jamal Monastery, near Beit Shemesh. Many items were broken, including some of the stained glass windows and a status of the Virgin Mary. Police are investigating, but so far no suspects have been arrested and the motive is said to be unknown.”
    dated September 2017. How much more settler and Israeli government vandalism since then?

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Can you believe that a viral photo of a familty lost at Notre Dame is newsworthy!

    Hardly surprising when the French officials are looking high and low for what caused its fire, and Robert Mueller looked high and low to see iif Trump colluded with Russia. Mueller apparently doesn’t trust anything on television.

    What crap will the world swallow in next?

  • Gary Weglarz

    No doubt the CIA & MI6 are eager to assist France in investigating the cause of the fire. Surely one of those workman doing the renovation can be found to be in possession of a “Russian passport,” or lacking that option – perhaps, harkening back to “9/11” – a “Russian passport” could simply magically be found unharmed amid the smoking rubble.

    • Trowbridge H. Ford

      What about Trump calling on Putin on tv to hack 33,000 of Hillary’s emails, and his loved Wikileaks to publish them?

      • Trowbridge H. Ford

        Really makes you think about writers under violently repressive regimes like Hitler and Stalin doing work while starring down the barrels of guns, while our writers are so well tsken care of. and with no threats repeat whatever they are told without even thinking of quitting.

  • Fuddledeedee

    It is quite amazing how many major building have accidental fires when under going maintenance activities.I was living in an apartment close to St Peter’s Church in Dusseldorf in 2007 when it’s roof was destroyed by fire. The fault was traced to welding work the previous day leaving behind slow smouldering debris that flared up in the early morning.
    Glasgow School of Art had a similar mishap.
    Sprinkler and fire protection mechanisms are all very well but they are usually switched off to allow works access.

    On a different tack.
    I have just started wading through the “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election”

    I was a little surprised and much will no doubt be discussed on the Wikileaks role of dissemination information.
    What shocked me was the huge number of references to the IRA
    A bit of delving into some of the redacted pages revealed in a footnot that IRA actually stoof for “Internet Research Agency”
    For a while I was “looking” forward to a political spat between Sinn Féin and DUP.

  • Dave

    “arc fault detection devices” are now (18th Edition British Wiring Regs) recommended for thatch properties to minimise the fire risk. Shame they are not fitted as standard in all Grade 1 listed (or equivalent) buildings.

  • Dave

    Its not the rush to say accident that I find suspicious, as accidents are the most likely cause, particularly as refurbishment work was taking place, but its the rush to blame terrorism with the ready to roll coverage and minute silences to intimidate questions that denotes a false flag as this response requires prior knowledge.

    The interesting aspect of Grenfell is officially neither accident or terrorism has been blamed as the actual cause of the start of the fire has been withheld until the end of the enquiry, if then, in a few years time.

  • michael norton

    Yellow Jackets, quite upset, apparently, if there is money for churches, there is money to ease austerity.

    Clashes broke out in Paris on Saturday during the 23rd day of national action by the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) movement after authorities warned they expected the protest to be marred by anger-fuelled violence following the blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral.

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