Macron’s cynical exploitation of the Notre-Dame tragedy may well backfire. The real opportunity in this crisis is for the French people to see it as a symbol of ruinous government policies.
As the old saying goes, don’t waste a crisis without finding an opportunity. French President Emmanuel Macron is cynically seeking to do just that in the aftermath of the horrific blaze at Notre-Dame Cathedral.
The 850-year-old Gothic cathedral on the banks of the Seine in the capital Paris was nearly completely destroyed by a fire which tore down its famous spire and gutted a large part of its interior, including priceless works of art. Parisians and the rest of the world watched in horror as France’s national treasure went up in smoke.
Macron made a nationwide televised speech aimed at consoling French citizens over the tragedy. Notably, he asked them to put aside political divisions and rally together to salvage the ruins of Notre-Dame in a project of national renewal. Macron promised to restore the landmark church within five years – a feat which most experts doubt as realistic. Instead, it is estimated, a proper restoration will take several more years and multi-billions of euro.
What the French leader is doing is cynically using a moment of national mourning to suppress the widespread popular opposition to his government and its pro-rich economic policies. For nearly five months now, the country has been in a virtual revolt against what many French citizens despise as “the president of the rich”.
Macron, a former investment banker, has soaked the super wealthy with billions of euro in tax cuts, while the majority of French workers and their families are struggling under relentless economic austerity, wage freezes and failing public services. After two years in Elysée Palace, this president is held in even more contempt by the public than his predecessors.
It is very plausible that the devastating blaze at Notre-Dame this week was caused by under-financed restoration work. The cathedral has been undergoing a revamp over the past two years, and several experts have speculated that the centuries-old wooden vaults may have caught fire from electrical repair equipment. In short, Macron’s policies of gutting public investment while boosting the wealth of billionaires and splurging €50 billion a year on militarism have manifested in the desecration of the country’s national treasure at Notre-Dame.
The person and people to blame for this obscenity is President Macron and his pro-rich policies leaving the nation in neglect and deprivation.