The world sighed after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris caught fire. Aside from French President Emmanuel Macron, leaders of major countries also paid tribute. It is rare that the world laments a disaster that has no heavy casualties. Notre Dame’s value is shared far beyond France.
The loss of cultural relics is heartbreaking. But the unprecedented attention to the fire reflects the influence and soft power of French and European culture.
The French and Europeans should be more confident as they can still be a powerhouse in current and future global competition.
In our opinion, the Notre Dame fire should not have happened. Although an investigation may take a long time, the cathedral wasn’t struck by external factors such as lightning, but burned, reflecting the poor management of relevant authorities in Paris. It’s reported that the fire might have been caused by a short circuit on the roof. If the cultural relics were devastated for this reason, it’s unforgivable.
Notre Dame is a cultural heritage of all mankind and France has an obligation to protect it. There are many other world-class cultural relics in France. It is hard to be reassured if they are well protected from disasters.
Relevant officials should be held accountable for the fire. We believe we have the moral right to make this request.
People from third world countries would think: Why didn’t the world feel the same pity for the Old City of Damascus that was damaged in the bomb attacks? Western people should try to empathize with such a situation. On Tuesday, fringe voices emerged in Chinese public opinion, saying the Notre Dame fire reminded them of the time the Old Summer Palace in Beijing was burned down by British and French troops during the Second Opium War. They opposed Chinese who expressed sympathy for the Notre Dame fire. But mainstream Chinese public opinion disagrees with this view.
The unexpected debate over the case partly shows that neither China nor the West has put that piece of history behind, and some Chinese people still feel hurt while Westerners keep measuring China through outdated ways. This makes it hard for Chinese and Western mindsets to integrate.
There was a time when a Western country suffered disasters, Chinese people would show overwhelming sympathy toward it. But later Western public opinion often showed partiality for terrorists in the wake of deadly terror attacks on China, fringe voices that oppose expressing sympathy for disaster-hit Western countries have begun to appear.
If Westerners regard those voices as the indication of China’s nationalism, that will be a shallow view. Chinese society is big and diverse. It’s inevitable that there will be some non-mainstream sentiments.
That the Notre Dame fire has immediately become a global focus reflects the unprecedented high level of globalization. But it has been mixed with much regret. In any case, the integration of human emotions is a general trend. More and more common challenges will continuously push us into a community of shared interests and emotions.
Posted in: EDITORIAL