“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”
–Fictitious Sean Parker, The Social Network
ow long would it take for you to make a billion dollars? Even the idea is comical – at least to me. I’ve been working in Information Technology for nearly 20 years and I’m just now making a salary that isn’t terrible. It’s not great, mind you, but I’m not living paycheck to paycheck.
The idea of a billion dollars is mind-boggling to me. Deficits in the trillions is even harder to understand.
But like the entire world, we watched the Notre Dame cathedral burn last week, then within days, the rebuilding efforts had raised nearly two billion Francs. The outpouring of support was incredible and awe-inspiring. How generous for billionaires like the owner of L’Oreal, and the husband magnate of Salma Hayek, Francois-Henri Pinault both were leaders in pledging hundreds of millions to the effort.
Charity is a strange beast. There was an episode of Friends where the idea of charity came up – are you charitable to help the charity or to make yourself feel better, or to make others feel good about you? It’s a multi-faceted observation. And ultimately, if you’re in a position to do good for others by donating money, that’s great.
The striking issue here is that so much was donated out of thin air, and the recipient was to rebuild a building. An incredibly historic building, we’ll all grant that, but two billion in a week to rebuild a building?? Y’all just sitting on your wallet waiting for an 800 year old church to burn?
To me, it seemed just a tad disproportionate. It hasn’t been lost on a number of French citizens either who have launched yellow-jacket protests by pointing out humanitarian crises in parts of the country not named France or the United States.
There’s currently a humanitarian crisis in Yemen affecting 10 million people. The United Nations is asking for $4 billion, but has so far only raised half that. It’s all Monopoly money to me. And I’d like to think that if I woke up with a billion dollars tomorrow, that I’d have a plan to help the world around me – both religious, humanitarian, and family. Maybe I’d even write a big check to fill some potholes.
Ultimately, it’s not me with the billion, it’s rich people who are very good at being rich and staying rich. It’s their decision on what to spend their money on and there’s very little we can say about it.
But just in case any of you win the lottery tomorrow and find yourself with some coin to drop, maybe give me a call if you need help prioritizing where to send it. I’m not sure the Notre Dame would be in the top 10 list.
(Always available for advice of all types, The Landmark’s Chris Kamler can be found on Twitter as @TheFakeNed. Or try to catch him on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)