In your dreams? Or your nightmares?

Friday, 9th January 2009 at 9:00 UTC 2 comments

Two tales of massive lottery winnings have caught my attention recently, the first some months ago in Italy and the latter just recently in Spain. The amounts of money involved are almost unthinkable in personal terms, and of course, cause one to wonder what one might do with such money.

The fact is, its never going to happen. Well, almost. And thats the problem; these kinds of lottery offer miniscule odds to a massive number of people. Imagine what could be acheived if everyone in your community put in a pound towards something useful to everyone? To myself, and many others, these lotteries aren’t so much a massive money-making scheme on the part of the rich, they are simply the generators of huge illusions, false hopes and a few destroyed lives.

People who win these kinds of things are, and someone reading this might have the figures, somewhat more likely to commit suicide. This seems utterly at odds with the whole point: the dream of winning huge sums of money. Whether its through the lack of meaning to further productive effort on the part of the winner, the hundreds to whom the money seems to need to be shared, or the sudden disconnection from the troubles and toils of the community, it doesn’t all seem to be a happy experience. And yet people still play…

Some of the quotes in the articles worry me: “Many punters had queued for hours in the capital to buy what organisers are calling “a slice of hope” in these troubled economic times.” A slice of hope in what? That one might get out of this while the rest suffer? I don’t think I’d want this route out of a recession, other than for its ease, just because I’d feel so shit about everyone else left behind.

“One consumer rights group said the lottery was ruining families who spent all their money on tickets. Before the draw was made it called for the jackpot to be seized and redistributed.” – I’d actually support this. Fine, maybe the city should get it (and i don’t mean the council), but then who? It might seem a worthy cause that a poor city in Italy get such an amount of money, but for this to happen, millions around Italy, which already has huge inequality, have poured hundreds of Euro’s of their own money into the lottery.

No apologies for old-school anti-capitalism: this is what capitalism offers us; the promise of untold wealth if we’re lucky and we “make it”. It may be easier to imagine wealth for ourselves rather than a brighter collective future for humanity, but this is no excuse. Still I hardly blame the individuals. Its not like getting something for nothing is bad, but offering false hope like this is certainly a crime, and a convenient one if the richest are to maintain credibility. After all, with a lottery, anyone can become like them in an instant.

Orwell wrote in ‘1984’ about this very phenomenon, this very distraction, this very inability of people to perceive a real way out, and a need to focus instead on insane odds of gaining personal fortune. It might never happen, but the possibility is something people are willing to commit to. And when they do win, what do they get? Stressed and depressed, it would seem. Not exactly a dream come true. More like a nightmare.


Entry filed under: Community, Development, Economics, Europe, Materialism, News, Poverty.

Grinding into Motion Pick n Mix Week 1

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. JPeter  |  Friday, 9th January 2009 at 15:12 UTC

    I very occasionally buy a lottery ticket. For £1, you can daydream about the possibility of winning life changing sums of money, and what you might do with it. That represents suberb value for money.

    For those who choose to buy lots of tickets because they think they’re in with a chance of winning – good. The lottery is a tax on the stupid. As such it’s the most palatable form of taxation.

    I can believe that lottery winners are more likely to commit suicide. But as I recall, many major changes in life circumstances can increase suicide risk – they cause people to lose their sense of place in the world. It would be extremely paternalist though, to regulate along the lines of minimising circumstances which can change people’s lives.

  • 2. brainduck  |  Friday, 9th January 2009 at 21:15 UTC

    Actually the research I’ve read suggests that after a year or two, people’s level of happiness is pretty much the same regardless of whether they win the Lottery or become paralysed.

    The Lottery does at least emphasise the random nature of extreme wealth – wonder how things would be different if we distributed resource inequalities by a transparent random allocation, rather than allowing people to convince themselves they ‘deserve’ what they have?


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