Some guys local to me – 20 to 30 miles away – a family – won £66 million on the Euromillions lottery yesterday – Thursday 4 August.
Now they elected to have their names revealed to the public – and a special event was arranged on TV at which the family was present and members revealed to the world.
The local papers were earlier reporting on the winnings but without naming the persons; only announcing that they will be revealed later in the day on TV media.
I had been earlier in the afternoon in a shop browsing some second-hand books. The ladies who run the shop were conversing about this massive win and about the people who had won such a ridiculous amount of money.
The winning family lives in a better off area of the county; where many, if not most, dwellers are commuters to the local big cities Cardiff and Bristol; where they are occupied with professional work like accountancy; surgery; solicitors (attorneys); finance; lecturing; and such like. Well paid and what we British call ‘comfortably off’.
Their lifestyles are different to local people’s whereabouts I dwell. Their houses are bigger and grander; better upkept; maybe with a gardener and a woman coming in to do housework; and wine with meals every evening, and costly foods bought in from their local upmarket supermarket Waitrose (which sells products raised and made at Highgrove, which is a farm run by and owned by Price Charles The Prince of Wales).
I guess you get the picture?
The ladies were animated and talking vociferously about what I jokingly call ‘the fickle finger of fate’; and lamenting that such swathes of prize money had not gone to someone who was in need; or generally of a lesser social class (as the ladies were, of course).
There was real affront, anger even; and animated passion in their demeanours.
I can’t remember how often I have seen similar shows of outrage at another’s good fortune in my life. Some persons I have heard say that they have cut of relationships with an acquaintance because they had been so angry and affronted and upset by their acquaintance having won a big prize or of him/her having had a very good streak of luck.
Oddly enough these people who react this way to another who is near to them – as being an acquaintance or as local geographically, or even as in a kindred situation, – react to them winning and being fortunate nearly always by being angry and feeling wholly justified in having such reactions; without any hint of self doubt about the appropriateness or the nature of their outrage.
Some of them even see so far as to recognise in themselves that covetousness and jealousy and envy are at the root of their feelings; and yet nonetheless they admit to these feelings and hold them as being appropriate and justifiable.
Not to leave things there; many disgruntled persons of this kind go further in their critiques and castigate those winners of prizes who choose to announce themselves to the public; and speak out loudly and proudly, openly, that had had they themselves won they would have elected for no publicity. Their justification for seeking no publicity is usually that they want no begging letters nor ‘long lost’ friends and family turning up like bad pennies; and ‘on their backs’ and suing for a windfall gift from them.
Their insight goes further. They see that they would be constrained to move house should they win a lottery prize. One of the ladies in the shop gave an example of a ‘comfortably-off’ winner of a large sum who had given his home – worth £400,000 was the figure she cited – to the housekeeper – because he realised he could no longer live there but would be inundated with unwanted visitors, and with visits in droves from very distant cousins; and bombarded with sob stories from persons seeking charitable gifts –coming in the post or from online or whatever.
And there is more to say on social class and mobility in Britain. Those persons who are not of the same social class as those of the more wealthily born of higher social classes; these ‘Cinderellas’ realise that they will ‘never be accepted’ by those of the higher social classes, even though they might in fact have become monied people because they had won a big prize. And I guess that is the truth.
In Britain items like accent denote class even today – and colloquial local accents such as London cockney and Liverpool scouse and Brummie (Birmingham) burr are all labels we commoners carry around with us which say a BIG NO to us seeking to enter into many social events and occasions.
And so has arisen an outcast class of wealthy people whom one might name ‘the nouveau riche’; these being those from lower social classes who have made good wealth-wise. In Kenneth Graham’s well known book ‘The Wind in the Willows’ the main character Toad lives at Toad Hall and considers himself an aristocrat. He is a buffoon – likeable and comic – but yet he is horrified when his sage friend Badger tells him that his ancestors got their money ‘in trade’. Yet it is a fact that ‘Trade’ has been the means by which the nouveau riche have climbed the ladder to social heights – but only over the course of several generations, because it takes that long for their descendants to acquire the manners, education, outlooks and expectations of the higher classes, and also for the higher classes to accept them into their clubs and circles.
George Orwell had a little comic formula which he used in his social comment writings; by which he called the newly inducted wealthy into the higher classes by the name of ‘the third-generation rentier class’. Orwell saw the first generation factory owner as a commoner who was enterprising and thrusting, and who first made the family fortune (in Trade). The second generation of the family took over from the first and consolidated the fortune that the first generation made (in trade). The third generation, this is the rentier class, who were by now fully fledged members of the higher classes, having been brought up to acquire all the badges and entry codes; and this third generation had decided to rent out or have had put the company, the source of their wealth, into the hands of paid managers; or else had made a fortune from a flotation on the stockmarket; so that the family firm now became owned by investors. Whatever the actual procedure, the upshot generally always is that the third generation lives on the proceeds gained and consolidated by the first and second generations.
This digression on social class in Britain was merely for your entertainment and for your information.
Back now to ‘the fickle finger of fate’- The lesser social classes have always aspired to become higher social class here; and a weird melange of envy and desire mix in this hankering. At one and the same time lesser class persons commonly gossip maliciously about higher class persons, as if these higher class persons by the very nature of their social position were malefactors; yet the lower classes will show obviously by their attitudes and behaviours that they wish to be, and wish to be like, those same ‘malefactor’ higher class persons. The attitude is not reasonable but nonetheless it is commonplace.
These whole Euromillions and class envy syndromes are about ‘the grass being greener on the other side’; and about ‘there but for fortune go you or I’. Perhaps a latent discontent with their lives animates people such as these ladies in the second-hand shop into such intemperate shows of what might be called, unkindly; hypocrisy, avarice and covetousness – maybe all the seven sins en bloc? Certainly Moses’ Commandments are not heeded by such persons. They wish to steal their neighbours’ ox.
You see money is almost universally viewed as a passport to freedom by such as these hankering ones – the belief is that had they just got some big money they would not have to live life as they are living life now. This is true but yet it is not always a pleasant truth; it is not one which always transpires to their advantage and enjoyment.
In Christopher Marlowe’s ‘The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus’ the evil angel Mephistopheles is quizzed by Faustus why he is not in Hell whereabouts he was condemned ever to be at the time the Satanic angels rebelled in Heaven and by God. Mephistopheles answers laconically ‘Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it’. Mephistopheles then carries Hell around with him wherever he goes.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet confides in his friend Horatio and says to him ‘I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space; were it not I have bad dreams’. Hamlet then is confined and constrained only by the bad dreams going on in his mind. He needs no ‘space’ to feel a liberty.
John Milton in his epic poem Paradise Lost has his antihero Satan say at one point: ‘The mind is its own place; and it can make a Hell of Heaven, a Heaven of Hell’.
Three good examples are enough. I think you see where I am heading?
Now of course, when the basic staples of life are not secure and provided for – and so these essential are not givens or presumed items in one’s life – there is real and desperate suffering to be borne very often. Hunger, exposure to the elements, dirt and squalor are evils and will sap one’s will to carry on, wherever these deprivations are penurious. But in Britain and in USA few persons in all their vast populations are in such a hard place. Most of us ‘get by’ and ‘make do’ with what we earn or can get and manage things as they come; generally keeping us ‘on the level’.
I do believe that if one has discontents when already living at such a generous pitch of security and provision; one will find one has to tackle similar or different discontents, which are just as fierce and disconcerting, should one elevate even by ‘great good fortune’ to a higher wealth bracket – and even if it happens to you ‘overnight’ – say you win Euromillions?
Envy, covetousness and jealousy, for instance are not embedded in the nature of the fact of Euromillions winners; they are embedded in one’s own nature and outlook and aspirations and pretensions. It is to think that one is able to get away from a bad memory in one’s head which keeps plaguing you, by you changing your hat or by you washing your hair; to think that you having obtained great wealth will destroy these carnal, visceral, vices in you from starting up like hares in your thoughts and feelings. ‘Why this is Hell; nor am I out of it.’
I am able to go on and lay at the door of our ways of life etc etc some responsibility for generating in people (like the ladies in the second-hand store) such unhappy outlooks; and of course this is a truth. Yet there remains even so – and it is recognised in statute law – that persons of age are responsible for their deeds; and these vices I have been describing are as it were crimes against the self and against good nature, civility, and a charitable outlook. Who if not oneself is able to change oneself and one’s views?
Every mental health worker will tell you they are able to advise you and support you but only you yourself can make happen that improvement in quality of life you are so desperately seeking. It can be daunting news to hear; but salutary for all that; and wholly honest and very well meant.
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