In times of financial and economic crisis people seem more susceptible to unrealistic promises of immediate wealth. Indeed, more people play the lottery, losing more money while desperately trying to get rich. Tragic.
But even when people do win the lottery, chances of a happier and more fulfilling life are not guaranteed. This becomes clear in a documentary, made by the Belgian television network RTBF (from the French speaking part of the country). Lottery winners fall in between because of myriad mimetic interplays. People dream of living the good life like the jetset. When they are finally able to imitate that kind of life, they are not at ease with the culture of the rich and famous. At the same time they often fall victim to the jealousy of their peers. It’s easier to admire those who do not belong to your own social environment than those who are close to you. It’s – as René Girard would have it – a mimetic law, which Plato already refers to in his dialogue Lysis (215d) when Socrates says:
“By a universal and infallible law the nearer any two things resemble each other, the fuller do they become of envy, strife and hatred…”
Or, as Jesus puts it in the Gospel (Mark 6:4):
“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”
I thought of these insights while watching the documentary Les millionnaires de hasard-lotto. Watch it here.
But I also thought of it when I heard one of my friends complain about the fact that Muslim girls apparently could wear a veil in a photograph for some official banking documents, while at the same time and place “ordinary Flemish girls” could not wear a headband… Well, that’s a major problem, isn’t it? Anyway, it’s true after all that the biblical story of Cain and Abel keeps on reflecting a very basic aspect of this world order…
Reading tip: Les Millionnaires de la chance. Rêve et réalité, Michel Pinçon et Monique Pinçon-Charlot.