77 million lottery win - one more example of the "insanities of normality "
Date: Tuesday, 2 August 05

Dear Editor,

That anyone can "win" 1 million (which is more than an average Englishman or woman will earn in a whole lifetime) is ridiculous; that someone, as reported in yesterday's Guardian ("Limerick lottery winner goes to ground") can "win" 77 million, defies description.

In a world in which it is possible and quite legal to make (or win) vast sums of money (equivalent to many lifetimes of work by normal, hardworking citizens) at a stroke or in a short space of time, is it any wonder that our children (like us before them) grow up with such individually and socially unhealthy, and ecologically quite unsustainable, values and aspirations? But which, because of their "normality ", instead of being seen as the insanities they really are, are considered to be - well, "normal ".

A society in which someone can win 1 million, let alone 77 million (or be given an average person's lifetime earnings as an annual salary or bonus) is a society that is inherently unjust and inhumane, as well as being fundamentally unsustainable.

Surely, in our bones, most of us know that. Yet we assume that there is nothing we can do about it, except perhaps by influencing public opinion and lobbying the government to increase taxes on the wealthy and do more for the poor.

Society has always been unjust and inhumane, yet we have survived. So there is no great urgency on that front. Where there is urgency, however, is in achieving sustainability. Because if we don't do it, a ruthless mother nature will do it for us (she is already warming up for the task with a bit of global warming). At the moment, far from being on target to achieve this - for human survival absolutely vital - goal, we are still struggling to/not to face up to the magnitude and urgency of the problem.

It is no good waiting for the government to take action. If we wish (our children) to survive, we will have to make radical changes to many of the values, attitudes and aspirations (rooted largely in our "more animal than human " nature) that underlie our economy and way of life. For example, we don't just need a "minimum wage", but a "maximum wage" as well.

"Impossible", you say. "Impossible to impose", I agree.

But those of us who recognise where our enlightened self-interests lie can agree to it, and much more besides. We, in the West, have the freedom and the means to create, within the existing order, an alternative socio-economic order based on values, attitudes and aspirations rooted in our more enlightened human nature. As it grows we can transfer more and more of our activities and dependences to it from the existing, non-sustainable socio-economic order we depend on at the moment.

You can learn more about it from my homepage at