Sunday, September 2, 2012

Michael Carroll - Proof that you can win the lotto and still be a loser

In November of 2002, an English blue-collar worker by the name of Michael Carroll had what for many of us would be a dream come true: He won England's National Lottery - at the age of 19! His winnings came to £9.7 million, then (and now) worth more than $15 million in US dollars. He had worked as a dustbin man, what we'd call a garbage man or a "sanitation worker". Like any of us, he celebrated his newfound good fortune by realizing his dreams.

Unfortunately, his dreams were only to become history's most notorious lout. He declared himself "King of the Chavs" and blew through his massive fortune in record time, ending up flat broke only eight years later. To be sure, he hadn't shown much promise of being a credit to society before hitting the lucky draw.

Mr. Carroll had a troubled past, the son of blue-collar workers, whose father had ended up in prison and then dying of a heart attack when Carroll was just 10 years old, then falling under the influence of a series of abusive stepfathers. He started a career of petty crime at the age of 13. This behavior was still with him by the time of his big win. He even showed up to collect his winnings while wearing an ankle bracelet, a house arrest monitor tagged onto him by authorities for an earlier offense.

After running himself broke, he made a statement to the press explaining "I haven't got two pennies to rub together and that's the way I like it. I find it easier to live off a 42-pound dole than a million." In a living example of ironic human nature, Carroll continued to commit the same kinds of petty crimes even when he could afford to do much better. He was fined for attempting to farejump public transportation weeks after his win, was arrested for driving a £49,000 BMW without plates and insurance, and had an impressive rap sheet built up in which he seemed to show no differentiation between using his money to get into trouble or not using his money to keep himself out. By 2010, he had declared bankruptcy, citing an expensive drug habit and numerous other reckless spending.

A "Chav" appears to be a stereotype / culture predominant in the UK, which is the equivalent of "gangbanger" culture in the United States. Members sport the same "bling", tacky taste in clothing, and deliberately anti-social behavior - the equivalent of being a "hooligan". But, like many fringe cultures, what was once an insult is now "taken back" by the members as a point of pride, however self-deprecatingly.