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Thursday, 13 October 2011 08:24

Tall Poppy Syndrome

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There’s something seriously wrong when you can’t even be happy for other people.

Nothing cheers me up like a good scratchcard win.

It doesn’t even have to be mine. I just like reading about them. They always seem to be such great stories; battlers from country towns working hard to pay the mortgage, mothers of five children, sweet couples who haven’t had a holiday in about fifteen years. One day they get given a free scratchcard by their kid for Christmas and – bang! A quick scratch and they win a ridiculous amount of moolah.

What I do find perplexing, though, are the comments underneath the articles and press releases begrudging the winners their scratchcard millions. Why is it that a good story must inevitably be followed by catty comments about silly spending, faithlessness, general unhappiness that is certain to visit the happy couple? Why can’t we be happy for others?

They call it the tall poppy syndrome; an unattractive social phenomenon in which people who have made good are resented, attacked and criticised in an effort to bring them down from a point of elevation. In plain language, it’s jealousy – it drives people to cut down others, hope for the worst, and resent people for winning free scratchcard money.

Tall poppies, though, are necessary to the healthy functioning of any society. I was on an online scratchcard blog the other day and read some comments spitefully labelling the winners as ‘ladder-climbing aspirationals’ and I was confused, because when did aspiration become a negative word? When did taking a step on the ladder of opportunity become something for which you ought to be reviled? Where would we be without something to aspire to?

I’ll leave you with this thought: the people wishing ill on those whom good fortune has found may not have the cash – but they’re poor in spirit, which is infinitely sadder.