The Ebenezer Scrooge factor

Well, the Yuletide season is upon us again. It is now 26 days to the Solstice (as of 30 November 2010), at least, a few thousand years ago, the Solstice and its accompanying Saturnalia festivities as it would have been celebrated at this time.

I put on a movie to watch with my mother today, “A Christmas Carol,” with Patrick Stewart. He did a truly brilliant job of being that mean SOB Ebenezer Scrooge. A guy who faced a series of nightmares, inclusive of ghosts, over night on Christmas Eve, and woke up the next day a reformed man. Remarkable, huh? And it is this movie that I wish to discuss as to its more political underpinnings.  What Ebenezer Scrooge, a man of business meant to Charles Dickens was that of a highly immoral type who operated on pure greed.  So, greedy, so stingy in fact; that he probably ate worse than the poorest of people.  Profit mattered more than keeping a good table for himself.  Maybe he can be “praised” for not being some kind of glutton.  That he did not flaunt his wealth.  But neither did he consider those worse off than himself.  In an age in which certain factions would relegate the “common good” to some kind of “socialism” or “communism,” do recall that “A Christmas Carol” was written back in Victorian England.  That would have been in the 19th century.  And “socialism” or “communism” would have been a far left political view that was as yet in its political infancy.  Charles Dickens as some kind of fantasy writer “liberal” or reformer.  You could say that.  He wrote against exploiters like Scrooge.  Men who cared more for material wealth than they did for their fellow man.

Let’s put it bluntly, that if Charles Dickens lived today and read letters to the editors in say the Spokesman-Review or the Coeur d’Alene Press where the authors deem it despicable that anyone who is “among the poor” could demand something from government and “pick their pockets” in the process; he would be listening to “Ebenezer Scrooge” coming to life.  That they have a “duty” as far as such authors are concerned, to “demand nothing” from government and instead on their own initiative, operating by way of personal responsibility, try to get by without help from anyone.  Certainly help that should not come from the “Scrooges” having no desire to un-pocket [by way of taxes] for the less fortunate.  They don’t desire to be “burdened” after all by the less fortunate.

Not that they wish to discuss how the rest of us un-pocket (by way of the same means—taxes) for themselves and those who are even far more better off.  And the least likely to need “federal help.”  In so many ways, Mr. Dicken’s message behind “The Christmas Carol” would have been lost on people such as this.

They claim to be Ayn Randians, as decades earlier, they were regarded as “social Darwinists.”  Only the fittest would survive.  Or they battened onto yet another fantasy fiction writer, the Horatio Algers argument, where the truly successful guy did manage to pull himself up by the bootstraps.  That is, if you ignore the fact that even in those Horatio Algers books, the rags to riches dude met up with all the right people.  People who were more than happy to help along the way that promising young man.  Something that people who hold today’s version of “conservative” tends to forget while taking credit for a life lived, experiences achieved that was as much a product of what other people did to help that individual in question as much as what that person did for himself.  After all, Ebenezer Scrooge might never have left that school in his young years if his father hadn’t rethought his initial hostility toward his own son.  Nor would he have been set on the path of success if Fizziwig hadn’t put him in the position of clerk.  But the “Scrooges” of today forget the help they got from others as they claim to have done it all on their own.  And therefore, they don’t need to help others.  Just as Scrooge had done, until the ghost of Christmas Past reminded him that his life wasn’t “hard” all the time and that truly he was the product of his own choices.  Ebenezer Scrooge had plenty of help!  He still turned his back on his fellow man in the name of “a golden idol.”

What was particularly funny at the beginning of the movie, was Patrick Stewart as Scrooge informing his clerk, Bob Cratchitt that basically he was making Cratchitt’s life as miserable as possible and yet, Cratchitt still believed in Christmas.  What does that tell you?  That if you were poor, so Scrooge informed his clerk and nephew, Fred; who were you to even enjoy the holiday [to Cratchitt] where his (Scrooge’s) pockets could be picked for a day of no work.  Uh yeah, 15s per week.  Which would have come down to probably 6 days, probably 10 hour days, probably a couple of shillings at most for a “day of no work.”  Which Scrooge regarded as “not fair.”  He was actually making a great deal more than that!  He could have easily afforded that two shillings for a day of no work.

When Scrooge was re-introduced to his memories of “Christmas at the Fizziwigs.”  Where the Ghost of Christmas Past reminded Scrooge that 3 or 4 pounds bought the Yuletide feast and other entertainment.  On 3 or 4 pounds, people could truly enjoy themselves.  Which begs the question of a couple of letters published in the Spokesman-Review Sunday, 27 November 2010, where the “Scrooges” writing their hostile letters about the very idea that the undeserving should be able to “pick their pockets” who had obviously “not earned it” (profiting on the idleness of others). Or what one author said he was prepared to sacrifice in certain comforts to bring his family up to honor God, family and country; whether his “sacrifices” would actually have included sitting near a fireplace eating gruel heated over a fire.  Or in a much older movie, refuse to eat more bread as long as it was going to “cost him.” Whether in their case that 3 or 4 pounds (in taxes) that might just help others enjoy themselves would be regarded as outrageous. And as long as (one author) “sacrificed” his comforts, he didn’t see a need to “sacrifice” for others.  Uh excuse me, but Mr. Dickens would have seen such an argument as severely immoral.  And a reason to write against it. Scrooge to the ghost, “Fizziwig had the power to make us happy or sad. Our burden heavy or light.” Well, we all have such a power.

So as the ghost of Jacob Marley was prepared to tell old Scrooge, “Mankind is my business!”  Yes, and there is nothing “conservative” about being a Scrooge.

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12 Responses to “The Ebenezer Scrooge factor”

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