This season I am always reminded Charles Dickens' classic tale A Christmas Carol. Within the character Scrooge we find bitterness, avarice, cruelty...but also a notion that in those hearts that harbor those tendencies and qualities we may yet find another: Hope.
And yet...in rereading it again this year to my boys, we found another portion of this story that is overlooked too often. I hear many of my fellow liberals quoting the famous lines of Scrooge to the men seeking a charitable donation at the beginning of the story:
"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.
"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.
"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"
"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."
"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.
"Both very busy, sir."
"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."
"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"
"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.
"You wish to be anonymous?"
"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."
"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that."
And why not use this cruel, hateful attitude to the modern day thugs and one percenters that would just as soon forget that there is even such a thing as "the least among us."
But there is another part of this story I would have you read, and consider, this Holiday season. Follow me over the fold, good kossacks, and we'll have another personal storytellers chat...
When Jacob Marley first appears before Scrooge, rattling his chains and recounting his horrific experience in purgatory, Scrooge begins a subtle attempt to avenge Marley of his sins--and himself in the bargain:
"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
In other words: you always made money, you always made good in business. I close my eyes, imagining this frame of mind, and I can't help but see a suited criminal billionaire, reconciling mutual crimes with an equally filthy rich pal:
"Hey, we did what we hadda do, Jake! It was just good business!"
This is when Dickens (in the form of Marley) destroy the one-percent:
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"
It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.
"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said "I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!"
I live my life based upon the principal that mankind and not some mythical greed-ridden bottom line is my business.
My business is family.
My business is humanity.
My business is finding suffering in my community, and doing what little I can to aid in the effort to relieve it.
GOP? Scrooge, slime-ridden scum that you are?
Otherwise you might find the chains more heavy than you can bear.
NOTE I have been very sick lately and have been getting better day by day. I am recently doing better than I have in many months. I have been reading, trying to keep up with Personal Storytellers, and enjoying you guys kicking the shit out of this laughable crop of republican candidates. Here's to you, to a wonderful Holiday--yeah I said holiday O'Reilly you brainless lunatic--and to a successful 2012