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In Defense of Scrooge December 18, 2009

Posted by Beth in Miscellaneous Musings.
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Many delight in Dickens’ tale of the conversion of the “greedy, heartless, capitalist”  Scrooge into a kind, and lighthearted philanthropist. Here is a different take on the story:

It is my purpose, in making this holiday defense of my client, to present to you a different interpretation of the story, that you will see the villainy not in my client’s character, but in Charles Dickens’s miscasting of the true heroes of the time of which he wrote, namely, the industrialists and financiers who created that most liberating epoch in human history: the Industrial Revolution…

On the basis of emotionally riddled allegations, coupled with pure economic ignorance, we have been asked to find Mr. Scrooge “guilty” of the most ill-defined wrongdoings…

The case against Ebeneezer Scrooge is nothing more than a well-orchestrated, vicious conspiracy to extort from my client as much of his money as can be acquired through terror, threats of his death, and other appeals to fear…

[P]ay particular attention to the utter contradiction underlying Dickens’s case: my client is charged with being a greedy, money-hungry scoundrel, and yet it is the conspirators against him who want nothing more than his money! Scrooge — unlike his antagonists — earned his money in the marketplace by satisfying the demands of customers and clients who continue to do business with him, and did not, as far as we are told, resort to terror or threats of death to get it…

Scrooge certainly is not a man to emulate. His obsession with money as a goal in-and-of-itself arises from a misplaced, empty materialism.  But the antidote is not the rejection of material goods and the physical well-being they make possible, but rather to embrace them as the means to the greater end: a life of happiness and fulfillment in all realms possible, material, physical and spiritual.

Let us rejoice this holiday for all aspects of good fortune, and for the loved ones who magnify our enjoyment.

Lest there be any readers who need reminding of the virtues of this period, let me quote from that eminent English historian, T.S. Ashton, who wrote of the impoverished conditions of England and other nations prior to the Industrial Revolution. As he expressed it, “The central problem of the age was how to feed and clothe and employ generations of children outnumbering by far those of any earlier time.” England, he went on, “was delivered, not by her rulers, but by those who, seeking no doubt their own narrow ends, had the wit and resources to devise new instruments of production and new methods of administering industry. There are today on the plains of India and China men and women, plague-ridden and hungry, living lives little better, to outward appearance, than those of the cattle that toil with them by day and share their places of sleep by night. Such Asiatic standards, and such unmechanized horrors, are the lot of those who increase their numbers without passing through an industrial revolution.”

(Quotes from “The case for Ebeneezer” by Butler Shaffer.)

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