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Rebirth of Reason

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Monday, December 24, 2007 - 6:28pmSanction this postReply
Merry Newtonmas, to you!
(See "Banter")

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Post 1

Tuesday, December 25, 2007 - 1:38pmSanction this postReply
Thanks for a really interesting essay, Eric. I read a gorgeous illustrated version almost every year around this time, and I heard it just today on audio book. I love it. I don't think the tale promotes self sacrifice, so here's my little argument:
At one point during the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Present, the nephew of Scrooge corrects his wife (or is it sister?), telling her that Scrooge isn't a bad person because he is rich and lamenting that Scrooge doesn't use his riches to make himself "comfortable." Earlier in the story, the nephew also makes sure to tell Scrooge that he doesn't want anything from him except his company.
In the end, it's not altruism that washes over Scrooge, but a realization of the value of those around him, including the nephew and the clerk in his office, in his life. Then he rationally chooses to better include them in his life and thank them for their worth.
(And they all lived happily ever after.)

Post 2

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 - 12:21pmSanction this postReply
I appreciate the compliment from a fellow fan of the story.  I think you make a good argument in support of it.  Due to Rand's admonition to beware of a mixture of food and poison, I assumed that many who consider themselves Objectivists would dismiss this story because of its mixture of benevolence and altruism. 

Scrooge begins the story by rejecting the pleas of philanthropists, insisting that he has no obligation to help the needy.  When Scrooge says that he just wants to mind his own business, the ghost of Jacob Marley tells him that "mankind is your business."  The Ghost of Christmas Present shows him people living in poverty, recalling Scrooge's own words to instill a sense of guilt in him for never having seriously considered their needs.  And after the transformation, the new-and-improved Scrooge gives, among other things, a hefty sum to the philanthropists who he'd formerly shunned.

I think some could claim that Dickens is advocating a moral obligation to be altruistic.  But like you, I think the merits in A Christmas Carol outweigh those claims, especially to a reader who makes the proper distinctions. 

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Post 3

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 - 1:36pmSanction this postReply
I've always wanted to see a sequel to "A Christmas Carol" that takes place five years later:

Chapter One
Scrooge, having depleted his vast fortune on presents for the community, on the Cratchitt family's medical needs, on philathropic charities, and having brought his money-lending establishment to the brink of penury by forgiving his debtors, faces another Christmas heavily in debt. He goes to one customer of his, Mr. Leach, asking for the twenty pounds he is owed. Mr. Leach offers Scrooge a Merry Christmas and an excuse. Scrooge (too full of Christmas spirit to make an issue of it) leaves empty handed. All of Scrooge's customers do this as they know he is so soft hearted.

Returning to the office briefly, He sees to his own ledgers because Bob Cratchitt is taking an extended winter holiday in the Crimea, where he visits Tiny Tim who, despite years of expensive medical treatment, is no closer to being cured (in actuality, Tiny Tim has been well for several years now but his 'condition' has proved so lucrative for the Cratchitts that they keep Scrooge from learning this truth- in fact, one of Tim's sisters has learned how to fake a very convincing tubercular cough.)

On this grey Christmas Eve, Scrooge returns home to his tiny rented flat (he gave away his big manor house with the brass door knocker- it is now a home for subnormal children). He steps over the piles of Christmas bills from toymakers, butchers, wine merchants, grocers; he sidesteps the demands for money from philanthropic organizations of all stripes (he is now on the mailing lists of twenty); he pretends not to see the past due notices and 'accounts in arrears' statements. His landlady, Mrs. Slattern accosts him in the hall. He is now twenty-four days late with December rent. He begs her forgiveness, telling her that the spirit of the season quite carried him away this year, and that he finds himself temporarily short of funds. Her answer is an eviction notice.

Scrooge drudges up the stairs, leaning on his walking stick. Does no one else have the holiday spirit but him? He carries Christmas in his heart 365 days a year! He gives presents to the orphans of Injah and the destitute of Dublin, to the hungry of Hungary and the needy of Niger. Mankind should be our business! As he turns his key in the lock, a flicker of a smile crosses Scrooge's face as he ponders his landlady's fate: In Hell, she shall have a ponderous chain indeed! The pleasure is short lived, as he discovers that his key no longer works- she has changed the locks.

Scrooge is homeless. His possessions strewn around the vestibule.

As he gathers his things, Scrooge's spirits lift when he realizes that one package was left for him by someone other than his landlady: A brightly-wrapped gift with a big red bow sits at the top of the stair!  Ah! His nephew, at least, has remembered the purpose of the season. The card says "To My Dearest Uncle". Scrooge tucks it under his arm and, gathering his things, marches down the stairs, out the door- into the brilliant cold air of Christmas Eve.

He wanders from place to place, but has no money for lodgings. He considers sleeping at the office, but it is too far to walk and his limp is now worse than Tiny Tim's ever was. He spreads his coat on the ground beneath a bridge. With trembling, stiff fingers he unwraps his gift. The bow slips to the side, the bright paper falls away. Looking down at the object in his hand, Scrooge is silent; A full minute passes, then the air under the bridge splits with the venom of his exclamation:


Scrooge sleeps.

As the clock strikes one, the air shimmers, the motes coalesce, and a colorful figure appears: a magical sprite with candy cane stripes, holly in her hair and the rosy blush of elfin cheeks. Before she can finish saying "I am the Ghost of Christmas Past", she is bludgeoned roughly across the temple and her body falls with a splash into the Thames.

On this Christmas Eve, it is a wiser Ebenezer Scrooge who stands panting upon the riverbank, clutching his weapon of choice-his nephew's gift- a bloody fruitcake.


(Edited by Richard Gleaves on 12/27, 5:04am)

(Edited by Richard Gleaves on 12/27, 8:26am)

Post 4

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 - 1:58pmSanction this postReply
You might enjoy this article on the economic benefits of "Scroogeness".

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