Going Nuclear in the War on Christmas


As for that one lump of coal Scrooge allows him, it bears
emphasis that Cratchit has not been chained to his chilly desk. If he
stays there, he shows by his behavior that he prefers his present
wages-plus-comfort package to any other he has found, or supposes
himself likely to find. Actions speak louder than grumbling, and the
reader can hardly complain about what Cratchit evidently finds

This is … I know, okay? I know it’s not worth it, that it’s the Internets, whatever, dumbasses, blargle blargle flap flap flap. But look. This is an example of the aggressive missing of the point of charity that I talk all the time about, both here and in meatspace, where the emphasis is all on Bob and whether he deserves to receive Scrooge’s generosity or his penuriousness. That isn’t the point of the story. That isn’t the point of anything. I know our school systems suck these days but did no one ever teach these guys elementary reading comprehension? Or morals? Or fucking … I don’t even … a kindergartener would be ashamed to be this stupid.

The point of the story is that Scrooge could have been a good guy but was being a dick instead for no good reason. The point of the story is that Scrooge had the ability to love and connect and was closing himself off to it, and using money as an excuse to do so. The point isn’t that Bob deserved to receive his charity or even needed his charity. It was that Scrooge deserved to share his life with others and treat others decently. It wasn’t about Bob at all. Or how many kids he had. Or whether he should have just gone to look for a better job. Or any other choice he could have made. It was about Scrooge, seeing a job put in front of him, and turning away. And then, gloriously, not turning away anymore.

I get so riled up about this because I love this story, because I love Christmas, and because really the most destructive cultural tendency we have is this typical satisfied/smuggy/middle-class bullshitty position. This idea that you can excuse yourself from responsibility to others by making your responsibility about others in the first place. By making love into a bowl of sugar and pretending there’s only so much. By acting like your life is a room with limited space, and only so many are allowed in, and guarding that space selfishly. It’s about you, and about what you deserve to give, it always is. How wide you deserve to open the doors. How far you can stretch those walls to fit everyone who wants to come inside.

I’m not lecturing anybody here, I have my own ideas about what I can do and can handle, and I’d no more pass judgment on you than I’d ask for yours on me. But I am saying the story, the whole concept of generosity, isn’t about what Bob Cratchit could have done. It’s about what Scrooge could have done. Bob Cratchit barely even exists in that decision. He barely enters into it. It’s not about him at all.


11 thoughts on “Going Nuclear in the War on Christmas

  1. Nobody messes with Dickens while I have a breath left in me. You might as well say A Christmas Carol is about Scrooge’s nephew as Bob or his chirpily annoying brood.

  2. O, but see, if you don’t turn it around and make Bob Cratchit the VILLAIN of the piece, you can’t glorify the love of money for its own sake, which is the whole fracking point Dickens set out to make.
    So yes, it’s necessary for these determinedly contrarian Ayn Rand disciples to MISS the point. If they allowed anything to overcome their selfishness, it couldn’t be something as silly as logic!

  3. A, did you somehow miss “An American Carol”?
    (if you blinked, you might have indeed missed its theatrical run)
    This is intellectual fly-droppings by comparison.
    And, a Mark Levin screed. But I repeat myself.

  4. In the Media Axis of Weasels (FOX “News” [sic], WingNutDaily, NewsMocks, etc.), Bob Cratchit is just another greedy, conniving welfare queen and Ebeneezer Scrooge is a regular 19th century John Galt.

  5. Modern American conservatism seems to be working overtime to claim fiction’s villains and denounce its heroes. “Yeah, we love Darth Vader and pre-redemption Scrooge and Mr. Potter and Lex Luthor, and we hate Robin Hood and Harry Potter and Oliver Twist. Why doesn’t anyone trust us anymore?”

  6. What’s all this about Cratchit grumbling? Bob Cratchit isn’t a grumbler. His wife sure doesn’t like the way Scrooge treats him, but I don’t recall Cratchit himself ever complaining.

  7. I do hope the link is a work of satire.
    To talk as if it is a true opinion, though, the realities of Dickens’ England was that the likelihood of Crachet getting another job was rather slim. Loosing his job meant that he would probably go to debtor’s prison and his family to the poor house – where they would associate with that little pig “Oliver” who dared ask for more.
    Not to mention he was already about to start a job for his roughly 12 YO son to help support the family (child labor).
    And Tiny Tim seems to make a pretty good argument for the need for health insurance, does he not?

  8. Athenae, great post. Really. Because when you read the essay you find yourself arguing with it on its own terms. You have very simply and elegantly reframed the discussion by pointing out the basic fact–Scrooge is the hero of the story, not Bob Cratchit. But Scrooge isn’t the hero of the story because selfish, mean, miserly, Scrooge is a hero capitalist loaning money out and greasing the world’s wheels. He’s the protagonist of the story because he is the means whereby Dickens explores the way people imprison themselves, needlessly, in greed and anger when they could just as easily be loved and happy. Cratchit doesn’t guilt trip Scrooge into giving him the money–which is the biggest fear of capitalist assholes ever, which is that someone will play on their sympathies. Scrooge *envies* Cratchit his happy home. He envies him the love of his wife and children. When, in the end, Scrooge decides to become loving and giving it is not exactly because he feels merely guilty, or ashamed, that Tiny Tim has died. It is because he has envied that love and joy and he sees a chance to further it. Making Cratchit happy, saving Tiny Tim, aren’t done grudingly–they are done excitedly, lovingly, because Scrooge wants to be remembered and loved as his old boss was remembered and loved. The right wing/randian imaginary sees Cratchit, and all like him, as whining, parasitical, drains on society. Scrooge does too. But Dickens, and eventually Scrooge, realizes that Cratchit simply represents a better way to be in the world. He’s the divine in every beggar who allows us to recognize the god in ourselves.

  9. Hear hear! As for the movie, I also totally enjoyed the Bill Murray “Scrooged”…Carol Kane kills! 🙂

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