Marley was dead: to begin with…

“Marley was dead: to begin with.  There is no doubt whatever about that.  The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner.  Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.  Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” That’s how the story starts.   It was published in 1843 but the parallels to today are amazing.

Economists that are not sponsored by the administration tell us that there is over 20% of America out of work and the prospects of finding that illusive job becoming worse; the parallels with 19th century England are unavoidable.  There were few very wealthy and a multitude of those in poverty.  Charles Dickens wrote several novels exposing and commenting on the ills of a declining Empire at war from within.  Unfortunately the most of the readers of his day did not see the issues for what they were and how Dickens attempted to expose the problem.  Are we really seeing the situation for what it is?  Are we seeing truthfully seeing the results of our negligence and complacency?

I think is best part of this novella is the dream tails about Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit.  We are or should be familiar with this novel and its three ghosts of Christmas; a dead partner and his ghostly return and warning to repent; and of course there is Tiny Tim who without the proper funding and care will expire.  Scrooge is forced to face his past, present, and future through these three visitors.

As I watched the 1938 versions of the classic video recently I was struck by the modern parallels to this story.  Here we are in what was the Greatest Country in the world; not unlike England in the mid 19th century and her declining empire, waiting for the government to once again fund the unemployed and save the economy; while all the time the real financial power resides in the Federal Reserve and Banking in general; power in the hands of a few.  Like the story we are all waiting for salvation from someone else.  As this story unfolds it becomes apparent that the salvation that Scrooge requires comes from within.  Each of the three ghosts shows him a different era in his life; first the past, then the present, and then the future; this is forced introspection here in this story, but it presents us with an opportunity to look within as well.  As Scrooge relives these periods of his life he begins to see the error in his way and at last he is faced with the reality or his choices and his inevitable end.

We look to our government for our salvation through the enactment and fostering of laws that will support us through this difficult time in our lives.  We look to the government to give us the means of common necessaries and warmth.  We look to them for our welfare; but their goal is not really salvation, its subservience and control.  Have we ever considered the ultimate price for these actions and laws?  Are we truly aware of the cost of these programs?

Cratchit like all of us working folk toils for an unfeeling and overbearing master that demands total dedication to the job and absolute concentration in its execution.  Underpaid, over worked, and certainly unappreciated, Cratchit goes about his daily routine in the Scrooge and Marley counting house.  How similar we are to Cratchit.  Fewer jobs mean more competition for those available positions and it also provides a lever for the masters’ use.  This lever is held close by with the reminder that there are others out there more competent and willing to take less to perform the same functions.  Our performance today is equal to that of the staff that is no longer employed.  The same output or production levels with many fewer people and the constant threat of replacement at the masters’ whim.

Living under this specter shakes a man’s or woman’s confidence and puts you into the most suspicious frame of mind.  Instead of doing your job you spend most of your time trying to keep your job.  Instead of creating a product you are looking over your shoulder. You’re not watching for the boss; you’re watching out for your co-worker with the knife ready to stab you in the back to keep his or her job.  We have become as ruthless and cruel as Scrooge; “As hard as steel and sharp as a flint.”

It’s no wonder we deficit finance trips to the mall to purchase things with no money.  We spend the mortgage or rent on making ourselves feel better through the gifts we give.  Rather than looking to the future and putting something away for that inevitable rainy day, we play the grasshopper to the ant.

Tiny Tim is only part of this story.  You can draw several parallels to Tim but I think the most effective and least obvious is our economy.  We are allowing ourselves to be drawn into the abyss of debt for nothing more than a promise of a better tomorrow; but who will make this better tomorrow?  Will it be our Government or will it be us?  What will be the ultimate price of this program?

At the end of the story Scrooge repents seeing the error of his ways.  “He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”  It is a fitting ending to the story giving us hope and a glimpse of salvation.  We have the same opportunity to redeem ourselves and our world, but I fear that precious few of us have the strength or resolve to make this most difficult decision.  Instead of looking to the administration to tell us the direction we need to seize the controls and drive away from the cliff toward flat and fertile ground.

The lesson in this and other Dickens novels is that societal change is possible, but it takes discipline and effort to change the direction of an entire country.  As with every major change or journey it takes the first step.  Our first step needs to be to reorganize our neighborhoods into communities that support each other.  We need to reorganize our businesses into cooperative efforts that support each other and work more toward synergies not competition.

There are simple actions that we can all take to make the lives of those near us much better and more comfortable.  Like the two gentlemen collecting for the poor we should be looking to our neighbors and friends to provide some means of cheer and abundance in this festive time.  What does it take to call someone that’s having a difficult time to let them know you are thinking of them?  How much more does it cost to pick up an extra bag of vegetables or package of meat for that friend that just lost their job?  Charity starts at home and in your immediate and extended family.  Instead of lavish gifts this year agree with your family and friends to spend that money helping someone that needs a hand.  If you have no family or close friends in need, call the local shelter and ask for a family that might enjoy a good meal. 

What would it profit a man that gains the world and loses his soul?