Scrooge -- The True Meaning of Xmas?
December 8, 2003 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Scrooge was onto something. "'At this festive season of the year, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.' Oh? And they don't suffer in January or February? They don't feel hungry in July and August? Why should it not be just as 'desirable' to help out these wretches in those months? Why not go further, in fact? Why not make some 'slight provision' for the poor and destitute every single day of the year?"
posted by ed (12 comments total)
 
Why not make some 'slight provision' for the poor and destitute every single day of the year?"
Because it is a day most "all" receive a gift. Nothing like being left out in the cold to ruin a holiday/celebration.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:39 AM on December 8, 2003


Then there's Scrooge's notorious response to the "portly gentlemen" who come around soliciting for the poor at Christmas. "Are there no prisons?" [...] Right on, Levin said. "He is right to be unmoved, for society's provisions for the poor must be, well, Dickensian," Levin wrote.

Um. Let's not forget the rest of Scrooge's response:

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

Somehow I just don't see death as a "right on" answer to the plight of society's less fortunate.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:40 AM on December 8, 2003


Add is some religions/faiths, Christmas is everyday.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:43 AM on December 8, 2003


The ideal is, of course, to be conscious of needs around you or otherwise within your circle of concern and to do something about it continuously according to your means. The reality is that human beings tend to have trouble focusing on many things all the time, so the best reminder for those who haven't developed the virtue of charity as a habit is an appointed time. Not to mention the fact that those with more limited means may not be able to always devote time/resources towards meeting others needs freely -- and so a planned appointed time can be a solution to that.

It's not all that different from the principle of a sabbath. It's great if you've achieved the zen-like state of meditation and understanding all the time, but most of us folks need a day of rest to do it in.

Economics is interesting and useful, but loses ability to guide people well when it's suddenly seen as a pandemic philosophy. Dickens hit Keynes right on before Keynes did with a Christmas Carol -- if, "in the long run, we're all dead," you'd better start thinking about where value lies at a deeper level than cash value, a concept whose only (tenuous) link to neoclassical economics seems to be the concept of "utility." A term which, I might add, seems to say it all.
posted by weston at 9:01 AM on December 8, 2003


Why not make some 'slight provision' for the poor and destitute every single day of the year?"

I do. What do you think I pay 40% income tax for.
posted by jon_kill at 9:11 AM on December 8, 2003


I do. What do you think I pay 40% income tax for.

To pay 87 Billion for a war in Iraq.

To pay civil servants their salaries so they can push about papers.

To pay to 'oppress terrorism' - that way the people who have large, expensive buildings and large expensive planes won't have them taken away from them.

Your taxes pay to keep the rich rich. Duh.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:07 AM on December 8, 2003


Your taxes pay to keep the rich rich. Duh.
rough ashlar sure jon_kill is from the same region of the world Dickens was from, not the US our taxes are not that high maybe 27% but not 40%.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:52 PM on December 8, 2003


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To pay civil servants their salaries so they can push about papers.
---

Because, of course, no country needs paper-pushing civil servants...
posted by digiboy at 1:05 PM on December 8, 2003


Nah, rough, I'm from Canada.
posted by jon_kill at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2003


They don't feel hungry in July and August?

If enough people are charitable during the holiday season, it will be enough for the whole year 'round. Why would money given to a charity in December be necessarily spent then? Are you saying there is something more beneficial about dividing your charitable contributions into 12, 52, or 365 installments so that you might give "every single day of the year"?
posted by 4easypayments at 2:12 PM on December 8, 2003


Bah! Humbug!
posted by HTuttle at 2:15 PM on December 8, 2003


An important factor in assessing Scrooge's generosity is Tiny Tim's medical condition. Although the illness is never specified, Dickens implies that Tiny Tim had a fatal disease, but that the wages Scrooge paid Bob Cratchit heavily influenced whether Tiny Tim would live or die. A consensus among doctors who have tried to "diagnose" Tiny Tim argue that he probably had some form of rickets related to a vitamin D deficiency (because London industrial smog blocked out all the sun) or due to renal tubular acidosis, in which acid in the blood eats away at bone tissue. Both a vitamin D deficiency and renal tubular acidosis were curable at the time Dickens was writing, so the idea is certainly plausible that what Scrooge paid Cratchit determined whether Tiny Tim lived or died.
posted by jonp72 at 4:04 PM on December 8, 2003


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