One of my favorite Christmas pas-times is looking through my television content guide and finding a scheduled airing of “A Christmas Carol” and tuning in to watch.
I don’t know how many iterations of this movie classic have been made, but I’ve viewed multiple versions made from the 1930s to the recent past. It seems like each generation produces a film with a modern twist designed to keep the message of the movie fresh for new viewers.
Among recurring literary classics that are currently aired, I find that this story and its original message maintain a relevance that doesn’t diminish with age.
For clarification, it’s NOT a scary story written for one of the most joyous holidays of the year, and it’s much more than the simple story of the renewal and redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Its message is, in fact, a social commentary by the author, Charles Dickens, that provides a critical analysis of the social order of Victorian England. In it, I find the parallels with contemporary United States to be uncanny.
Critical of status quo
Written in 1843, approximately six years into the reign of Queen Victoria, the author, Dickens, was extremely critical of the established social order of Great Britain. Observers suggest that during that period, people were either financially secure or poor – with little room in between.
Describing conditions with the use of the contemporary term “income inequality” would not be incorrect. Poor families suffered and, as is always the case with the vulnerable, the children of poor families suffered most.
Like modern public housing, workhouses were established to house those who couldn’t independently afford living space. Men and women were physically separated to prevent “breeding.” The physical separation of children from their parents contributed to the dissolution of the nuclear family unit. Debtors’ prisons were common to the times and required inmates to work off the cost of their debt AND the expense of their imprisonment.
Dickens was greatly disturbed that those least capable of correcting these social ills – the poor and uneducated – were given that task.
Prisons the answer
Scrooge symbolized the greed, avarice and indifference of the wealthy class to the masses. He famously offered these solutions to the problems of the times: “Are there no prisons?” and “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
That same Scrooge-like indifference seems to be baked into the Republican psyche. They have illustrated this with their unsuccessful, hysterical efforts to “repeal Obamacare,” remove millions of Americans from the only healthcare insurance they’ve ever known, and throw the remaining masses back into a commercialized, profit-driven system run by insurance companies.
Approved by only 29 percent of Americans, their recently-passed tax scam offers questionable temporary tax relief to the masses of earners, while giving major corporations permanent relief. Under this plan, the top tax rate for corporate income will be lower than the top tax rate for ‘labor’ income. Although the standard taxpayer deductions are increased, deduction for state, local and property taxes have been capped at $10,000.
Time will reveal the full implications of this scam, but from where I stand, I now see Ebenezer Scrooge incarnate!
Time for renewal
This article will probably be my last that you will read in 2017. I’m always mindful of this as a period of renewal and of a coming-together of humanity. I urge all who read this to remember that the differences that divide us are far fewer than the commonalities that could unite us, if we give them a chance.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.