The Generous Miser

Scrooge’s greatness is hardly ever appreciated. In fact, I’ve never heard anyone appreciate Scrooge, ever. Of course we all appreciate him after he’s been scared straight, so to speak. I’m talking about appreciating him before that, when he’s bah humbugging things.

I don’t mean appreciate him according to some generic standard which holds that everyone ought to be appreciated for some reason or other. I mean appreciating Scrooge for calling bullshit.

Granted, he probably did keep the office a bit too cold. Remember, though, that we meet Scrooge when he’s taken his miserliness as far as it can go. It’s easy to imagine that he was just doing it wrong the whole time, rather than doing it right, right up until the point that he had to make a change. In a nutshell: It’s only because he was a miser for so long that he was able to be generous once he’d seen the light.

But I’m thinking of Scrooge in 2021, watching the political news, saying fuck this bullshit. I’m taking him as my patron saint.

Started to happen a few years ago, when I had the troubling thought that the more people believed in anything the more likely that it wasn’t true. I’m not talking about things like gravity. I’m talking about political narratives.

Yes, real events happen, or at least sort of happen. The unreality principally lies in how they get turned into stories, with little language loops devised by the opinion makers and spread across the Networks, till events are entirely replaced with stories that bear a kind of tortured resemblance to them.

It’s not easy to do Scrooge well, though. Scrooge could have been every bit the bitter asshole and been poor, so that when he called out into that Christmas morning for an urchin to go get a goose for the Cratchits, the urchins would have looked at him blankly rather than run off to do his bidding. Scrooge aimed his miserliness at the way his world really worked.

I mean that as an analogy, a metaphor. It’s not enough to be bitterly dismissive. To be Scrooge properly in 2021 regarding the news, you have to be building up some sort of interpretive wealth, so that when the time comes you can order the urchins around for the benefit of Tiny Tim.

The Cratchits are going to need help.

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