Saturday, May 26, 2018
Opinion

Blumner: Read 'A Christmas Carol'

Soon after Charles Dickens finished A Christmas Carol, a work he produced in a whirlwind six weeks in 1843, he wrote to his actor friend William Macready who was touring America at the time: "I have sent you … a little book I published on the 17th of December, and which has been a most prodigious success — the greatest, I think, I have ever achieved."

Little could Dickens imagine the success his holiday morality tale would enjoy more than a century and a half later or how Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit would so insinuate themselves into the cultural meme of Christmas as to become essential ingredients.

Here is my advice: Don't rely on the many movie and television adaptations of the Dickens classic, as delightful as they are. Read the slim book instead. Only by savoring the words can Dickens the master wordsmith and social commentator be fully enjoyed.

Dickens' story was a warning to those who have much. He was rudely aware of the plight of London's poor. His father famously landed in debtor's prison, and at age 12 Dickens was forced to work at a boot-blacking factory, where he soon realized that the poor were not indolent, as he'd been taught, but good people held down by circumstances and exploitation.

Dickens' tale is as much about the evils of economic and social inequality as it is about Scrooge's personal redemption. Bob Cratchit is the poor, hard-working clerk who shivers in Scrooge's freezing counting house while his employer gets rich off his labors. With a few tweaks it could be a lament of America's corporate greed and the plight of today's poverty-wage workers.

To whet your mistletoe, here are some passages that are sure to bring a pang of conscience to the season of cheer.

Bob Cratchit's working conditions:

"Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed."

Warnings from the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's former business partner:

" 'But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,' faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

" 'Business!' cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. 'Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!' "

The Ghost of Christmas Present critiques those who claim to speak for the spiritual world:

" 'There are some upon this earth of yours,' returned the Spirit, 'who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.' "

The Ghost of Christmas Present describes the wretched children that are man's bitter legacy:

" 'This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased …

'Have they no refuge or resource?' cried Scrooge. 'Are there no prisons?' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses?' "

Dickens' work was an instant classic not just because it was a ripping good yarn, though that it was. A Christmas Carol was a call to us all to open our eyes to the economic injustices of our age, a timeless message that is never out of season.

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18