The Wisdom of Scrooge at Christmas

Rachel Melikian

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Dear Editor,

Here at GCC, we’re preparing for finals, and afterward Christmas will be welcoming us. How we plan or choose to welcome and cheer this jolly season of 12 Days of Christmas will bear its fruits in our lives just like Scrooge. We start welcoming Thanksgiving and then rushing headlong into Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It seems like we’ve been so full of delicious, abundant food, receiving and giving so much of gratitude, that the holidays have become a chore of “proving” our love and appreciation by focusing on material things, adding stress from too much work, acquisitiveness and superficiality. All result in losing the meaning of the traditional Christmas. Never realizing our past and present attitude will haunt us just the way it haunted Scrooge.

What is “holiday spirit” really?: finding it in the bottle of whiskey or “shopping till we drop” to help corporate profit? What we’re doing is trying to satisfy our own greed and inner emptiness throughout the year, which is entangled with our own selfishness. It is so wonderful to watch the movie or read “A Christmas Carol” and reflect on the wisdom of Scrooge: which lies in recognizing what “The Good” and virtue is. By ridding our heavy chains that we guard and nurture with our own free will of want, desire, and ignorance, and turning around while it’s not too late. Scrooge reflects on us as individuals, that is shop till we drop death in our case, and Scrooge’s case is to make money till he drops to the ground.

We tend not to like Scrooge and associate him with greed without posing the philosophical question as to why. “A virtuous man cannot hate another virtuous man.” That’s the problem with hating him. As a matter of fact, Scrooge became truly enlightened when he embraced the spirit of Christmas.

It’s very convenient for us to say that there is no objective good and morality; it’s all relative. Scrooge believes in his heart that he isn’t a bad person and not to be surprising, he supports prisons and workhouse causes. Ironically, in our world of morality, this miser could even be considered a virtuous and a good businessman. Isn’t it the case where we all subscribe as Scrooge does to “The Virtue of Selfishness”? While brushing off everything “None of my business,” especially when it comes to charity, mercy, forgiveness, forbearance and benevolence, concluding these are not the only factors we dwell on. Consider this: Ebenezer Scrooge is an entrepreneur, a self-made man, who works in the financial sector. He is disgusted by the commercialism of Christmas, but he sees the holiday as only being about material things. He hates poor people and believes that they are deserving of their fate. You can imagine the justification: they don’t work hard enough, they’re stupid, they have too many children, and they spend money foolishly. In other words, you wouldn’t have to look any further than countrywide, or some other financial institution’s board room to find a Scrooge.

Logical justification never makes vices right. “Hide our ignorance as we will, an evening of wine soon reveals it.” Achieving academic and career success and earning a good reputation and respect amongst ones self, does not make us a good and virtuous person, nor does it guarantee our happiness. “It is virtuous activities that determine our happiness and the opposite kind that produce the opposite effect.” We are shown how Scrooge is the biggest testimony of Aristotle’s quote.

In philosophical terms, Scrooge could be categorized as a wicked and vicious person, since he shows no concept of what virtue is, either intellectually or emotionally, definitely lacks empathy, has no understanding of the value of love, and is just driven with his insatiable lust for money. This selfishness closed the door for others to serve him in love and bring him happiness something he could careless, which is the byproduct of his miserliness and loneliness. Likewise, the only thing matters to us is our wants, feelings and desires without considering others pains and needs just as Scrooge is ignored, demanding special treatments and happiness. Likewise, demanding Scrooge’s generosity. However, Kant says, “You should be worthy of happiness.” Therefore, Scrooge shows us an example of how happiness was implied or carried through by money and getting. This reflects our own concept of happiness too.

“. Who has no need of it because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god.”[3] Such is the case of Scrooge, never wanting to give and receive back its gifts, a complete independent person, never complaining about his loneliness, and thinks himself to be happy and self sufficient, because he is unable to see his chains of ignorant and want, even after the ghost of seven years dead, Marley pointed him.

Socrates believes that we do bad things because we don’t know what is bad or that it will hurt us. Such is the story of Scrooge, and famously declaring “The unexamined life is not worth living.” This isn’t meant to be morbid, just an honest appraisal of your life and how you choose to live by. Scrooge is the prime example of helping us understand the meaning of the two definitions of philosophy “Contemplation of death and becoming similar to God as far as it is humanly possible.”

This becomes possible with the help of three Christmas Spirits by making him to examine his past, present, and future lives. Thus, he becomes a different person, knowing instantly what “The Good” and virtue is – something he had no comprehension of, before his awakening. This newly acquired value helps him achieve a much deeper spiritual awakening where he truly empathizes and sees humanity in himself and in others, and starts treating them with kindness, generosity and compassion, thus bringing forth new understanding and openness to life, love, and happiness, where he truly enjoyed appreciation of gratitude by giving and receiving.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs and how you prefer celebrating the holidays, Scrooge’s example is a wake-up call. Many philosophers and writers besides Charles Dickens have foretold and warned us of the evil and consequences of selfishness, vices, ignorance, wants, and greed. “A Christmas Carol” bears its similarity with the chains of ignorance in Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave, yet we choose guarding and nurturing those chains with our own free will in spite of all counsels and believing Scrooge character is strange to us. Now, Scrooge will exclaim “Bah! Humbug!” to your chains. Remember what Heraclitus said: “Character is destiny.” And our happiness depends on it. Scrooge is a year older, richer or not, yet wiser. Happy Holidays. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, tra la lala, la la, la la

– Rachel Melikian, Former GCC Woman of the Year