Have you seen it yet this year? For what would the Christmas season be without the yearly airing of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol?
Channel surfing last week, I came across one of my favorite productions of this age-old story, with George C. Scott in the role of Scrooge. And although I've watched the film many times, each time I see it I am once again transported back to Victorian England and experience, with almost childlike wonder, this archetypal story of redemption and transformation.
Written in 1843, the story still stands up, nearly 170 years later. In fact, it could have been written today, what with all the shenanigans going on at the highest levels of politics, government and Wall Street.
Dickens originally wrote this tale to call attention to the social injustices suffered by the many who were driven into poverty during the Industrial Revolution while those who prospered thought their only social responsibilities were limited to paying taxes. He wanted to highlight the moral obligation of society to provide for the poor, with the character of Scrooge embodying the selfishness and indifference of the upper class of that era. Sound strangely familiar?
Today we have the 99 percent, the Occupy movement, in the role of the downtrodden, played by Bob Cratchit and family, and the 1 percent in the role of the rich and indifferent, played by Ebenezer Scrooge.
It wouldn't be difficult to attach contemporary names and faces to the characters in this story, there are plenty of candidates. How about Elizabeth Warren as Marley's ghost and Donald Trump as Scrooge? Or Michael Moore as Tiny Tim and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker as Scrooge? Or how about Senator Bernie Sanders as the ghost of Christmas future and Congressman Paul Ryan as Scrooge? Oh, the choices are endless; pick your favorites.
Some things never change, or so it seems. Here we are almost 170 years down the road from Dickens' tale and we're still facing similar conditions, albeit with a few new bells and whistles, i.e., social safety nets, thrown in. But it's the erosion of those safety nets that is at issue here.
As in Dickens' time, for the most part, today's 1 percent fail to see a need to be concerned about the plight of the 99 percent. There is an almost total disconnect between these two very different factions of our society. Almost, but not completely, for there are a few among the one percent who readily admit their willingness to be taxed at a higher rate for they see that when the world's economy is unstable, their own plight is also threatened.
Ironically, no matter how much or how little money one has, we all share the same fate. We all call Earth our home. What happens to our planet happens to all of us. Earthquakes and tsunamis don't discriminate.
Today's A Christmas Carol story indeed is being played out on a global scale. The whole world is going through a painful contraction, largely at the hands of the global Scrooges who got greedy and played the system to ruins. It's going to take a long time to rebuild a new system, and the $64,000 question is: What kind of system will we build, given what's already happened? Will it be more of the same or will we make a turn in the road and choose to travel a different path?
All over the world, Tiny Tim is standing up and speaking up and saying, "No more!" That outcry has given birth to the Arab Spring, the revolutions in Egypt and Libya, and the voter revolt and recall elections in Wisconsin and Ohio. All of which has set the stage for the global occupy movement we see on the rise today.
However you feel about this movement, whether you agree or disagree with its politics or its tactics, there is no question that this is a grassroots movement, organized from within, and it is growing. The occupy movement has become the voice of the 99 percent. It is demanding that a new kind of system be created, one that reflects their values, one that is based on justice and equality, as guaranteed by the Constitution.
And that's the point. The story of A Christmas Carol is about what greed can do to the human soul and prices we all pay as a result. The greed that motivated Dickens' tale still permeates the collective consciousness today.
Are we forever doomed to continue down this path? Is there any hope for mankind to see the light and make a shift? Where can we look to find these answers?
The Ghost of Christmas Past
What does the Ghost of Christmas Past have to teach us about who we've become?
That since the beginning of recorded history, humanity has been driven by fear, and that fearful people forget how to love?
That a fearful people will erect walls and build weapons with which to defend themselves from a world of perceived threats?
That a nation's priorities become distorted and it loses its soul when money and power are used to keep people separate and alienated from each other and the world?
The Ghost of Christmas Present
What does the Ghost of Christmas Present have to teach us?
That the hour is late?
That humanity's misguided choices of the past have brought us to the threshold of the sixth mass extinction and that today we're faced with a choice about what kind of planet we wish to pass on to those who follow?
That living in fear has produced the darkness in which we find ourselves today and that the only way out is to wake up and choose another way now, before it's too late?
The Ghost of Christmas Future
What about the Ghost of Christmas Future? What does it have to teach us?
That if we don't consider the difficult questions and make the difficult choices today, our great grandchildren will be living out the consequences of our collective cowardice?
What if each of us, in our own way, is playing out the qualities of Scrooge? Think of how that might be true for you. How are you miserly with the love and attention you give to yourself and to others? It's not that difficult to see how our collective fear produces the conditions of indifference that generate the kind of disparities we see in the world today.
What does our indifference cost us, today and in the future?
The truth is, we're all of it. We're Tiny Tim and we're Scrooge. We're past, present and future, all happening now. We need to wake up. Now. We need to be the ones who insure that our ancestors seven generations from now inherit a clean and just world. And that on our watch, we didn't shrink from the responsibilities we were called to fulfill.
Lest you think my portrayal of the world is overly dark and without hope, let me assure you that I believe just the opposite. I have never had more hope for humanity than I do today. Why? Because the young generation -- who calls themselves "Generation We," also known as the "Millennials," born between the mid-70s and the early 2000s -- have already woken up. They are the future. If you want to hear about what they believe, check out this fabulous video. It will give you hope.
Let the three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future be a warning and an invitation to wake up, grow up and buck up. There is a ray of light in the darkness. Let us all be stewards of that light for we've got work to do! We've got Love to do.
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