Humbug--an Environmental Anthem
By ROBERT OLIPHANT
No doubt about it, ho, ho, ho time is time to pay some attention to our perennial Christmas antihero, Ebenezer Scrooge. When we first meet Scrooge, he certainly comes across as a respectable environmentalist, very much concerned with our planet's problems in the form of "excess
population" and strongly supportive of governmental welfare programs, especially workhouses, as an alternative to the uncertainties of private charities. More than most of us, he's highly energy-conscious,
cutting back on heating levels at home and at work. And he's quite abstemious in his personal consumption, eating low-calorie gruel for dinner and turning down his nephew's invitation to indulge in heavy Christmas-related drinking. All this is in marked contrast to Bob Cratchit's record of absenteeism on the job and self-indulgent insistence on raising a large family that includes at least one candidate for long-term medical care. Logically considered, it's the
Cratchit family who should be visited by Christmas spirits,
including one from the Sierra Club and another with slides
of baby seals and deforested hillsides. And it's the
high-consumption Cratchit family who should change their wicked ways, not low-key Scrooge. Why on Earth did Charles Dickens end his story with an orgy of personal consumption spending on Scrooge's part,
especially that grotesque Christmas goose? The answer, for Dickens and for us, can be summed up in one short sentence: "It's the economy, stupid!"
It's consumer spending that drives an economy and creates jobs. And high-luxury consumer spending drives us even more: bigger houses, more expensive automobiles,gourmet restaurants. The message of "A Christmas Carol" is that the Christmas spirit is fundamentally Christmas-spending spirit, not just a spirit of charity and goodwill.
Wherever he is, I'm sure the real Scrooge still smiles with satisfaction every time one of us says, "Bah, humbug!" over the excesses of Christmas commercialism. Just like the little child in Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes," Scrooge told the truth as he saw it. And that's why the cranky old guy still appeals to us. Robert Oliphant is author of the novel "A Piano for Mrs.
Cimino" (Prentice Hall, 1980).