"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself." ~ Michel de Montaigne
An Anarchist's Carol
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December 8, 2008
Business! 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! ~ Jacob Marley
Now, that's a powerful statement; a condemnation, a warning, and perhaps the finest morsel of common sense ever written in the English language. If you want an exquisitely, floridly, engagingly, and beautifully written plea against government and its abuses, most importantly the way that it ruins the mind and character of the individual, then read Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Finally, after months of anticipation, it is the right time for me to make this argument, as there may be no greater example of the voluntary society than the time of year that is now upon us. Halloween is right up there on my list as well, but for spreading joy and the warmth of human love, nothing beats Christmas, and Dickens knew it.
How did I jump from a simple yet poignant Christian admonition to remember your fellow man, to an arguably predictable injunction against the evils of government? Because it is obvious to me that Ebenezer Scrooge is the fictional embodiment of a soul shaped, nurtured, encouraged, and dominated by the state.
The story only hints at the nature of Scrooge's father. What it does say, that his father became, over time, "much kinder than he used to be," and what it shortly thereafter says about the master of young Ebenezer's school, leaves little doubt as to how Scrooge was treated in his early life. Here you have a paternal figure content to let someone else raise his son, and the head of an unnatural, prison-like environment at school, filled with contempt for a little boy. Given what we are learning about the importance of touch in the early lives of primates, and knowing what we know about what we have in common with them, exactly what is to become of a little boy separated from loving touch and loving care, in a society that encourages such separation and forces all to pay some portion of their earnings to support it?
From this environment, young Ebenezer is finally sprung into a far better world, that of the apprentice in a private enterprise. Here the boy is given real work, a meaningful existence where he learns one of the fundamental truths: Learning and work should be enjoyable, enriching, and aid the individual in coming into contact with the world around him. But with a backdrop like the one described above, there are bound to be emotional complications for a once-neglected youth. Is it any surprise to the reader to learn that Scrooge could not commit to the only woman he ever loved? What well-meaning government program could ever dissuade him from the path that he ultimately takes? To the contrary, government provides the excuse: taxation and the subsequent spending of this stolen money on social engineering. Charity with a sidearm.
I don't know exactly what Charles Dickens's politics were, nor do I need to. I doubt the word "anarchy" meant anything warm or appealing to him. But his sympathies often went in the same direction as mine do. I don't recall Dickens ever saying anything kindhearted about English public schools. Just look at the above example. Nor do I remember Dickens ever praising the various workhouses and prisons imposed by "Her Majesty's" government on the poor and disadvantaged (for example, Oliver Twist). A brief look at The Poor Law or The Union Workhouses will give you an example of what Scrooge refers to when he says, "I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough." If there is a God before Whom we will be made to stand at some future date (Oh boy, am I in trouble), I seriously doubt He'll be asking us, "Were you taxed sufficiently to help the widows and orphans?" But a man, deliberately separated by the state from love and affection, told by the state what social class he belongs in, then taxed to maintain that state and its complex illusions, has little reason left to give a damn. It's no surprise to me that Scrooge gives even less.
The poison environment of Old England, its rigid social hierarchy, its public schooling system imported from caste-laden India, its ridiculous monarchy, its artifice of progressive, democratic government with progressive, democratic taxation, was not an environment invented by Ebenezer Scrooge. It was invented to create types and shadows of this "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner." An England filled with Scrooges, after all, would be crime free. It would be quiet. Everyone would do their jobs. They would all pay their taxes. They would leave other people alone. They would all take part in some sort of capitalist system and at least be economically productive. They would not complain. They would even make certain Puritanical types happy by remaining relatively sexless, living in sparsely furnished homes. The ruling elite would never have to bother themselves with the rest of England .
However, as Scrooge finds out to his dismay in the course of a single night, the sacrifice to live in such a world is great. The offering he makes to the rule-makers is nothing more than Scrooge himself. He learns that his own life, as dismal and unattractive as it would be to others, for all the suffering he had to endure, is still a life of tremendous value. Priceless, in fact. And he was wasting it.
If you read the story carefully, you will see that Scrooge is not actually threatened by any of the spirits that visit him. Oftentimes, as the story is retold on stage and screen, it is made to seem that way in order to increase the dramatic tension, and thereby sell more tickets or dishwashing detergent. The alert reader, however, will see in Marley's words nothing more than a witness of a universal law to which Scrooge will have to succumb; and in the scenes shown to Scrooge by the three other spirits, nothing more than an objective look at his situation. He is made to understand what shaped him, what lies he believed about himself and about life, and a reminder (that each of us receives from time to time, whether we need it or not) that he is (and we are) going to die. There is far less peril threatened in this sort of sermonizing than edification received.
After Scrooge is compelled to introspection, and converted to life, he is made a better man who reaches out to the world not as a busybody, lobbying government and spurred to social activism, but as one man who makes a difference where he can. By becoming "a second father" to Tim Cratchit, Scrooge does more good than an island full of Eleanor Roosevelts.
The reader should also be aware that Dickens says nothing about Scrooge giving away all of his worldly wealth. To the contrary, he spends quite a lot of money, and unnecessarily so, on a prize turkey for the Cratchits, then puts on his finest clothes. He even has the audacity to accept the invitation of his nephew to his sumptuous Christmas feast. And Bob Cratchit is not expected to work less, or not at all, but with greater enjoyment and camaraderie with Scrooge as they labor together.
In summary, Ebenezer Scrooge is given the greatest lesson in life, and the greatest lesson that any anarchist can learn. Life is for living; not money, not ego, not rules, not toeing the line, and certainly not for merely getting by, emotionally or physically. When Scrooge finally allows himself to feel the pain he should have permitted himself to feel, he is ultimately liberated to feel the love he so desperately needs. This infectious Christmas spirit that he encounters both liberates and loves. England still remains in all its "imperial glory" after Scrooge has his awakening. The only difference is the darker parts no longer hold sway over his heart. Scrooge is no longer a slave of society and state. He will still be taxed. He will still bear the scars of grief over his sister, a father he never really knew, a lost love, and lost time with family and friends. The horrors of the planned society to which he was mercilessly subjected will continue in his heart, only now they will be nothing more than a gentle reminder of how he should move forward in life.
I am Ebenezer Scrooge. I am taxed. I am a victim of the state, its schools, its propaganda, its false promises. I bear scars more numerous than I care to mention. I have a feeling you are Scrooge as well. But I have been liberated by love and freedom. I only hope that you have been spiritually visited as I have, and that you understand where freedom comes from. It doesn't come from that hallowed piece of paper signed by the ruling elite of yore. It doesn't come from the gun in the hand of the soldier featured on every recruitment poster. It sure as hell doesn't come from multi-culti Obama. It comes from the simple recognition that you were born free, and you are free right now.
Whatever ideology, plan, expectation, or directive you have labored under that keeps you in the dark must be confronted, challenged, and thrown out. The society planned by the ruling elite is rapidly crumbling around us. They will do all they can to tighten the reins. You must get up now from the table they have set, and quietly, peacefully walk away. You can follow the example of Scrooge if you like. There is no better time of year to do so. If you truly know you are free, then mankind is your business. Taxes, public schools, political parties, and social engineering are but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of your business. Put on your finery, un-invite yourself from the ruling elites' holiday party, walk out the door, and into the light. Merry Christmas.
Correction on 2-Jan-2010: Jim Davies was kind enough to inform me via e-mail: "Throughout, you use the term 'public school' in the American sense - wisely, perhaps, given our main readership - but quite wrongly, in reference to