5. Christmas, 2011

It is important for writers to read, which I do. I read plays. I read poetry. I read non-fiction. However, I rarely read fiction. I find fiction a big, sprawling form of storytelling. Plays are not sprawling, at least mine aren't. Plays are necessarily more cohesive, at least if you want an audience to be able to follow along. For the holiday season, I decided to read a piece of fiction I know very well, though I'd never read it: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. A big fan of theatre, Dickens gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve, a selfless act. The day after I posted my two previous essays, shopping's "Black Friday," I heard a story about a woman shopping, who attacked other shoppers with pepper-spray so she could get to a product first.

"'You fear the world too much,' she answered gently. 'All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?'" (A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings. Ed. Michael Slater. 65). Scrooge's one true human love says this. It was an interesting choice Dickens made, as he didn't identify her when she was speaking to Scrooge. It was three pages later in the next scene when her husband brings her to life by giving us her name, Belle.

Scrooge hoards his money. Multi-National Corporations and the top 1% are hoarding money. This woman with the pepper-spray too is greed to the core. So are all shoppers who are willing to do anything to get a product for the cheapest price--no matter who is hurt, no matter who is exploited. These exceptionally inexpensive products people are fighting over were not made by people earning a living wage--how could they be. Many of these products were made halfway around the world and transported here. The transportation alone is likely half of the purchase price. The inhumanity of indentured servitude, of virtual slavery, of actual slave labor is not possible unless consumers make it possible. Consumers, it could be argued, are the real slavers. "I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?"

originally posted December 2011
reposted March 2018

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