The Order of the Eternal Social Conscience, Part 3
A Ghostly Play in Five Acts
Karl Marx, of London, England
Max Weber, of Heidelberg, Germany
Emile Durkheim of Paris, France
W.E.B. DuBois of Atlanta, USA
Special Guest Appearance
Charles Dickens of London
As Narrated to Jerri Bedwell of California, USA
If These Shadows Persist… (The Ghost of Christmas Present)
“Before we begin again, Charles, Mr. Dickens, sir. I have long admired your work,” said Marx. “You really tell is like it was. Might we ask you how you are able to tell the world, with such clarity, the conditions of the Victorian Age?”
“Well,” says Charles, (Dickens) “I was not always the man you see before you. I was, for a time, much resembled to many of the poor wretches I have written about. My life began pleasantly enough. I lived in a fine home with my family, but gradually I began to notice things diminishing from our possession. My father had no head for money, and by the time I was twelve, my schoolboy days were seemingly over. My family was sent to debtors’ prison and I was sent to a blackening factory. My stay in the factory wasn’t very long, a matter of months really, but in coming from where I had come from, and being educated to some degree, the treatment I received was mind-altering. Perhaps the thing that touched my spirit and gave me this deep melancholy that I seem to be prone to is that while I was at factory, my family had received an inheritance and was released from prison. Yet, I was forced to remain a prisoner of the slums for longer than necessary. I did return to school, and as we can see, things turned out fine. I know of love scorned, as my first love was denied me because of my position. I believe it was all in the interest of fate. Someone needed to know both sides of the coin and lend a sympathetic voice to the voiceless.”
The Order extends a round of applause.
“Thank you so much for sharing your story. I believe we are now at my favorite part of your tale,” says Marx. “When we meet Tiny Tim.
“Ah yes, it is time for Christmas Present,” says Dickens. He continues, and we along with the Order fly into Christmas morning where we watch the abundance of conspicuous consumption of the populace. No one is sad if haven’t a huge feast. All we meet are happy to be included in the festivities. We meet Tiny Tim, who is described thusly:
“Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame.” (Dickens, A Christmas Carol)
If one is paying attention, one might see a tear forming in the eyes of the fathers, Marx, Durkheim, and Du Bois. The child touches Du Bois most tenderly and he speaks out, “Have I mentioned my son to you all?” asks Du Bois of the Order.
They respectfully say, “Tell us about him, William (Du Bois).”
Du Bois says, “If the shadows were different, perhaps he would have lived to be a man. While my son was not crippled like Tim, social conditions are what led to his passing.” He continued:
“Ten days he lay there, — a swift week and three endless days, wasting, wasting away. Cheerily the mother nursed him the first days, and laughed into the little eyes that smiled again. Tenderly then she hovered around him, till the smile fled away and Fear crouched beside the little bed.
Then the day ended not, and night was a dreamless terror, and joy and sleep slipped away. I hear now that Voice at midnight called me from dull and dreamless trance, — crying, ‘The Shadow of Death! The Shadow of Death!’ Out into the starlight I crept, to rouse the gray physician.” (Du Bois, p. 132)
“Oh William (Du Bois), I’m sorry for your loss,” said Marx. “If only he had been able to receive treatment, he might have lived. But I understand. I lost four of my own children before they could become adults.”
“I cannot even bear to think about it,” said Durkheim. (Durkheim lost his son in the First World War Durkheim was politically active and seems to have suffered greatly after this loss)
“I did not wish to bring us down,” said Du Bois. “This is such a wonderful story. Scrooge is learning, the Ghosts are teaching him…”
“Yes,” says Marx. “Now if someone would show Mr. Cratchit the light!”
“How so?” the group asks.
“Well,” replied Marx, “Recall that after dinner, if you could call the small goose that they had ‘dinner,’ the family is all drinking good cheer and Cratchit cries out,
“Mr. Scrooge!” said Bob; “I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!”
“The Founder of the Feast indeed!” cried Mrs. Cratchit, reddening. “I wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he’d have a good appetite for it.”
“My dear,” said Bob, “the children. Christmas Day.”
“It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,” said she, “on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr. Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow.”
“My dear,” was Bob’s mild answer, “Christmas Day.”
“I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’s,” said Mrs. Cratchit, “not for his. Long life to him. A merry Christmas and a happy new year! — he’ll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!” (Dickens)
“What has this man become?” continued Marx. “On the one hand, his spirit is sound and still his own. He has not given it all to Scrooge. He and his family have next to nothing and yet he finds great joy.” Marx went on:
“The less you are, the more you have; the less you express your own life, the greater is your alienated life.” (Marx, p. 96)
“Yet he finds the capacity for charity for Scrooge even as his family cringes, knowing Scrooge is slowly strangling him. Bob is just happy to have a job,” concluded Marx.
“It is striking to note also,” replies Weber, “How happy Scrooge’s nephew is, and even he is aware of Scrooge’s underlying unhappiness when he says,”
“His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it. He don’t make himself comfortable with it. He hasn’t the satisfaction of thinking — ha, ha, ha! — that he is ever going to benefit us with it.” (Dickens)
“His nephew observes,” continues Weber:
“He ‘has nothing’ from his wealth for himself personally, except that irrational sense of having ‘fulfilled his vocation’. (Weber, p. 32)
“Well stay with me good fellows”, says Dickens, “You may know how the story ends, but our companions may not.”
To be continued, Y’all come back next week, you hear!
Tony Waters is czar and editor of Ethnography.com. He came to us from the Sociology department at California State University at Chico where he has been a professor since 1996. In 2016 though he suddenly found himself with a new gig at Payap University in northern Thailand where he is on the faculty of the Peace Studies Department. He has also been a guest professor in Germany, and Tanzania. In the past, his main interests have been international development and refugees in Thailand, Tanzania, and California. This reflects a former career in the Peace Corps (Thailand), and refugee camps (Thailand and Tanzania). His books include: Crime and Immigrant Youth (1999), Bureaucratizing the Good Samaritan (2001), The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: Life Beneath of the Marketplace (2007), When Killing is a Crime (2007), and Schooling, Bureaucracy, and Childhood: Bureaucratizing the Child (2012). His hobby is trying to learn strange languages–and the mistakes that that implies. Tony is a prolific academic, you can read more of his work at academia.edu.or purchase one (or more!) of his books from Amazon.com.