The Order of the Eternal Social Conscience, Part 4
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
…Strictly in a business point of view… (A Christmas Carol)
This perhaps the most haunting part of our tale when Scrooge, who by now we have come to sympathize with, learns what a mess he has made of his life and what his impact on others has been. He learns that those businessmen he tried to seem so upright for, barely acknowledged his passing.
“He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of aye business: very wealthy, and of great importance. He had made a point always of standing well in their esteem: in a business point of view, that is; strictly in a business point of view.
“How are you?” said one.
“How are you?” returned the other.
“Well!” said the first. “Old Scratch has got his own at last, hey.”
“So I am told,” returned the second. “Cold, isn’t it.”
“Seasonable for Christmas time. You’re not a skater, I suppose?”
“No. No. Something else to think of. Good morning.”
Not another word. That was their meeting, their conversation, and their parting.” (Dickens)
“The lessons, of having wasted his life and misused his power and influence are starting to set in” observes Weber:
“This answer is indeed the single actual motivation, and it immediately renders obvious the irrationality, from the point of view of one’s personal happiness, of this way of organizing life: people live for their business rather then the reverse. (Weber, The Spirit of Capitalism, p. 31)
“The man is seeing the error of his ways,” ends Weber.
Dickens goes on to describe how those that take the most intimate care of Scrooge, upon learning of his death, take all that they can to sell, all the while gossiping and passing judgment on him. Scrooge still does not quite realize at this point — or perhaps doesn’t want to realize — that he is witnessing his own possible future. As he is confronted with his own shrouded corpse, you feel sorry for the grouchy old man and yet horrified when he asks the specter of the future:
“If there is any person in the town, who feels emotion caused by this man’s death,” said Scrooge quite agonised, “Ahow that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you.” (Dickens)
What does he receive as an answer to his request? He is taken to a family, who is able to take comfort in his death because they know whoever becomes their new creditor is likely to be kinder then Scrooge was. Scrooge learns of Tiny Tim’s death, and still he cannot accept his own passing until he is face to face with his grave. Then in a plea for his soul and his life, his sacred and profane selves, his desire to shed his evil misdeeds and make right to society he calls out:
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!” (Dickens)
We must leave this place
The thinkers postulate over whether or not one must face death for redemption, or if it is possible simply to learn from ones mistakes. They acknowledge that in Dickens’ tale, the transformation was complete for Ebenezer. They wish society and politicians and moguls could all undergo such transformations. The conversation continues as we begin to fade. We know that change is possible and that all is seldom lost. We know that Tim and Scrooge live long and happy lives and we feel blessed, every one of us. We have now become members of the Order, with our minds and hearts filled with knowledge. We must leave this parlor and make our own transformations happen.
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.