Don’t be hating on Scrooge. There might have been some green blood flowing through that iniquitous heart of steel.
True, Ebenezer was a clueless curmudgeon, hardened by celibacy and tortured by a dysfunctional relationship with money. An abusive boss and cynical social recluse, he shunned the caroler’s tin cup and community connection, holing up in his work space and bed chamber, destined to die unloved and alone.
In short, he acted like an ass – an ass with some weird-ass dreams. That’s what you get for eating kidney pie before bed, you old meanie. Any good EcoSalon vegetarian could have told you that.
But in revisiting the new 3-D animated Disney remake of A Christmas Carol with my 10-year-old daughter, Lauren, I detected traces of green in Scrooge’s social gaffes. Once we got past the unnecessary harshness of the production, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring the agile Jim Carrey, I found a new appreciation for Scrooge’s commendable frugality.
He boasted a spare old house with no central heating and a vintage wardrobe. He steadfastly refused to associate personal happiness with material accumulation. Anyone who subscribes to Ad Busters (including my husband, Edwin) applauds these traits.
It is no coincidence the book, America’s Cheapest Family, is becoming a favorite read as the nation’s recession drags on. We yearn to learn how to be tight wads, too, and not to part so easily with our hard-earned cash.
True, Scrooge also withheld giving emotionally, but it can be challenging giving of one’s soul when its casing has been neglected for decades. A dearth of sex can make us stingy. I’d share my thoughts about this with you, but first I need some sex.
In terms of his anti-social life, I can’t say I blame him for rejecting his nephew’s festive fetes which encouraged insensitive guests to join a rousing guessing game of Charades at someone else’s expense.
There are no excuses for how the boss man treated Tiny Tim’s nice dad, Bob Cratchit, forcing him to work long hours and holidays at a poor wage, except for the fact I see this all the time in the American workforce as over-worked retail cashiers and migrant workers suffer at the hands of the profit-hungry corporate machine.
Perhaps the best argument that Scrooge was not just mean, but also rather green, was his strict no gift policy, a trend that is catching on as a rising number of celebrants choose to pass on amassing more junk they simply don’t need.
Some, like my friend’s 8-year-old son, Samuel, need more prompting than others. His mom, Susanne, convinced him to throw an “eco birthday party” last week (below) with paperless invites, no presents and a fun craft project of constructing a solar car. In the end, she says, he got the message that sustaining is better than receiving.
Other friends of mine turning 30 or 40 or 50 are happily forgoing gifts and stating so on invitations with notations that say stuff like, “No presents: Your presence is all we need.” There was a funny Curb Your Enthusiasm addressing the issue at a party for an injured Ben Stiller, who was peeved when Larry David took him at his word and nixed the gift. At least old Scrooge withheld with conviction.
Who decided honoring one another requires spending money on new things? Here is a cashmere sweater and a diamond heart pendant to say you are special. Here is an electric razor, a Snuggie, an iPod, to make sure you know.
If you don’t agree Scrooge was a tad green, you might concede that the moral of the Dickens tale qualifies: Giving is a state of mind.
Giving from the heart, not the pocketbook, is the true message of Christmas – the message articulated by Christ and Buddha and other teachers who demonstrated how to be a kinder, gentler, carbon mass.
When Ebenezer turned the corner that fateful Christmas morning and became decidedly present, his new-found sense of positive Karmic energy was the gift that touched his community, even more than the massive goose he bought for the Cratchits or the cash donation he pledged to the needy. A re-birth is always something to celebrate, whether you’re talking about an old dog like Scrooge or the beloved planet.
This is the latest installment in Luanne Bradley’s column, Life in the Green Lane.
Images: Disney, Luanne Bradley, HBO