El conocimiento os hará libres y las fronteras os harán gilipollas.

domingo, 5 de enero de 2014


      A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is one of the most well known tales of all times, especially in this time of the year, and maybe one of the best well written in English literature. It's not only a typical tale about Christmas, it's a strong call for empathy in the Victorian society, not as far away from our times as we could think at first glance. The way that Dickens expresses this is well known for everybody who has read the tale once: the haunting of three spirits into the house of Mr. Scrooge, the greedy and shrewd old man whose only thoughts are related to business and profit. It's the story of a transformation of mind and soul. It happens at Christmas but could be adapted to any season. Unfortunately, our concerns for mankind seem to appear strongly in these remarkable dates.
      At the beginning of the story, when Mr. Scrooge received the visit from Maley's spirit, his old business partner, he's moved by fear. Of course, his first reaction is that he doesn't believe in anything that appears around him. For sure it must be a creation of his own imagination. But fear is stronger than rational skepticism, and after  Maley's threats and mournings, he went back to bed really scared and terrified. Fear of eternal punishment is the starting point of a soul in a process of transformation. But this is not the end. If we read the whole tale, we don't think that in the last pages of the story Mr. Scrooge is moved only by fear. 
     What happens in between? This is the real magic of the whole tale. The feeling of empathy appears so strongly that Mr. Scrooge became a new man, "as good a friend, as good a master, as good a man as the old city knew". The first spirit stirs up his old memories, bringing him back to his childhood as a lonely and isolated boy, obligated to stay alone in the boarding school on Christmas day. And here Dickens is able to change the reader's view of Mr.Scrooge. The feeling of empathy begins with our own vision of Scrooge. Who would be able to judge an old man who has suffered such a sad childhood? In fact we start to think that Mr. Scrooge is not only a bad man because of his own will. His path on life was traced by others, starting with his own father. The second spirit allows Mr. Scrooge to obseve the life of others (he can see but not be seen): his nephew, his employee and the spirit of the whole city. We can swap intentions, look though the eyes of the others, wonder at lives much different that ours. Finally, the third spirit, dark and silent as the grim reaper, shows Scrooge the consecuences of his acts. Not only his dark fate, when Mr. Scrooge can stare his own grave, but the fates of others, such as the little disabled child Tiny Tim, who will be dead for then. 
     It's true that Dickens tale has no political intention (although there are references to the politics of his day, like the terrible Poor law) but its ethical impact is quite remarkable. I have the feeling that this tale could move more hearts than the formal explanation of Kant's categorical imperative, too abstract, too philosophical for the readers of all ages (however, both of them moves in the same direction, the importance of empathy to recognize our ethical duties). I agree with Richard Rorty when he wrote that literature is much more effective than philosophy in order to encourage the people to act or do something. 
     Nowadays everyone has his own particular Scrooge. When we decide to close our eyes, when we decide not to listen to the demands of our brothers, we are acting as Mr. Scrooge. Humbug, he used to answer every time he was asked about Christmas, charity or love. I wish our politicians, the financial world and most of us had a similar experience to Mr. Scrooge. Unfortunately, nobody neither believes in magic nor in Christmas spirits anymore, and fairy tales are only told to children and more of the time, adults don't pay much atention. "Humbug", they think.    

(Thanks to Sara for the text correction). 

4 comentarios:

  1. Hi there, Sir Tiburtius!

    I think I saw a small misprint: "At the beginning of the story, when Mr. Maley received the visit of Maley's spirit", when I guess you were likely to say "Mr. Scrooge" instead, weren't you?

    Bonus: meanwhile at Intereconomy headquarters...

  2. Completely right. I have to correct it all again.

  3. About the article. I'm not sure if we have read the same book. Start to think that journalism is the art of taking words out of context and rewrite an original paper, demanding later praise and respect. Bullshit.