In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a scruffy miser named Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three Christmas ghosts who show him the high cost he pays among his fellow man for leading such a cruel and parsimonious life.
(At least that is the meaning gleaned from the movies. Trying to read the book is an exercise in futility. Dickens wrote it in 1843, in dialectal nineteenth century slang. That would be like, a hundred years from now, someone picking up The Life and Times of Chris Rock and trying to understand a word of it. He will be reading his holo-book thinking, “what is a black-ass ho?” the same way I open up Dickens and go “what the hell is a bootjack?”)
In the end, Scrooge learns his lesson. He gives Bob Cratchit a raise. And he becomes “a second father” to Tiny Tim (who incidentally does not die), and “as good a friend, as good a master and as good a man as the good old city ever knew.”
Now, we will skip over the part where it’s 1843 and no matter how rich and generous Ebenezer Scrooge may be, they are still about a hundred and fifty years away from the modern medicine that can make a lick of difference to Tiny Tim’s long-term health. No amount of extra heat or better nutrition is going to save the kid who needs titanium prosthetics and a kidney transplant. Can you buy Tiny Tim a time-travelling phone booth, Mr. Scrooge? No? Then you are useless.
Instead of Tiny Tim, let’s focus on the real plot hole in this classic tale. Ebenezer Scrooge is a rich man, with a large surplus of financial means. He’s loaded. I mean, this man has gold coins pouring out of his eyeballs. How did he become rich? According to Dickens, he gained his capital by being a “shrewd moneylender.”
But the Christmas ghosts demand that Scrooge learn to be kind and charitable toward his fellow man. Ebenezer reacts to this lesson by waking up Christmas morning and going out into the streets of London giving his mattress funds to anyone who’ll take them. He’s rich – so he should spend that money as charity for others.
Eventually, that pile of money is going to run out. To give more charity he’s going to have to make more money. And to make more money, he’s going to have to be that “shrewd moneylender” everyone hates so much.
The reality about the finance business is that, in order to be a successful financier, Ebenezer has to be a villain. Because when a borrower comes to Scrooge’s office asking to skate on his mortgage payment, it is literally impossible for Scrooge to let this guy go without losing money.
To be kind, as the Christmas ghosts require, would be to let the guy go in his time of hardship. But keep letting guys like this skate by and not only is Scrooge going to be out serious funds himself, but how is he going to be able to pay kindly Bob Cratchit? What will happen to Tiny Tim then?
Scrooge has been put into an impossible position. If he doesn’t become a man of kindness and charity, he will spend eternity dragging unbearably heavy chains he forged in life. But he can’t be charitable without continuing to make a living…which he does by relentlessly taking other people’s money.
Of course, that is just a guess, because I don’t know what the hell “the blithest in his ears,” “a dig in the waistcoat” or “another coal-scuttle” means.