Searching for the Ghosts of Occupy in “A Christmas Carol”

by: Danielle Wordelman

Christmas is a time of tradition.  Whether it’s trimming the perfect tree or spiking the egg nog, people adhere to some ritual to get in the Christmas spirit (or digest it, as it seems). These traditions are wonderful and quaint and I respect them, much how I respect people who celebrate Hanukkah or Yule or nothing at all in December.

In the tradition of the radical circles I run with, I’m going to deconstruct the stereotypes around Christmas using the framework established in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; using a post-modern paradigm I will prove that time is cyclical in a sense that the major tension in the plot hinges on the struggle between the wealthy and the poor, which will be fully explicated as a metaphor relating to the Occupy movement.[1] We’re going to Occupy Currier and Ives[2]

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published in similar economic conditions to which we are in right now; however, our government is not establishing anything resembling the New Poor Laws of England in the 1840s which were aspirational, if ineffective.  Without being too esoteric, the Poor Laws were a rudimentary welfare system designed with a cosmic flaw: it kept those utilizing the system in a perpetual state of unemployment, or rather quick employment promptly followed by unemployment. Most of these people worked in a treadwheel, which is basically a water wheel made out of humans to power factories. And you thought the machine was just a metaphor for trapping and consuming people, rather, it’s just your Congress, signing away your rights.

You don’t need to be a literature scholar to realize that in this self-referential version of A Christmas Carol that Ebenezer Scrooge is the embodiment of 1%. He is “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” or as I like to think of him, “a shareholder with lucrative dividends and a vacation home in some neo-colonialist country.” [3] He desecrates the memory of his business partner, Jacob Marley, oppresses his clerk, Bob Cratchit, whose meager income barely supports the needy family while subjugating the poor to licking his privileged bootee before “privilege” entered the discourse on social justice or ethics.

Similarly, Dickens wrote about the three ghosts which haunt Scrooge on Christmas Eve before the “specter of communism haunting Europe” in 1848.[4] In this metaphor, Scrooge is obviously Europe in all of its imperialistic, consumerist, tyrannical tendencies which translates into a lonely existence and miserable death. The ghosts represent anyone who actively fights against kyriarchy and anyone who experiences disenfranchisement due to capitalism. Whether or not they are communist is up for discussion and beside the point because there was no other vocabulary for any kind of marginally leftist politics. I do mean that literally, you either supported the monarchy or were a pre-Raphaelite in Victorian England with the odd exception of revolutionary thinkers every so often.

The first ghost to visit Mr. Scrooge, as you remember, was Marley but after him the Ghost of Christmas Past. This ghost appears to Scrooge as a pearly white, genderless being, who uses the third person singular pronoun “it” to refer to itself.

In contemporary times, the ghost would use first person plural pronouns and probably carry a glitter stick instead of a candle stick or albino parrot. The Ghost of Occupys Past, as I now dub ze, would still reveal previous struggles of the queer community in culture at large and would consider such past events and discourses such as the It Gets Better Campaign, and the AIDS epidemic, among other notable events and issues which I am sure you are familiar. The Ghost would convince Scrooge that he and the systems of power in place are corrupt and have been for some time and will continue to be so until there is a shift in power dynamics and understanding.

However, the Ghost of Occupy Present, the second phantom, would discuss contemporary events like the Occupy movement to our Ebenezer.  This ghost would highlight the importance of making things accessible to everyone, or in a more complex turn of phrase, eradicating privilege. This includes talking about how cutting public funding to those who lack access to resources in Chicago destroys our communities and our history but also how we must develop solidarity with other communities if we want to create a world full of peace and “good will towards men” and women and gender non-conforming individuals. The Ghost of Occupy Present would, like Dickens’ character, carry an empty scabbard with the phrase “we’re all glittering together” emblazoned on its sheath as a symbol of our beautiful presence.

The Ghost of Occupy Yet to Come would probably show Ebenezer how eager the 99% is to dig his grave straight to hell in an anti-climatic ceremony for his earlier sins. There would be a peace circle afterwards to unpack our feelings of accomplishment and community followed by a potluck, please note which dishes are vegan and gluten free.

At this, I say Happy December to In Our Words family.  As our fabulous editors say: “Stay superstars!”[5]


[1] Fun fact: A Christmas Carol was the first popular publication to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” as the Victorian Period experienced a “renaissance” (if you will) with the word “merry” originally used in Medieval England. Speaking of traditions and things you do during December.

[2] Not only does it sound like a fancypants investment agency, they’re actually 19th century American printmakers. Bear with me on the anatopism.

[3] His occupation is never stated but rather Dickens implies that he does something disdainful with money. He’s probably a banker or something equally vile and corrupt.

[4]Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto. I saved you the Google search.

[5] I tried to put “everyone” into that allusion.

Danielle Wordelman is a third-year dilettante studying books written by dead people and paintings of (mostly) naked women. You can usually find her on her gold bike when she is not at the Wolfram Manor Collective. When she is not at home or at school, she visits craft stores and dreams about her life as an old woman where no one will criticize her for being crotchety, crocheting or tumbling.

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