E. Scrooge, CEO of Scrooge & Marley, LLC with his ne’er-do-well nephew Fred.
Jim Lacy, at National Review On-Line, has a spirited defense of one of the first of the 1%-ers.
I contend that Scrooge, before he became “enlightened,” was already doing more to help his fellow man than any of the other main characters we meet in A Christmas Carol. Moreover, by giving away a substantial portion of his accumulated fortune, he drastically reduced his ability to do even more good in the world.
Scrooge was a “man of business” and evidently a shrewd and successful one. Although Dickens fails to tell us exactly what line of business Scrooge is in, a typical 19th-century “man of business” could be expected to involve himself in many endeavors — what investment advisers today refer to as diversifying one’s risk. One can infer from A Christmas Carol that Scrooge was a financier, who lent money to both businesses and individuals. He also spent long hours at the Exchange, probably speculating on commodities, buying and selling government debt, and purchasing and selling shares in various joint stock companies.
We can also infer some things about Scrooge that Dickens does not tell us directly. He left boarding school early, supposedly because his father had a change of heart toward him and wanted him home. A lack of finances may also have had something to do with it, as Scrooge’s formal education ended early and he was apprenticed as a low-level clerk to a tradesman — Mr. Fezziwig. From this low start, Scrooge exhibited a relentless drive that eventually made him rich. Along the way, his business had to survive the Napoleonic Wars, adapt to the Industrial Revolution, and fight its way through several severe economic depressions. In fact, in the year A Christmas Carol was written (1843), Britain was just coming out of a five-year economic slowdown in which only the most nimble and carefully managed enterprises survived. During Scrooge’s business life, upwards of 100 businesses failed for every one that succeeded. Scrooge must have been a very good businessman indeed.
There is no hint that, as Scrooge went about making his fortune, he was ever tainted with any scandal. He appears to be a well-respected, if not overly liked, member of the Exchange. This speaks well for his probity and recommends him as man with a reputation for fair and honest dealing with other businessmen. He probably drove a hard bargain, but that is the nature of business, and his firm’s survival as a going concern depended on it. As Scrooge is trying to keep his doors open in the midst of a great economic downturn, one should not be surprised that he is cutting firm expenses by reducing coal usage. Still, he is not being overly stingy by paying his clerk, Bob Cratchit, 15 shillings a week. According to British Historical Statistics, 15 shillings a week was about the average for a clerk at the time, and nearly double what a general laborer earned. While Cratchit may have to skimp to make ends meet, he is paid enough to own a house and provide for a rather large family. Cratchit is not rich, but by the standards of the time he is doing well. Besides, given the hard economic times, he is lucky to have any job at all. If Scrooge had not been careful with his money, his firm would have folded, and then where would Cratchit be? We may of course also infer something about Cratchit that goes unstated in Dickens’s work. His inability over perhaps two decades to advance himself or secure a better position with a more benevolent boss betrays a singular lack of ambition on his part.
“The Dark Knight” (2008) was widely taken as heavily freighted with political metaphors sympathetic to the perspective of the political right.
Andrew Bolt was one of several commentators explaining that Batman was really a metaphor for George W. Bush.
[D]irector Christopher Nolan had to disguise it a little, so journalists wouldn’t freak and the film’s more fashionable stars wouldn’t walk.
So he hides Bush in a cape. He even sticks a mask on him, with pointy ears for some reason.
Sure, when the terrified citizens of Gotham City scream for Bush to come save them, Nolan has them shine a great W in the night sky, but he blurs it so it looks more like a bird.
Or a bat, perhaps.
And he has them call their hero not Mr Bush, of course, or even “Mr President”, but . . . Batman.
And what do you know.
Bush may be one of the most despised presidents in American history, but this movie of his struggle is now smashing all box-office records. ...
Critics weep, audiences swoon – and suddenly the world sees Bush’s agonising dilemma and sympathises with what it had been taught so long to despise.
Well, “taught” isn’t actually the exact word.
As this superb Batman retelling, The Dark Knight, makes clear, its subject is a weakness that runs instinctively through us – to hate a hero who, in saving us, exposes our fears, prods our weaknesses, calls from us more than we want to give, or can.
And how we resent a hero who must shake our world in order to save it, or brings alive that maxim of George Orwell that so implicates us in our preening piety: “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
And the next year, an anonymous segment of the public signaled its agreement as Photoshopped posters depicting Barack Obama as the film’s villain The Joker, bearing the motto “Socialism” began appearing first in Los Angeles and Atlanta and later across the country.
—————————————— Ace has seen the preview for “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012), the sequel opening next Summer, and takes the High Church of Nerdiness position that director Nolan appears to be sinning by meddling with the comic book’s canon.
Based on what I see here, Catwoman is being shoehorned into the role of Economic Anarchist, someone who has a philosophical objection to private property. She says to Wayne, “When it’s all over, you’ll wonder how you all could have thought you could live so large while leaving so little for everyone else.”
Catwoman has never, AFAIK, been depicted as a revolutionary, or as having some philosophical commitment to bringing down the capitalist system. What she is is a thief who, while she’s not stealing from the very rich, likes mixing socially with the very rich.
She’s always been a bit comical in her larceny—she’s shameless about it. She just likes stealing. Maybe she actually considers herself an elite capitalist with the skill set of “taking the capital of others.”
But I never got the vibe that she wanted to end private property, or lead the poor in a revolution against the rich. She likes the rich. (And, she likes stealing their money.) Without the rich, she wouldn’t be rich herself.
This is what annoys me about Nolan—jamming square-peg human beings into the round holes of his pretty scheme of dialectical inquiry.
—————————————————— Allahpundit, on the other hand, evidently does not frequent the comics stores. He simply shrugs off the purist’s objections and relishes the real world metaphors (along with the explosions and fight scenes).
Anne Hathaway gets one line but it’s a neon sign for the subtext: Apparently, Catwoman is the 99 percent. Ace is weary of heavy-handed messages in “Batman” movies, but that’s actually the only reason I might see this. If, like me, you don’t know the whole mythology and you tend to find superhero flicks tedious in a been-there-done-that way (rich criticism coming from a zombie-flick fan, I know), a little topical allegory goes a long way. Besides, from what I understand, the interrogation scenes in “The Dark Knight” were more morally ambiguous than you’d expect from a Hollywood production addressing torture in the age of terror. If Nolan ends up teasing out the occupiers’ more anarchic impulses, which seems like a safe bet considering Catwoman is one of the villains (isn’t she?), I suspect the movie’s more dialectic aspects will go down pretty smoothly.
Looks like there are plenty of explosions and fight scenes, too. What’s not to like?
Jim Geraughty, in his emailed Morning Jolt,
Okay, call me crazy, but I’m getting a very Occupy Wall Street vibe from Bane (the bad guy) and Catwoman in the new trailer for the next Batman movie.
At one point, Catwoman explicitly says to Bruce Wayne, “A storm is coming. When it’s all over, you’ll wonder how you all could have thought you could live so large while leaving so little for everyone else.” The trailer shows only glimpses of scenes, but it looks as if a mob ransacks some luxurious location. (Does Wayne Manor get trashed again?) ...
The comic fan in me would prefer a more traditional approach to the character—Catwoman was meant to be played by Catherine Zeta Zones—but tell me you can’t see the cultural upside of a movie in which the bad guys’ motives not-so-subtly mimic those of the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Obviously, the trailer only gives us about two minutes’ worth of material to examine, but there’s no sign of any misguided idealism or discernable Robin Hood heroism on the part of the villains: It appears Bane blows up the field at a football stadium, killing the Gotham Rogues (played by the real-life Pittsburgh Steelers). They’re motivated by envy and greed and resentment and rage. Bane’s nihilism extends to the point where he wants to reduce Gotham to “ashes.” Tell me a better way to communicate to the great apolitical mass of America that the Occupiers are villains. ...
By the way, I pity the villain who tries to poop on the Batmobile.
The vehemence of Establishmentarian Mika’s reaction is interesting, illustrating once again just how wide the gap in world view and perception is between ordinary Americans and our urban community of fashion. Mika Brzezinski obviously actually takes the nonsensical ultra-left demonstrations seriously. 59% of Americans, on the other hand, a recent Gallup Poll indicated, were left cold by the protests and felt unable to identify the movement’s goals, which is hardly surprising since it has been obvious for some time that the Occupy Wall Street protests have failed to produce any coherent list of demands.
James Taranto deconstructs the Occupy protest movement and concludes that the movement’s lack of rational goals and legitimate grievances is symptomatic of the position of the left in general. The left wants attention, the left wants to make a noise, but the left hasn’t actually got anything to say. Taranto asks: “[W]ith the exception of same-sex marriage, can you think of a single new idea that has come out of the left since Lyndon Johnson was president?”
“They paused to scream at the walls of a Citibank branch.”
To our mind, that sentence more than anything we’ve read encapsulates the spirit of Obamaville. It originally appeared in a San Francisco Chronicle story about an incident in which “dozens of college students” invaded a Bank of America Branch, “pitching a tent and chanting ‘shame, shame’ until they were arrested.” (The original Web version of the story is available here.)
What do we want? Uh . . .
On the way to B of A, they paused at Citi to scream at the walls. These are college students, acting like 2-year-olds throwing a tantrum. What does that tell you about their critical thinking skills—and about the standards of American higher education? The likes of the New York Times expect us to take such incoherent spasms of rage seriously as a political “movement.” What does that tell us about the standards of the liberal media?
From Eric Ames, at Ricochet, who goes on to observe:
It is the fundamental problem with the leftist complaint about income inequality: if they truly are worried about income inequality, then they are not worried about the actual welfare of real people. They are just mad that some people have more than others. If they take this seriously, it means that fixing poverty is no less an acceptable policy goal as making everyone poor. After all, if the gap is what is important, it shouldn’t matter how much anyone has so long as nobody has more than anybody else.
This goes right back to George Will’s point on the difference between the right and the left; the right wants equality of opportunity, the left wants equality of outcome. The whole Occupy movement, in fact, smacks of an irritating “it’s not fairism.” It’s not fair that there are winners and losers, so let’s make everyone a loser.
Kenneth Anderson penetrates through the general confusion about what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about and explains that what we see is the indignation of the low-end intellectual clerisy left behind by more successful representatives of the same class.
The problem the New Class faces at this point is the psychological and social self-perceptions of a status group that is alienated (as we marxists say) from traditional labor by its semi-privileged upbringing — and by the fact that it is actually, two distinct strands, a privileged one and a semi-privileged one. It is, for the moment, insistent not just on white-collar work as its birthright and unable to conceive of much else. It does not celebrate the dignity of labor; it conceived of itself as existing to regulate labor. So it has purified itself to the point that not just any white-collar work will do. It has to be, as Michelle Obama instructed people in what now has to be seen as another era, virtuous non-profit or government work. Those attitudes are changing, but only slowly; the university pipelines are still full of people who cannot imagine themselves in any other kind of work, unless it means working for Apple or Google. ...
The lower tier is in a different situation and always has been. It is characterized by status-income disequilibrium, to borrow from David Brooks; it cultivates the sensibilities of the upper tier New Class, but does not have the ability to globalize its rent extraction. The helping professions, the professions of therapeutic authoritarianism (the social workers as well as the public safety workers), the virtuecrats, the regulatory class, etc., have a problem — they mostly service and manage individuals, the client-consumers of the welfare state. Their rents are not leveraged very much, certainly not globally, and are limited to what amounts to an hourly wage. The method of ramping up wages, however, is through public employee unions and their own special ability to access the public-private divide. But, as everyone understands, that model no longer works, because it has overreached and overleveraged, to the point that even the system’s most sympathetic politicians understand that it cannot pay up.
The upper tier is still doing pretty well. But the lower tier of the New Class — the machine by which universities trained young people to become minor regulators and then delivered them into white collar positions on the basis of credentials in history, political science, literature, ethnic and women’s studies — with or without the benefit of law school — has broken down. The supply is uninterrupted, but the demand has dried up. The agony of the students getting dumped at the far end of the supply chain is in large part the OWS. ...
The OWS protestors are a revolt — a shrill, cri-de-coeur wail at the betrayal of class solidarity — of the lower tier New Class against the upper tier New Class. It was, after all, the upper tier New Class, the private-public finance consortium, that created the student loan business and inflated the bubble in which these lower tier would-be professionals borrowed the money. It’s a securitization machine, not so very different from the subprime mortgage machine. The asset bubble pops, but the upper tier New Class, having insulated itself and, as with subprime, having taken its cut upfront and passed the risk along, is still doing pretty well. It’s not populism versus the bankers so much as internecine warfare between two tiers of elites.
Anderson is perfectly correct. Just as in places like Egypt and Tunisia, the penchant for empire-building on the part of the Academic industry combined with the general recognition of university education as the path to success and security led the United States to run through a vastly over-inflated system of ersatz higher education a large population with resulting delusions of self importance and entitlement and no means of satisfying them. Naturally, they think the system is unjust. Those other guys, over there, they have money and power, and we, the purer, nobler spirits, who majored in Afro-American Musical Traditions or Gender Inequity Studies are working in Starbucks. It’s so not fair! Rage against the Machine!
Occupy Wall Street food servers get sick of the “professional homeless people.”
“They know what they’re doing.”
For three days beginning tomorrow, the cooks will serve only brown rice and other spartan grub instead of the usual menu of organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad.
They will also provide directions to local soup kitchens for the vagrants, criminals and other freeloaders who have been descending on Zuccotti Park in increasing numbers every day.
[Emphasis added] What if everyone suddenly got sick of freeloaders?