Sunday, December 26, 2010

So Much Stays the Same

As we continue to explore the works of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Sun Tzu, I hope you have noticed that many of the issues each dealt with thousands of years ago are not unlike many of the issues we deal with in the 21st Century. While technology keeps advancing, the basic human condition has been remarkably consistent.

John Nichols makes much the same point in comparing Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to contemporary times. In recounting a portion of the dialogue in which area merchants approach Ebeneezer Scrooge for contributions to help the poor, Nichols writes,
So Dickens began his "A Christmas Carol," a book very much in keeping with the radical tenor of a time when the world was awakening to the truth that poverty and desolation need not be accepted by civil society -- or civilized people. The language employed by Scrooge was not a Dickensian creation; rather, it was a sort of reporting on the political platforms and statements of those who opposed the burgeoning movements for reform and revolution, which were sweeping through Europe as the author composed his ghost tale...
As Nichols aptly points out, there are characters like Scrooge who populate our world today. For example, there were "members of Congress who grumbled on the cusp of this Christmas season about extending jobless benefits for the long unemployed." There are others who bemoan the necessity of a minimum wage, the need for unions to defend worker rights and the notion of universal health care as a basic right.

Dickens was able to turn Scrooge around with "a little otherworldly pressure." Since we don't have that tool at our disposal, what will it take today to turn our Scrooges from self-serving misers into members of the community who care for all?

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