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An Austeriarchy Christmas Carol

December 21, 2015

scrooge

The solitary coal spitting upon the fireplace spitting out a mere rumour of heat, Scrooge settled back in his chair to review the events of a profitable yet tiresome Christmas Eve.  He remembered the look of pious disappointment on the faces of those witless busy bodies and their charitable solicitations and recalled with some satisfaction their complete inability to refute Thomas Malthus.

While chuckling to himself a powerful explosion woke him from his reverie.  The fireplace erupted in luminous green smoke which swiftly engulfed the room.  Scrooge’s sight cleared and amid the pungent confusion – two figures appeared and then disappeared, only to reappear again. Variously fleshly and translucent they appeared appeared – frantic and fearful, and yet intent upon Scrooge – who crept back into his chair – determined to disbelieve all that he saw.

The figures in the fireplace began to settle into human form.  They seemed of middle age, though strangely well preserved, like men who have persisted rather than lived.  And they smiled – but with difficulty, like men who have never been young or known what it was to love.  They wore plain dark suits of strange, slightly shiny fabric and their teeth were oddly perfectly.  They were not identical, yet they were hard to distinguish.  Such differences as there were between them appeared so negligible as to be immaterial and after either of them had spoken it was hard to recall which of them it had been.

“Spirits!” shouted Scrooge – his skepticism immediately deserting him – “Spirits! what do ye want of me?”

“Much” said the spirits in unison.

“Are you come to warn me?  To have me change my ways?”

“In a manner of speaking.  My name is George and this is David.”

Such unwarranted terms of familiarity appeared very strange to Scrooge, yet having permitted himself to address praeternatural being, he could only concur with these terms of address.

“Are you – David and George – are you – be you – spirits from the past… or… the future?”

“Ah” said David  “the future… very much the future.  The early twenty first century in fact.  And we’re not spirits – we’re very much flesh and blood.  A little too much flesh in my case.  Ha ha ha.   No, this is a time travel experiment.  Top secret – a bit of a prototype project.  Don’t really understand it myself, but suffice to say that George and I used our unique positions to get first dibs on it.  We don’t have long ‘cos it uses up a frightening amount of power.  Most of the North of England is having a power cut right now – but which I mean right now in 2015.  But hey, who cares – right?”

“Whether flesh or spirit” ventured Scrooge “I would know what you want with me.”

“Ah, fair enough.  Well, George and I talked quite a while about how we could best use this opportunity.  There were a few battles we wanted to see reversed and a few reputations rearranged – but in the end we decided that it was your narrative we most wanted to change.  With the right kind of tweaking – someone like you could really accelerate the sort of changes we want to see.”

Scrooge nodded, completely uncomprehending.

“To begin with…” said George “You really should get this place cleaned up a bit.  There are plenty of ways of funding a refit.  Perhaps you should apply for charitable status.”

“Ah”, rejoined Scrooge, his wonted acerbic manner returning.  “You would have me share my earned income with others would you?  Like the ‘charitable’ fools who invaded my office this very evening?”

George and David smirked and shook their heads.

“No” said George.  You misunderstand us.  “You see there’s charity (ugh) and then again there’s “charity” as we like to call it.”

He and David accompanied the word “charity” with a strange clawing of the air with two fingers of each hand – a gesture that Scrooge could make neither head nor tail of.

“But I pay my taxes!”  asserted Scrooge, as he had done in his office earlier.  “I pay my taxes.  Why should I support charities?”

“Ah” smirked David.  “That’s just the problem.  You pay your taxes and you avoid charities.  That’s precisely the problem.  You need to start doing precisely the opposite.  Let me leave you a map of  a little place called the Cayman Islands.  With a bit of intelligent transfer of funds you can avoid paying the lion’s share of your tax altogether, and if you give support to a few high-profile “charities” you can claim back a ton of home improvements as necessary entertainments allowance.  You could be partying every night in a veritable mansion and still make a far greater net profit than you are at present.  And your high profile “charity” doesn’t actually have to help anyone – if that’s what you’re worrying about.  You can make sure that nearly all the proceeds get eaten up with administration and operating costs.  I know there are real charities out there – deplorably alleviating the privations of the plebs – but your “charity” doesn’t have to do anyone any good if you don’t want it to.  The truth is – you are being excessively generous to others at present and it’s our intention to save you from your self – both for your own sake and for the sake of the unfortunate example you’re setting.”

“Spirit” whispered Scrooge,  “Thou speakest wonders.  Tell me more?”

“Well”, continued George, “We did want to talk to you a bit about the way you treat Bob Cratchit.”

“Ah, I see”, grumbled Scrooge.   “You would have me increase his wages.  Offer him a Christmas bonus.  Send him a goose.  Or a suckling pig.”

The reference to a “suckling pig” caused David to turn bright red and George to guffaw uncontrollably while prodding his partner in the ribs.

“No no no” insisted George “again you misunderstand us.  We’re concerned that you’re treating him with completely unwarranted generosity.  We’re leaving you a pamphlet about a concept called “zero contracts”.  Or maybe you could force him to job share. To get optimal work out of him (and anyone else for that matter) is to have him working irregular hours with no job security whatsoever.”

“But” ventured Scrooge, nervously “The man has a large family to support…”

“Precisely” nodded George “What business does a man like that having a large family?  Such irresponsibility should be punished not accommodated.  I understand he has a malingering dependent brat by the name of ‘Tiny Tim’ or some such name.”

“Such is my understanding” said Scrooge.

“Yeah – try to have him declared ‘fit for work’.  In the meantime – where do all these beggarly Cratchits live?”

Scrooge struggled to remember, never have had occasion to care.
“Camden Town” I believe.”

Both David and George appeared shocked.

“Camden Town?  A family such as the Cratchits has no right to live in Camden.   That’s only about two miles away.  Bob Cratchit could walk to work if he liked – get fit doing it.  No, you’ve got to get him out of there.  Kick him out to Essex or somewhere.  Then make sure you get hold of the property as soon as its vacant – then split it into luxury flats.  Make a fortune.”

“Your words are strange and marvelous to me” intoned Scrooge in something of a trance.  “Yet I fear, if I were to do as you say, I might become the victim of some violent outrage.  I have never courted unpopularity, nor do I care what the wastrel masses think of me.  But your plans might threaten my personal safety.”

David nodded reassuringly.  “You see, this is why you need to make more of a political investment.  Do you have shares in any newspapers?”

“I care nothing for politics and have never thought newspapers a wise investment.”

“Ah” cried David  “That just goes to show how short-sighted you’ve been – how inattentive to your own interests.  A very modest investment in politics can force legal changes, changes in taxation, changes in benefit law and employment rights that can result in huge profits for someone like you.  As for newspapers – well – they have a key role to play in the economics of what we call austerity in public and austeriarchy among ourselves.  The importance of newspapers is that they encourage the victims of economic stupidity to turn on one another rather than start to ask any relevant questions.  With the right kind of headlines and editorials, we can ensure that everyone who is ever so slightly better off than the Cratchits will turn on them.  Kickdownism we call it.  Let everyone hate and fear those who might clutch at their heels rather than those who are already kicking them in the head.  You must, as they say, speculate to accumulate and there is no speculation surer than politics – especially when self interest is at stake.”

Scrooge appeared quiet, abstracted and contrite.

“I have learned much, spirits.  But this I must know.  If I ignore these counsels, if I continue as I have been…  if I make no changes in my way of life… what will be the consequences?”

“Then we must solemnly warn you” they intoned, as they stepped back into the fireplace and began to disappear “that if you fail to implement our recommendations you will probably end up… making less money that you might otherwise…”

Scrooge fell terrified to his knees.

“Spirits!   I am not the man I was.  I will heed your advice!  From henceforth I will honour the Spirit of Austerity  in my heart this and every Christmas and for each day of the year!  Just tell me it’s not too late.  Not too late!”

Grasping at the air, Scrooge felt darkness descend all around him, until the noisome tomes of church bells brought him to his senses.  He found himself in his own bed with a focused ray of sharp winter sunlight piercing him through the tattered curtains.

He leaped out of bed and ran to the window, replete with new found energy.  A new man.  He spotted a calculating urchin at the corner of the street and hailed him.

“Do you know the Bailiff who lives at the corner of Chancery Lane?”

“Wot guvnor?  The one oos ten times as big as me?”

“Excellent boy, intelligent boy… catch this paper – tell him to run over to Camden Town and prepare to evict this family.”

“Lumme guvner, I loves a good eviction I does – rich pickings all raand.  This’ll be my pleasure.”

Scrooge punched at the air in triumph.  And he pledged thereafter never again to neglect the kind admonitions of the strange spirits who had seen fit to visit him this Christmas Eve.

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.   The Scratchits were duly evicted early in the New Year and his former lodgings redeveloped as part of a new luxury gated community.  Bob Scratchit was vilified by name in the press as a feckless scrounging breeder and was regularly beaten up during his long daily commute from Epping.

Scrooge’s strategic patronage ensures that you can still see statues of him in London to this day.  An eight hundred page laudatory biography of him was published within hours of his death and he is still promoted as a role model for today’s young people.  Scrooge (Lord Scrooge I should say) helped build modern Britain and those who would seek to rewrite history and traduce his memory must therefore hate Britain.

And as Tiny Tim (who was indeed declared “fit for work” and who did not long survive to be a burden on the taxpayer) declared – “God damn us – almost every one.”

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