For Sunday: “I Hate People,” from “Scrooge”

i hate people

“Scrooge” was an interesting movie. (I know it’s a Christmas movie, but the heat of summer makes me long for midwinter.) It had some decent songs, and a couple of great characterizations (Dame Edith Evans as a starchy grandmotherly un-Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past, and Kenneth More as a huge Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Present).

This song is one of my favorites. I sing it to myself, under my breath, on most workdays, a little.


Joe Kernen, Ebenezer Scrooge, and how not to be a gadfly


A gadfly is, by definition, a person who shakes up the status quo. He/she questions the status quo. He/she challenges complacency and accepted wisdom.

It’s an important role. Socrates was a gadfly, and died for it. Galileo was a gadfly, and paid heavily for it.

However (to paraphrase Monty Python): being a gadfly isn’t just contradiction. It’s something more substantial than that.

There are people in the media who pose as gadflies. They do it by saying ridiculous things, and then they defy their audience to contradict them.

For example: Joe Kernen on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on weekday mornings.

Recently, Kernen interviewed someone on the topic of climate change. During thee interview, he told his guest that he (Kernen) was an MIT graduate, and that he (Kernen) knew that there was no such thing as “climate science.”

This isn’t being a gadfly. This is just being stupid.

Recently, Kernen was talking about foreign aid. “Someone told me,” he said (I paraphrase), “that going without government aid was a great incentive. Why don’t we apply the same idea to foreign countries? Don’t give them aid. It’ll encourage them to do better.”

Or, of course, they might perish.

From Dickens:

“At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “ I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, `a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.



This was Scrooge’s idea of how to be a gadfly.

I hope you remember the rest of the story.

Merry Christmas, Joe Kernen.

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