A Corporate Carol 

(Occupy the Airwaves Holiday Special aired on Dec. 25, 2011 and Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Noon. Radio play by d.o. with thanks to Charles Dickens, Thom Hartmann, Howard Zinn & the OTA Players)

[Bach interlude at opening of acts & close of play]

Narrator: 
There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. The corporation was known as Scrooge Marley. But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old bankster!  The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.  Once upon a time old Scrooge sat busy in his corner office at the transnational bank. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy as well: and he could see the little people far below on the street, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the sidewalks to warm them. The city clocks had only just chimed three, but it was quite dark already — it had not been light all day. The door of Scrooge’s office was open that he might keep his eye upon his administrative assistant, Bob Crachet who in a dismal little cell beyond was crunching numbers. There were two non-profit do-gooder types with papers in their hands at his desk, looking in toward Scrooge.

GENTLEWOMAN #1:  Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge, or Mr. Marley?

SCROOGE:Mr. Marley has been dead seven years; He died seven years ago, this very night.

 


GENTLEMAN #2: We have no doubt his generosity is well represented by his surviving partner.

GENTLEWOMAN #1
: At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge, it is usually desirable that we 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.

SCROOGE
: Are there no prisons?

 

GENTLEWOMAN #1: (seeming surprised) Plenty of prisons.

 

SCROOGE: And the dead-end jobs? Are they still out there?

GENTLEMAN #2: 
Not really. In any case, sir, they scarcely furnish cheer to the working poor. A few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the poor and unemployed some food 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?’

 

 

 

SCROOGE: Nothing!

 

GENTLEWOMAN #1: You wish to be anonymous?

 

SCROOGE: DO NOT SPEAK THAT NAME IN THIS OFFICE! I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself during the Holidays and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support these establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.

 

GENTLEMAN #2: Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.

 

SCROOGE: If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!

[Door slams shut]

Nar.:  5 o’clock arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge got up from his desk and walked to the outer office

 

SCROOGE: You’ll want all day off tomorrow, I suppose?

BOB CRACHET: If quite convenient, sir.

SCROOGE: It’s not convenient, and it’s not fair. If I didn’t pay you for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, no doubt.

Nar: The assistant observed that it was only once a year.

SCROOGE: A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December! But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.

 

[Nar]: The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk ran home to the car he lived in with his family. Scrooge took his melancholy dinner and having watched Fox News, and checked his i-pod, went home to bed. He lived in a penthouse which had once belonged to his deceased partner.  At the door Scrooge had not had one thought of Marley, since his last mention of his seven years’ dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the peephole viewer, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change — not a door viewer, but Marley’s face. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid color, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part or its own expression.

SCROOGE
: Bah! Humbug!

Nar.: In Scrooge went. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. But before he shut his steel reinforced door, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right. Livingroom, bedroom, gym, indoor pool room, massive designer kitchen, movie theater. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under any of the sofas; a small fire in the fireplace. Nobody under the king-sized bed; nobody in any of the walk-in closets. Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his thousand dollar Dolce Gabbana suit and put on his dressing-gown and slippers and sat down before the fire for a glass of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. Suddenly the door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard a noise on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

[Chains dragging & moaning]

 

SCROOGE: (alarmed)It’s humbug still! I won’t believe it.

 

NARRATOR:  Without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried `I know him; Marley’s Ghost!’ and fell again. The same face: the very same. Marley.  The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, spread sheets, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.

 

SCROOGE:  (caustic and cold) What’s this! What do you want with me?

MARLEY
: Much!

 

SCROOGE: Who are you?

 

MARLEY: In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.

 

SCROOGE: (frightened) But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?

 

MARLEY:  It is required of every one, that the spirit within should travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!

[Ghost raises a horrible cry, and shakes its chain]

SCROOGE: (trembling) You are chained. Tell me why?

 

MARLEY: (morose) I wear the chain I forged in life, I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you? Or would you know, the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain! My spirit never walked beyond our executive suite — mark me! — in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!’ The whole time. No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse. Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed, not to know that any spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. (lamenting) Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!’

[Ghost sends up another cry, and clanks its chain hideously.]


SCROOGE
: But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.

 

MARLEY: (loudly!)  Business! Mankind was my business!!. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!

[Ghost moans]

MARLEY: At this time of the rolling year. I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them!  Hear me! My time is nearly gone. I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer. You will be haunted by Three Spirits.

SCROOGE:  I — I think I’d rather not.

MARLEY: Without their visits, you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls One. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!

 

ACT II

[brief musical interlude]

Nar: Scrooge went to bed with much trepidation. When he heard the church bell toll in the distance he awoke and saw a strange light enter his bedroom. Then a small man dressed in satin britches and a fancy tricorn hat stood before him.

SCROOGE
  (voice shaking) Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me.

GHOST #1   I am

SCROOGE
   Who, and what are you?

GHOST #1   I am the Ghost of Your Corporate Past

 

SCROOGE   What do you want of me?

 

GHOST #1   Your reclamation. Rise and walk with me.

Nar.:  As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood upon what looked like the Boston Common, but everyone around was dressed in 18th century clothing. There seemed to be a noisy gathering with much calling out and jostling. A speaker was up front on a raised platform speaking loudly and waving his hands. It was a protest against huge corporate tax cuts for the British East India Company, the largest trans-national corporation then in existence. This corporate tax cut on tea imports threatened to decimate small Colonial businesses by helping the  East India Company pull a Wal-Mart against small entrepreneurial tea shops.

SCROOGE  What is this?

GHOST #1  The beginning of the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party resembled in many ways the growing modern-day protests against transnational corporations and small-town efforts to protect themselves from chain-store retailers or factory farms. The Tea Party’s participants thought of themselves as protesters against the actions of the multinational East India Company. Although schoolchildren are usually taught that the American Revolution was a rebellion against “taxation without representation,” akin to modern day conservative taxpayer revolts, in fact what led to the revolution was rage against a transnational corporation that, by the 1760s, dominated trade from China to India to the Caribbean, and controlled nearly all commerce to and from North America, with subsidies and special dispensation from the British crown.

SCROOGE  Humbug! What hogwash.

GHOST #1  Listen.

SPEAKER ON PLATFORM  (forcefully) “Their Conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given simple Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, Liberties, or Lives of Men. They have levied War, excited Rebellions, dethroned lawful Princes, and sacrificed Millions for the Sake of Gain. The Revenues of Mighty Kingdoms have entered their Coffers. And these not being sufficient to glut their Avarice, they have, by the most unparalleled Barbarities, Extortions, and Monopolies, stripped the miserable Inhabitants of their Property, and reduced whole Provinces to Indigence and Ruin. Now they oppress us here!!

[crowd yells & claps]

GHOST #1  The East India Company’s influence had always been pervasive in the colonies. Indeed, it was not the Puritans but the East India Company that founded America. The Puritans traveled to America on ships owned by the East India Company, which had already established the first colony in North America, at Jamestown, in the Company-owned Commonwealth of Virginia, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi. The commonwealth was named after the “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth, who had chartered the corporation.  Between 1681 and 1773, a series of laws were passed granting the Company monopoly on tea sold in the American colonies and exempting it from tea taxes. Thus, the Company was able to lower its tea prices to undercut the prices of the local importers and the small tea houses in every town in America. But the colonists were unappreciative of their colonies being used as a profit center for the multinational corporation.

SCROOGE  It does seem unfair, doesn’t it?

GHOST #1   Turn now and follow me

Nar.:   As if they had passed into a fog, Scrooge found himself and his spectral guide in a room with late 19th century furnishings. There were a few people dressed in the clothing of that period seated around a table. One of them spoke…

SPEAKER #1 IN ROOM  In industry after industry it is shrewd, efficient businessmen building empires, choking out competition, maintaining high prices, keeping wages low, using government subsidies. These industries are the first beneficiaries of the “welfare state.”  American Telephone and telegraph has a monopoly of the nation’s telephone system, International Harvester makes 85 percent of all farm machinery, and in every other industry resources become concentrated, controlled. The banks have interests in so many of these monopolies as to create an interlocking network of powerful corporation directors, each of whom sit on the boards of many other corporations. According to a Senate report, Morgan sits on the board of forty-eight corporations; Rockefeller, thirty-seven corporations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPEAKER #2   We are here plunged in politics funnier than words can express. Very great issues are involved.. . . But the amusing thing is that no one talks about real interests. By common consent they agree to let these alone. We are afraid to discuss them. Instead of this the press is engaged in a most amusing dispute whether Mr. Cleveland had an illegitimate child and did or did not live with more than one mistress.

SCROOGE  (glumly)  Show me no more of this.

GHOST #1  Do not turn away. By this time the Supreme Court had accepted the argument that corporations were “persons” and their money was property protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Supposedly, the Amendment had been passed to protect Negro rights, but of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, nineteen dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations. The justices of the Supreme Court were not simply interpreters of the Constitution. They were men of certain backgrounds, of certain interests. One of them (Justice Samuel Miller) had said in 1875: “It is vain to contend with Judges who have been at the bar the advocates for forty years of railroad companies, and all forms of associated capital. . . .”

SCROOGE
  (upset) Leave me. Take me back. Haunt me no longer!

Nar.:   Scrooge was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

ACT III

[brief musical interlude]

Nar.:    When the Bell struck one Scrooge awoke once more. He found himself standing in a very long boardroom with a glass wall on one side, a very long highly polished table in the middle covered with holiday food and decorations.  A woman dressed colorful clothing sat at the far end. Strangely, she wore a plastic mask with a long pointed nose and a gigantic grin.

GHOST #2  (jovial)  I am the Ghost of Corporate Present. Look upon me.

SCROOGE  Spirit, conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learned a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have to teach me, let me profit by it.

GHOST #2  Interesting choice of words! Come, sit by me in this chair.

Nar.:   Scrooge came forward and sat in the chair by the ghost whereupon they both found themselves in an entirely new place. It was a dingy parking lot somewhere in the city. At the far end a rather battered sedan was parked in the corner and some light and movement could be seen from within. The ghost guided Scrooge close to the car so that he could see and hear what was taking place inside, though the people in the car did not seem to notice him.  There were two children and a woman in the car moving bags and rearranging things.

DAUGHTER  O mom, can’t we find some apartment or motel to live in? This really sucks!  I can barely move in here.

MOM  I’m sorry sweetie, but since the bank took the house and our health insurance was canceled when Timmy got sick, we are stuck here. Maybe Mr. Scrooge will give Daddy a Christmas bonus so we can stay in a motel for the holidays.

DAUGHTER  (angry) Yeah right, that miserly bankster is about to give Daddy anything! He’s such a horrible person. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself.

TIMMY  That’s not true. Mr. Scrooge cares about Fox & Friends and that nasty fat man on the radio.

MOM   It’s true, Timmy.  He does care about some things.

(Timmy starts coughing and wheezing)

DAUGHTER  Ha! Those people are vermin. They are all self-absorbed and mean-spirited. They only care about the filthy rich.

TIMMY  (still coughing) Maybe…(cough)..maybe they’ll change when they find out how bad things are for some people these days.

MOM  That could happen, Timmy. Some people do change.

DAUGHTER  (sarcastic)  O right, Mr. Scrooge and his friends on Fox News have teabags for hearts! Their brains are occupied by the 1%. What’s going to make them change?

TIMMY  Common sense?

DAUGHTER   I don’t think so!

Nar.:  From across the parking lot Scrooge could see his Administrative Assistant, Bob Cratchet approaching, bent over against the cold wind, carrying a heavy bundle.

MOM   Look, here comes your father with our holiday dinner. I think he went to the food pantry after work.

TIMMY   (excited)  I hope he got some refined cheese product!!

[footsteps]

[car door opens]

CRATCHET  (faking happiness)  Hey everyone!  Happy Holidays! Look what I got at the pantry!

MOM  (whispering to Cratchet)  Bob, did you get Timmy’s medicine?

CRATCHET  (whispers back)  I couldn’t. I don’t have the money.

Nar.:   Scrooge turned to the Ghost of Corporate Present with an expression of concern

SCROOGE   Spirit, tell me, will the boy live?

GHOST #2  I see an empty seat in the back of a car. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.

SCROOGE  No, no. Oh, no, kind Spirit. say he will be spared.

GHOST #2    (ironically)  If he  die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

SCROOGE   (groans)

GHOST #2  Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die. It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.

Nar.:  And with that the spirit was gone and Ebeneezer Scrooge found himself lost in some mournful fog.

ACT IV   (brief music)

Nar.:   Finding himself in some alleyway, Scrooge made out in the fog just ahead of him a gruesome spectral figure dressed all in black like an anarchist with a hood so deep he could make-out no face. It was difficult to detach the figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness and fog by which it was surrounded.The figure was pointing at Scrooge with a black gloved hand.

SCROOGE  (questioning warily) You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us. Is that so? Spirit. Ghost of the Future. I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?

[street noise]

[Nar.]  They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them of its own act. There were masses of demonstrators beating drums and chanting anti-corporate slogans. Many had the strange masks with the gigantic grin on their faces. They seemed to come from all around. Scrooge felt surrounded and threatened though they paid him no heed at all. But then they were gone and Scrooge and his guide were in the heart of it on Wall Street. Scrooge could see the Charging Bull statue through the fog, and beyond the Stock Exchange where he often did business. Two well dressed businessmen were strolling his way, but did not seem to notice him even though they were within earshot.

BUSINESSWOMAN #1  I heard he jumped from the roof rather than be arrested and perp walked in front of the cameras.

BUSINESSMAN #2  Who would’ve thought he’d even care, he was such a cold fish. Besides, look at the company he would’ve been keeping……

NAR.:  The man pointed across the street to the Exchange where police and FBI agents were leading brokers in handcuffs into waiting vans.

BUSINESSMAN #2   Everyone one of those guys are millionaires.

BUSINESSWOMAN #1   Or were millionaires after the lawyers get finished with them!

Nar.:   Scrooge knew these people.  They were people of business: very wealthy, and of great importance. He had made a point always of standing well in their esteem: in a business point of view, that is; strictly in a business point of view.  Both moved on, leaving Scrooge to ponder their meaning. The silent specter pointed off toward the now increasing fog. Scrooge could not see where he pointed to, but walked on mumbling…

SCROOGE  Spirit, this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. (quite agonised)If there is any person in this town, who feels emotion caused by this man’s death, `show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you.

 

Nar.:   The Phantom spread its dark robe before him for a moment, like a wing; and withdrawing it, revealed they stood on a rooftop, high above the city. A hundred or so feet in the distance a man stood on the very edge of the roof….looking down. The Phantom was pointing toward the figure. It was a very familiar man to old Scrooge, so familiar it sent a chill down his spin. He saw himself on the edge, preparing to jump.

SCROOGE  (very distraught)  Before I draw nearer to that man at which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that only May be? People can change their fate, can’t they?  (pleading) People can make amends, can’t they?

Nar.:   The silent Phantom only extended his arm out further, still pointing to the man on the ledge. Scrooge gave a start….and then ran toward the man as if to pull him back from the edge…but he was too late and Scrooge watched himself jump from the building.

SCROOGE  (agonizing scream)  NO!  Don’t!!  (a great sob)  Spirit, hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this awful moment. (beseeching) Why show me this, if I am past all hope??  Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!   I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Please Spirit! Tell me I can change!!

 

Nar.:   Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrank, collapsed, and dwindled down into a king-sized pillow.

SCROOGE  (shocked) It’s my pillow! I’m alive….in my bedroom! I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley. (excited) What a fool I was! I can change, I can!  I will!

Nar.:  Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Timmy, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a boss, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him……..O, and he set a good example to all the banksters and corporados who knew him and who were no hopelessly beyond redemption.  Season’s Greetings, everyone!

 

 

 

[music]

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