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Vanity redux

I return to the image above; it exemplifies narcissism—or, to put it in Christian moral terms, “vanity”. However, the image is not the full story; it is not just that Captain Haddock is filled with pride at how generous he has been. In the next strip, the “tramp” he has given $5 to turns up again with another man, a neatly coiffured and well-dressed gentleman. Haddock has been told he will be introduced to Laszlo Carreidas, an aviation tycoon, and when he sees the well-dressed man approach him he assumes that it is the millionaire—he also notices that the “tramp” he patronised is with the millionaire.

The Captain assumes that the millionaire has taken the tramp under his wing in an act of philanthropy—just as the Captain was a philanthropist to the tramp; again, the Captain’s narcissism dominates—he assumes the millionaire is just like him, generous to the homeless and lover of all mankind.

Here is the joke: the Captain’s old friend introduces “Mr. Carreidas” and the Captain reaches out to shake the well-dressed man’s hand; everyone is shocked, Mr. Carreidas is “the tramp”—the very man the Captain thought was penniless and in desperate need of his charity is, in actual fact, among the world’s richest men. He is just the typical eccentric millionaire—the Howard Hughes type—who penny pinches and scrimps even though he has millions, hence he dresses like a tramp. The well-dressed man is his personal assistant—another vain role, a feminine role for a man.

So the Captain has been shown up as a double fool—not only was he vain and prideful in his self-congratulatory “charity” but the man he helped with a “secret gift” has no need of the money whatsoever and is, in fact, a mean man and a miser who wouldn’t stoop to help a tramp if his life depended on it (later, it is revealed Carreidas did things like steal jewellery when he was a child and let the maid take the blame and be fired—so he is not only mean, but actively wicked).

There is another element to this story: Carreidas was modelled by Hergé on the French-Jewish aviation tycoon Marcel Dassault (of the fighter aircraft). The Haddock-Carreidas incident is a microcosm for how Europeans treat the Jews. In their minds, Europeans are engaged in charity and love of humanity when they show exquisite consideration towards the Jews due to the holocaust—how they hug themselves as they do it, how it primps their vanity.

It feels like noblesse oblige, generosity from the stronger to the weaker. Here is the joke: as with Carreidas and Haddock, the Jews are more powerful and wealthy than the Europeans—and, like Carreidas, are not actuated by Haddock’s perverted Christian charity and “love of all mankind” at all; they are actuated by ruthless racial self-preservation—as the saying goes, “Israel never forgives”; and, of course, Christ does—which is why He is unpopular with Jews.

This is the great joke Europeans are caught up in due to their pride and vanity; they think they are the noble benefactors to women, Jews, blacks, and homosexuals when in fact these groups need no patronage whatsoever and have no intent other than to “look after their own” (mafia style)—they need no help whatsoever.

This is why vanity and pride are the central sins—many are hugging themselves like Captain Haddock, weeping at how good and generous they are to all, while they are donating money to millionaires (literally and figuratively—though this is not just, or even mainly, about money); although it is true there are those who encourage this vanity for their own purposes, it is primarily Europeans at fault because they have been too vain, so others have taken advantage. It is not that we need to “help Europeans” instead—that is another form of vanity—it is that we need to destroy our vanity and pride, and worship what is real.


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