Quote of the…

Day? Maybe of the week. A friend passed along a recent interview with The Wire creator, David Simon.

It’s one thing to recognize capitalism for the powerful economic tool it is and to acknowledge that, for better or for worse, we’re stuck with it and, hey, thank God we have it. There’s not a lot else that can produce mass wealth with the dexterity that capitalism can. But to mistake it for a social framework is an incredible intellectual corruption and it’s one that the West has accepted as a given since 1980—since Reagan. Human beings—in this country in particular—are worth less and less. When capitalism triumphs unequivocally, labor is diminished. It’s a zero-sum game. People paid a much higher tax rate when Eisenhower was president, a much higher tax rate for the benefit of society, and all of us had more of a sense that we were included….I guess what I’m saying is that the overall theme was: We’ve given ourselves over to the Olympian god that is capitalism and now we’re reaping the whirlwind. This is the America that unencumbered capitalism has built. It’s the America that we deserve because we let it happen. We don’t deserve anything better. The Wire was trying to take the scales from people’s eyes and say, “This is what you’ve built. Take a look at it.” It’s an accurate portrayal of the problems inherent in American cities.

I’m not a devotee of the show. I’ve only watched a single episode in its entirety. I’ve been told by so many that I would love it, primarily because it speaks to the poli sci/urban planner parts of my brain. I just haven’t been ready to watch it yet. I think the landscape strikes familiar nerves for me of 1980s, 1990s Milwaukee. And sometimes, I just don’t want to be reminded of that. But Simon is more than a writer, he’s a social political historian, as evidence by this interview. And this one.  Someone once told me that they felt that Simon was the heir to Charles Dickens’ throne.  The Wire is more than a series according to all my friends, it’s a body of knowledge, a serial drama that has presented case studies with human faces and emotions. A sprawling Victorian drama for the digital age with all the complexity you’d find in A Tale of Two Cities or in any of Trollope’s or Thackeray’s works.  These characters were more than statistics, and by humanizing social problems, as well as the large systems that push and pull people into making choices that aren’t always in their best interests. And these questions loom large as we seek answers and the economy grinds forward into the unknown.

I guess I need to reinstate my Netflix account.