There’s not really anything worth stating before mentioning that The Wire is the best tv show ever. If you agree with me, it’s important to know that Wikipedia has been the most reliable source for reporting when the premiere of Season 5 will be. Currently, they’re saying Jan. 6, 2008. Mark your calendars. And if that gets your blood flowing, you must read this interview with David Simon on slate.com.
Here’s the most brutally honest and brutally intriguing excerpt from the interview that should pique your interest, and if it doesn’t, you might start wondering who stole your compassion from you and you might call that person and ask them to return it.
Simon: Thematically, it’s about the very simple idea that, in this Postmodern world of ours, human beings—all of us—are worth less. We’re worth less every day, despite the fact that some of us are achieving more and more. It’s the triumph of capitalism.
Slate: How so?
Simon: Whether you’re a corner boy in West Baltimore, or a cop who knows his beat, or an Eastern European brought here for sex, your life is worth less. It’s the triumph of capitalism over human value. This country has embraced the idea that this is a viable domestic policy. It is. It’s viable for the few. But I don’t live in Westwood, L.A., or on the Upper West Side of New York. I live in Baltimore.
It’s shocking, isn’t it? The most pervasive lesson in American schools (at least when I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s) is that The USofA values human lives more than any other country. It’s a source of great pride and arrogance and xenophobia. It’s what causes many Americans to be totally mystified when trying to discern the rationale of a suicide bomber. The thinking usually goes something like, “How do we fight people who are ready and willing to die? If they don’t value their own lives, what do they value? They must be amoral or insane.” There’s an inability to compute the motivation to intentionally and with certainty sacrifice their own lives in order to uphold a value. (Americans are able to intentionally but without certainty of death put our own lives in harm’s way in the service of their own values and to save other people’s lives. See firefighters, policemen, soldiers, and anyone who has ever jumped on the subway tracks and pushed someone out of the way of an oncoming train. The crucial difference is that these people think they might die; a suicide bomber knows he will die.) Furthermore, no American would tell you that he’s willing to throw away human lives in the service of a societal model. (I’m resisting a Dick Cheney comment here.) David Simon is saying that we are all subconsciously, and perhaps some of us consciously, doing exactly that by participating in and promoting capitalism.
The problem is that we view both capitalism and value for human life as cornerstones of our society. If David Simon is right, and if you watch The Wire you’ll be inclined to think he is, then we have two of our cornerstones eroding each other, pushing our society toward a collapse. Or those principles aren’t cornerstones, and either capitalism isn’t all that important to Americans after all (who are we kidding with that one?) or we don’t value human life as much as we think we do. Thank God The Wire is fiction.