Sunday, February 4, 2007

Catching up with the United States

The fourth season of The Wire is about to start in Britain, and is celebrating with Mark Lee interviewing David Simon. Lee introduces his subject by poking a television critics who "vie with each other to lavish ever more extravagant praise on" each new series; and I confess to spilling some of my own ink on the subject in my previous blog. This time, however, I just want to extract one of Simon's sentences from the interview:

Our intention is to make an aggressive social and political statement about America and why we can't solve our problems any more.

That final phrase is aggressive enough in its own right. It stuck with me because of my own efforts to come to grips with the problem and the way in which it complements my current working hypothesis, which is that "we can't solve our problems any more" because of our addiction to the deus ex machina concept. This addiction has crippled our capacity to exert our own efforts to pull ourselves out of the mess we have made and turned us into "mindless and ineffectual Eloi." Thus, the role of the drug culture in each of the seasons of The Wire as become a metaphor for a much more subtle, and therefore more insidious, addiction.

This concept of inability to solve the problems that matter the most has lead me to try to synopsize each season around this common theme:

  1. Why we can never win the "war against drugs"
  2. The death of the working class (this one is the least original, since lots of other reviewers have said the same thing)
  3. MBA thinking can kill you
  4. Why we can never solve the failure of our educational system

Lee pulled out that old chestnut about why only the critics seem to love The Wire, while the award givers and the general public tend to avoid it. However, the "chestnut behind this chestnut" is that oft-quoted aphorism of Herbert Agar:

The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.

The truths of The Wire are truths that the American public "prefer not to hear," which is part of the addiction that has brought about the problem that has become Simon's focus of attention. I just hope Simon appreciates the irony of the situation!

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