Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lessons from The Wire

I finished watching Season Three of The Wire last night. As a hard-hitting, sophisticated, and intelligent drama, it’s brilliant. But its overall theme and ultimate lesson is even more compelling to me: that “raw, unencumbered capitalism” in the political and (absent) social framework in America today just isn’t good for anybody. This is why I think, more and more, that I’m a socialist—not in the true sense of state ownership and distribution of wealth, but that I want social justice. As The Wire’s creator David Simon points out in the following talk at Loyola University in December 2007, more and more people are marginalized because of unencumbered capitalism, creating “an alternate America of haves and have-nots.”

In The Wire, the city is the victim of the brutal effects of capitalism, but it’s also true with our country’s healthcare system. America is the only major industrialized country that does not provide healthcare for all its citizens, and today healthcare is a privilege denied to the have-nots so that the wealthy HMOs can become even wealthier. And, of course, it also holds true in factory farming. The unregulated industry has profited big business at the expense of giving even the most basic of humane rights—like having enough room to stand up and move around—to social, emotionally intelligent animals. Fortunately, Proposition 2 passed in California to give animals these basic rights. Back to The Wire, in this talk Simon also has interesting things to say about what America has become, where he sees it going (he’s not optimistic), and why the war on drugs is not only a total failure but is simply punishing the poverty class.

David Simon: The End of the American Empire Part 1

David Simon: The End of the American Empire Part 2

David Simon: The End of the American Empire Part 3