i have thoughts

December 20, 2009

but i can’t yet sort them out in my head. in the meantime, go read this interview with david simon.

DS: Whereas a guy who accepts the economic cards that have been dealt to him by postindustrial America and just sits there on his porch and says, “Well, I’m not necessary…” In a way, that’s far more brutal than addiction and death, but we don’t get that. From our perch, from our middle-class or upper-middle-class perch, from the policymakers’ perch, things like “Just Say No” sound relevant.

VM: Yeah, that was a very effective campaign.
DS: It draws on the morality that we can easily acquire and utilize—

VM: And it also assumes that everyone has the same set of choices.
DS: Right. Like, “What the fuck was I supposed to say yes to, motherfucker?”



  1. You could have warned me it was so long…

    I really liked the formula-

    We are our trade.
    Without a trade, we need some kind of meaning.
    The drug industry is industry.
    The drug trade gives meaning.

    I hadn’t ever quite thought of it like that…

  2. yeah, a lot of the interview was just “let’s talk about how cool the wire was!” but there were parts of it that–much like the show in general–really hit at how we view drugs and the drug trade, and beyond that to how we view poverty, and how there is this post-industrial third world in many of our cities. there’s that part where simon says that addicts know exactly what they need to do in a given day, just like any working person.

    this goes, as always, back to the central american myth of the man pulling himself up by his bootstraps. with enough grit and determination, we can do anything, our mythology tells us. we are the land of the free, the home of the brave, a land carved out of the wilderness through willpower and independent strength. and it is possible to better yourself, to pull yourself up and out. but the people who cling so tightly to this myth are so rarely the ones who face the conditions that require such effort. they don’t really know what it takes to pull yourself out of a ghetto, how it requires not just talent and determination, but an ability to see beyond a very narrow, very brutal world, a willingness to walk away from everything you have known. it is possible, yes, but it is terribly hard.

    for me, one of the most telling and completely heart-breaking moments in the wire came in season 1 (i think, might have been 2), when bodie is going on a run up to philly, and he is startled when they lose the radio station. he’d never left baltimore; he didn’t know that radio stations were different in every place. a small moment, but it always stayed with me. how do you overcome that narrowness of world? how do you break free of the ghetto when you don’t even know what kind of world is out there, or that there’s a world out there at all?

    it is so easy to moralize, to dismiss the poor, the addicted, the homeless, as weak, as just not willing to say no, to work harder, to want it enough. but the world does not always operate on an individual level, and we have to acknowledge that there are forces at work greater than any person. how many of those people who moralize about “just say no” have ever been presented with a world in which the drug trade is not just the best career opportunity around but the only industry?

    i like how billie holiday said it – “You`ve got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body`s sermon on how to behave.”

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