Friday, April 23, 2010

The Wire (2)

A rare encounter. Omar and Bunk parlay

Another posting on 'The Wire' ! The TV series which US President Barack Obama confessed to be his favourite programme and the maverick gangster Omar Little (above,left) to be his favourite character in the TV series.

Having watched all 5 series twice for a total of approximately 120 hours, I feel a need to enthuse more. As ever my mate Nigel has once more come up with the goods with the loan of a book upon the T.V series, the HBO official publication. With accolades such as - 'When Television history is written, little else will rival 'The Wire' (Variety) and 'The best series on TV. Period' (Entertainment Weekly) and 'The Wire' is arguably the greatest television programme ever made' (Daily Telegraph) my indulgence approaches justification.

With a strong focus upon the up and coming General Election in Britain at present, I just can't resist this lengthy, but pertinent quotation by the series writer, David Simon. In essence this quotation summarizes what the motivation of the director and the message of the seminal TV series is all about.

'Mythology is important, essential even, to a national psyche. And Americans in particular are desperate in their pursuit of a national myth. This is understandable, to a point: coating an elemental truth with the bright gloss of heroism and national sacrifice is the prerogative of the nation-state. But to carry the same lies forward, generation after generation, so that our collective sense of the American experiment is better and more comforting than it ought to be - this is where mythology has its cost, and a cost not only to the United States but to the world as a whole. In a young and struggling nation, a moderate degree of self-elevating bullshit has a certain charm. For a militarized, technological superpower-overextended in both its economic and foreign policy impulses - it begins to approach the Orwellian.......
To state our case, 'The Wire' began as a story wedged between two American myths. The first tells us that in this country , if you are smarter than the next man, if you are shrewd or frugal or visionary, if you build a better mousetrap, if you get there first with the best idea, you will succeed beyond your wildest imaginations. And by virtue of free-market processes, it is entirely fair to say that this myth, more than ever, happens to be true. Not only is this accurate in America, but throughout the West and in many emerging nations as well. Every day, a new millionaire or three is surely christened. Or ten. Or twenty.
But a supporting myth has also presided, and it serves as ballast against the unencumbered capitalism that has emerged triumphant, asserting as it does for individual achievement to the seclusion of all societal responsibility, and thereby validating the amassed wealth of the wise and fortunate among us. In America, we once liked to tell ourselves , those who are not clever or visionary, who do not build better mousetraps, have a place held for them nonetheless. The myth holds that those who are neither slick nor cunning, yet willing to get up every day and work their asses off and come home and stay committed to their families, their communities and every other other institution they are also asked to serve - these people have a portion for them as well. They might not drive a Lexus, or eat out every weekend; their children might not be candidates for early admission at Harvard or Brown; and come Sunday, they might not see the game on a wide-screen. But they will have a place, and they will not be betrayed.

In Baltimore, as in so many cities, it is no longer possible to describe this as a myth. It is no longer possible even to remain polite on the subject. It is, in a word, a lie.

In my city, the brown fields and rotting piers and rusting factories are testament to an economy that shifted and then shifted again, rendering obsolete whole generations of union-wage workers and their families. The cost to society is beyond calculation, not that anyone ever paused to calculate anything. Our economic and political leaders are dismissive of the horror, at points even flippant in their derision. Margaret Thatcher's suggestion that there is no society to consider beyond the individual and his family speaks volumes in the clarity of its late -20th century contempt for the ideal of nation-states offering citizens anything approximating a sense of communal purpose and meaning.

David Simon quotation taken from HBO book The Wire -Truth be told 2009

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