David Simon: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’

submitted by Gene Howington

David Simon is best known as the creator and writer of the brilliant television show The Wire. His most recent column appearing at The Guardian is a fine example of why perhaps he should also be known as a deep thinker. I say this not just because I find his position in line with my own and my own observations, but because I think his analysis shows an unhurried and considered approach.  While his core thesis is perhaps best summed up by the following excerpt, I do encourage you to read the article in full at The Guardian.

“That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.

We understand profit. In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?

And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.”

What do you think?

About Gene Howington

I write and do other stuff.
This entry was posted in American History, Capitalism, Economics, Equal Rights, History, Legal Theory, Libertarians, Political Science, Socialism, Sociology, United States and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to David Simon: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’

  1. Mike Spindell says:

    Gene,

    David Simon’s article has me in awe by his ability to capture what has gone wrong with our country in so short a piece. It may well be the single most important article I’ve read in years. His subject in essence is how greed has replaced the sense of identity with the entire society people live in. When you destroy the sense of social interdependence it all goes downhill

  2. po says:

    No doubt, great article.
    David Simon has been debating these ideas for a while now, i remember checking his blog out a couple of times and being surprised he was willing to engage trolls.
    His point about capitalism being an engine rather than a philosophy is perhaps one of the most important points to take stock of. People seem to understand capitalism as more than just what it is, hence my question to Bron on another thread about what is the opposite of libertarianism and of socialism, certainly not capitalism.
    And as long as we keep seeing it as the solve all tool, a philosophy, or the best of the options, we will never get out of this hole.
    Generally, we have to take back words and rediscover their meaning, otherwise we are held hostage by those who control the debate. He who controls the word, controls the meaning.
    Specifically, we have to strip capitalism to its bare bones, and show it as what it is, just glorified commerce. Commerce doesn’t think, it just acts, and as Simon says, it requires a philosophy to guide it. When capitalism thinks it is sound to fish with dynamite, and it does that, something has to tell it no, it is a dumb idea.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      “His point about capitalism being an engine rather than a philosophy is perhaps one of the most important points to take stock of.”

      Po,
      Exactly the heart of Simon’s piece.

  3. Juris says:

    “And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.”

    I had a similar sentiment the other day while listening to NPR doing an interview of Louis C.K. The interviewer asked a question about his “success” without a hesitation, in a way that was synonymous with making a buttload of money. It occurred to me how often the word success is used in this way. It used to be “commercial success,” but now the commercial has been dropped. Think about it. One is no longer “successful” unless they make a lot of money. It was interesting to me because I have 2 small kids, and was thinking, being a successful father and husband is way more important to me than making money. But the context it is used so often now only refers to how much money one makes and no other aspects of accomplishments in one’s life.

  4. mespo727272 says:

    One may justify all manner of greed, oppression, and exploitation and thereafter escape any ill consequences by merely uttering the three word incantation: “It’s just business.”

  5. Elaine M. says:

    Gene,

    Great piece!

    Here’s an interview with Simon from The Marshall Project.

    David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish
    Freddie Gray, the drug war, and the decline of “real policing.”
    https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/04/29/david-simon-on-baltimore-s-anguish

    Excerpt:
    BK: What do people outside the city need to understand about what’s going on there — the death of Freddie Gray and the response to it?

    DS: I guess there’s an awful lot to understand and I’m not sure I understand all of it. The part that seems systemic and connected is that the drug war — which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city — was transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of trust, particularly between the black community and the police department. Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war. It happened in stages, but even in the time that I was a police reporter, which would have been the early 80s to the early 90s, the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized. It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did.

    Probable cause from a Baltimore police officer has always been a tenuous thing. It’s a tenuous thing anywhere, but in Baltimore, in these high crime, heavily policed areas, it was even worse. When I came on, there were jokes about, “You know what probable cause is on Edmondson Avenue? You roll by in your radio car and the guy looks at you for two seconds too long.” Probable cause was whatever you thought you could safely lie about when you got into district court.

    Then at some point when cocaine hit and the city lost control of a lot of corners and the violence was ratcheted up, there was a real panic on the part of the government. And they basically decided that even that loose idea of what the Fourth Amendment was supposed to mean on a street level, even that was too much. Now all bets were off. Now you didn’t even need probable cause. The city council actually passed an ordinance that declared a certain amount of real estate to be drug-free zones. They literally declared maybe a quarter to a third of inner city Baltimore off-limits to its residents, and said that if you were loitering in those areas you were subject to arrest and search. Think about that for a moment: It was a permission for the police to become truly random and arbitrary and to clear streets any way they damn well wanted.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      “Think about that for a moment: It was a permission for the police to become truly random and arbitrary and to clear streets any way they damn well wanted.”

      Elaine,
      Simon’s words ring true. The deeper meaning though was that the “Drug War” was never about drugs. It was always a way of imposing Jim Crow in a new format. Throughout most of the U.S. and on the Federal level our policy is too ensure that people of color are more restricted in their lives. It is the enforcement of “White Privilege” steeped in dishonesty and hypocrisy.

  6. Yes, there are 2 Americas. North America and South America.

  7. Chuck Stanley, good call. So, technically, there are 3.

Comments are closed.