I’ve never watched the critically acclaimed show The Wire. No particular reason—just never got around to it like most TV and film. I simply don’t have the time. But I’ll take critics and fans alike at their word when they say it’s a fantastic show. I believe it’s essentially a police drama about inner city life in Baltimore. The show’s creator, David Simon, was recently in Sydney, Australia, participating in something interestingly named the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. And what he had to say about the divide in America between rich and poor was dangerous indeed. It was in fact just the truth, but that’s the most dangerous thing these days. We prefer lies.
I don’t know if Simon intended it, but one key observation he made struck me as encapsulating the distemper of our times and of pinpointing the gestalt of how we got from there to here. He described as a “fundamental mistake” the elevation of profit to become the central metric by which we measure our health. And he put it this way:
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?
So we assemble around fake fires and chant these new holy words and turn our faces to a new god. And I get this feeling he or she isn’t as cool as we think.