Friday, July 22, 2011

Man's Struggle

The Wire is not just a television show - it is a sociological phenomenon for those with eyes to see. It is a devastating critique of an ideology that orders some lives while bringing chaos to others. It has been labelled "Dickensian". I might call it Hauerwasian or Brueggemannian, in so far as it is a prophetic voice naming the American empire for what it is/what it does - though the kind of hope that Hauerwas or Brueggemann might invoke in the face of this empire is largely absent.

But that doesn't mean the show is without hope, or without nourishment for the soul. The end of an article by Brian Cook in 2008 gets to the heart of The Wire. It is at this heart that David Simon's Jewish rootage can be discerned, with the core of his creation being man's "struggle". Jacob struggled with God and triumphed. The outcome that The Wire envisions is ambiguous at best, but it always portrays the struggle as one that must be had, whether it gets results or not.

...ultimately, the show is most enjoyable because...the value it holds most high is struggle. Its heroes and anti-heroes might be victims, but they are not passive. Rather, they are actively driven by a dissatisfaction with the status quo. What marks the show's few villains are their complacency and acceptance of "the way things are." What defines the show's heroes is that they will fight -- their clueless bosses, their politicians, their rivals, their lovers, their addictions, themselves. 
Will they win these struggles? This season, most signs point toward "no." But rather than despair, that leads me to recall the words of journalist I.F. Stone: 
The only kinds of fights worth having are those you're going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing -- for the sheer fun and joy of it -- to go right ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a martyr. You've got to enjoy it. 
The bleakest thing about The Wire is that it's ending after the current season.Desperate Housewives, meanwhile, is set to go on until 2011. Now that's a depressing thought.


  1. Damn you Declan Kelly! I wasn't going to watch The Wire today.

    Relevant episode though.
    D'Angelo's fight:

    "You asked me to carry this? I'm carryin it. This is mine right here, right now."
    "'member we used to live on Linden Avenue, 'member that house? I was about six, seven years old, playing on the porch, them twins came by started pickin on me, messin with me - 'member that? I'm bangin on the door tryin to get inside, and you standin right there to open the door 'cept you ain't lettin me inside. You told me to go back out there and fight 'em whether I lose or not. 'Member?"
    "They beat the shit outta you."
    "Yeah, then you say to me - boy I brung you into this world but you the one who gonna have to live in it. Well Ma, I'm still here. Me. You gotta let me live like I need to live. You tell Avon, Stringer and Donette, all of 'em, to leave me be."


  2. Great scene, duly added at the end of the post for illustrative purposes. Thanks!