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

David Simon at Rising Tide 2011Best known as the creator of seminal TV series The Wire, David Simon gave an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract via The Guardian:

America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.

I think we’ve perfected a lot of the tragedy and we’re getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.

I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically. I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.

You know if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism – of how his logic would work when applied – kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that. But he was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.

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…

[continues at The Guardian]

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  • American Cannibal

    If David Simon doesn’t like the America We the Wealthy have provided, he can move to some hellhole like Sweden.

    • Ted Heistman

      Two people don’t get your humor!

      • Juan

        Irony difeciency is no laughing matter.

        • echar

          Maybe they are from Sweden?

          • Juan

            Are Swedes known for being irony deficient?

          • echar

            *shrug… Just thinking a Swede may not like their home being called a hellhole. I wasn’t being entirely serious, mind you. Just contrarian.

          • Juan

            I was just being silly.

    • marshall

      Or Iceland, where people even (scoff) dare to do anything about corruption.

  • Jin The Ninja

    “there are NOW two Americas…”

    no, there has ALWAYS been two americas. perhaps more.
    it’s just MORE acceptable to acknowledge the fact in public.

    • Eric_D_Read

      I’d say there’s definitely more than two.
      Otherwise, you almost have to lump billionaire globalists in with white collar drones who make $100k per year; which I’m sure suits the billionaires just fine.
      They don’t even inhabit the same world; much less the same country.

      • Jin The Ninja

        totally agree.

    • Calypso_1

      perhaps there was once three americas. the middle class seems fairly well pushed to either divide at this point.

      • Jin The Ninja

        agree. but i understand his point. in his distinction, there is the america with access to financial capital, banking- the supposedly ‘upwardly mobile’ set, and the other side who exist in the shadow of cultural america and outside of economic america. severe poverty.

        • Calypso_1

          absolutely. in my estimation a significant aspect of that divide, which has has never been illusory to the rich or poor, has been the middle class. It is they, as the primary target for internal propaganda, who have maintained false notions about the structure and realities of society and their own role as buffer and lapdogs.

  • salviad

    Here is the link to the talk/video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNttT7hDKsk

  • http://disinfo.com/ Majestic

    Thanks – should have looked for that when posting the story!

    • salviad

      My pleasure. Glad the info made it here :)

  • UncleB

    America’s Capitalism has matured, then morphed into Corporatism with plutocrats at the top, and Fascist policing growing fast. Sad note on the Greatest Capitalist Democracy the world has ever known.

    • Jin The Ninja

      there is no such thing as a ‘capitalist democracy’ (much less a greatest hits version). it’s either capitalism OR democracy. this a historical truth.

      ‘many moons ago, when the land was not for sale and the air was clean (not yet a dispersal system for heavy industry)-there existed many directly democratic systems and systems of governance that represented the land as sacred and inviolable.’ – ancient indian proverb.

      true story, bro.

  • Lookinfor Buford

    FTA – ” or we’re going to keep going the way we’re going, at which point there’s going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody’s going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there’s always the brick.”
    This illustrates the socialist agenda clearly. Distribute the wealth, or someone gets hurt. What intellect; bravo.

    • Jin The Ninja

      so basically you’re ‘rebel without a cause- fox news version lite.’

    • Juan

      Right dude, the rich can just keep up their global vampirism with no consequences. People love being down-trodden, sick, starving serfs for the machine and will even sacrifice their children for the “free market.”
      History suggests that there will indeed come a time when people rise up and start throwing fucking bricks. It is really a question of when, not if. The shit will hit the fan, eventually.

    • echar

      How do think many of those those people go to where they are? Hint it wasn’t by sheer ingenuity and hugs.

      • Lookinfor Buford

        How the fuck do you know how they got where they are? You don’t know shit about it. You make 1 million assumptions about it. It’s easy for you to ‘think’, for lack of a better word that all wealthy people are trust fund babies. I hate to break the news to you, the majority of them who stay wealthy, are the hardest working people you’ll ever meet. And they do more good for other people in a year than you will do in your lifetime. EPECIALLY if you hold the belief that leftism, central powers of authority, strong government, or some supposedly benign ultimate authority is the answer to our problems. It’s about incentive dummy! people accomplish great feats when they are incented to do so.
        But go ahead and flame, assholes

        • Jin The Ninja

          lol. the intellectual bricks cast by yourself are so far off mark.
          stick to tipping cows and individualism as an MTV caricature.

          libertarian-socialism is a useful word you should be aware of. .

          • Lookinfor Buford

            This illustrates the socialist agenda clearly. Distribute the wealth, or someone gets hurt. What intellect; bravo.
            This was my brick. Explain where it is false.
            You’re the #1 off-topic poster on this entire site. Your two posts here being perfect examples.

          • Jin The Ninja

            david simon was discussing the causal relationship to violence and inequality. i get that it’s beyond you to understand the nuance and context (the difference, really).

            actually my posts were entirely relevant. try again.

          • Jin The Ninja

            and just to be clear: there is NO “socialist” agenda.
            there may be a conservative agenda. a liberal agenda. but there is not a radical left voice or agenda anywhere to be seen. socialism is not a monolith. many people on this forum are in favour of de-centralisation, democratisation and economic sovereignty. this sort of thought bears no resemblance to either msm/fox news ‘socialism’ or soviet state capitalism.

          • Andrew

            Socialism is anything that is not anarcho-capitalist.

          • Jin The Ninja

            i really do get that, now.

            in the unreality of pop culture discourse. everything and anything is possible. and probably wrong.

          • Andrew
          • Juan

            Isn’t there a Fox News forum where you’d feel much more at home? Fnord.

          • Andrew

            I like how he called echar a “dummy” and then the rest of us “assholes” when HE told US to “flame.”

            What intellect.

        • echar

          The trust fund babies are possibly the lesser of evils. However I doubt you could see why. Besides I don’t feel like wasting my time on a rhetoric parrot.

        • Andrew

          > I hate to break the news to you, the majority of them who stay wealthy, are the hardest working people you’ll ever meet.

          The majority? I don’t believe you.

          How hard do you believe the majority of the poor work?

        • echar

          I can’t help but see you as some Chad Vader type. Completely duped by your corporate overlords. Drunk with the delusions and power you hold over people. All in the name of profit for your hard working parasitic emperor.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wGR4-SeuJ0

          Either that or a house slave. Sidling up to your master/s for a few extra comforts while sending the rest to get whipped with a word or two.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1ukDSlwTOk

          • The Well Dressed Man

            when the new laser checkout system is fully operational… then we will have pizza…

    • VaudeVillain

      For many Socialists, the agenda is fix shit before the bricks get thrown: they have no intention of throwing them, and would much rather nobody else gets around to it either.

      But if you’d rather accuse left-leaning intellectuals and political actors of malfeasance, then I guess that’s cool too. Some people enjoy interpreting warnings as threats, it makes them feel all cozy and persecuted.

    • jnana

      what about the guns the capitalists hold and their banners that say,” produce wealth for us or end up in a ghetto”. are they not shoving their capitalism down my throat? are they not shoving it down the throat across the world over? ever heard of the American imperialist war in the Philippines? Ever heard of the first CIA operation outside the US, where they overthrew the democratically elected Arbenz in Guatemala? How about the US involvement in Chile in the 70s, overthrowing, yet again, a democratically elected (oh no!) Communist gov’t and imposing a dictator who was willing to follow the Chicago School of Economic Theory and deregulate industry?
      How about keep the wealth in the hands of the plutocrats, or someone gets hurt(who will likely be brown skinned)?

  • Tony Peart

    Not only are there two Americas but are equally as intelligent . America is a sh#t sandwich . The more bread you have the less sh#t you have to eat .