25 October 2014

The Observer: “The Wire creator David Simon: why American politics no longer works”

That’s the notion that the markets will solve everything. Leave me alone. I want maximum liberty, I want maximum freedom. Those words have such power in America. On the other hand ‘responsibility’ or ‘society’ or ‘community’ are words that are increasingly held in disfavour in the United States. And that’s a recipe for cooking up a second-rate society, one that does not engage with the notion of collective responsibility. We’re only as good a society as how we treat those who are most vulnerable and nobody’s more vulnerable than our poor. To be poor is not a crime, except in America.

David Simon

There has been no shortage lately of articles about the rising inequality and political blockage in the United States, but this one stuck with me because of the striking similarity with a fragment from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five, which I was reading at the time. I think it’s safe to say the problem is far from being solved, and only getting worse.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue, the monograph went on. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.

Kurt Vonnegut

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