I watched the last episode of The Wire last night. Like every one, I was, what, injured by the scene that shows Dukie taking to heroin. (For those who have not watched the show, Dukie was a sweet, slightly bewildered kid (foreground in this photo) who we have watched wander out of an abusive home into the protection of a gangster brother, then into the life on the street, then into the embrace of dope.)
David Simon must have had several motives in making The Wire. Some artistic, some political, some pragmatic. I mean, in 6 years the guy has changed the face of what is possible on TV and in the process he has transformed our culture. But you get the feeling he would trade this accomplishment to make more material and more enduring difference in the life of a Dukie.
So I don’t feel the series is over until I do something, until lot of viewers do something, to make a difference for Dukie. I have sent out a couple of emails asking friends what they think. I mean, if you’re going to give money, to whom should it go? If you are going to give time, what would you do? If anyone has suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
My idea, predictably, is to give a guy like Dukie an anthropology of contemporary culture. One of the ways out of that Baltimore is to understand the trap it is. And David Simon has done that. A good teacher in the right classroom could use The Wire to give Dukie a helicopter view of the hell he’s living in, the things to avoid, the pathways out.
After that it’s up to the rest of us. We need to map the culture outside Baltimore, the world in which Dukie must manage if he’s going to escape. Who knows about this? Well, anthropologists for one. The ones that study contemporary culture that is. Planners, too. Marketers of several kinds have a detailed knowledge of the domestic, professional, private and public lives that Dukie needs to know about.
Sure, this is patronizing. We know. Dukie doesn’t. But hey, if I were Dukie, I would want to hear from someone on the outside. And it doesn’t have to be an exercise in asymmetry, not if it’s a dispassionate, unsentimental kind of thing. It just says "Dukie, here’s the 411 on all those worlds Simon couldn’t pack into The Wire." The idea is to mobilize Dukie by supplying him cultural capital and critical intelligence that is not now in place.
But hey, first things, first. Please let me know, dear reader, what do you think is the best place to donate a hundred bucks.