Table of contents

Wire III.6-7

On faith & fortune

Avon & Stringer now must debate how to live the life of crime. Avon believes in war & arms; Stringer in commerce & negotiation. Avon has already been to prison & would rather avoid it in futurity; & his long absence has weakened significantly the morale & discipline of a gang that was never much on endurance anyway; finally, the political & economic conditions of the city favor moneymakers. Avon startlingly says Stringer & his kind have no country.

This is the only insight we have into the origins of these two unusual men. Not to explain their great skills, but their opinions. Avon was, as the poet says, half-in-love with death. He did not expect to live long. Apparently, without harsh, constant fighting, he hardly understands necessity anymore. They agree they have more money than they can spend. They agree therefore that their needs are not economic. This is when they talk about their youth. Avon wanted war; Stringer commerce. Both took their dreams as shows of manliness & distinction: They would rise above their peers & overcome enemies. Success was their purpose. They have reached it. It is not what it seemed. Now, they cannot go back. How to rule then?

McNulty & Daniels differ on the fundamental problem of organizing police. Their enemies forced them together. Perhaps necessity also pushes them together. McNulty typifies the fanatic’s singlemindedness & immorality. He does not believe in God, so it is not clear how you keep him sane. But without McNulty, who will risk life for no good reason? Daniels typifies the moral man’s belief in order & therefore in hierarchy. The downfall of our laws is obviously connected with our inability to make sure we have such men working together, a difficult policy at the best of times.

The policemen we see survive on their cynicism. They are aware of the basic facts of crime. But they lack the kind of perspective that reveals the necessity, & therefore the possibility to remove the cause, of crime. & the laughing at danger removes from them the revelation of the moral & political monstrosity of drug crime. Their habits force them to misunderstand those things the experience of which decides whether they live or die. They enforce American laws, but American life includes lawless savages who terrorize civilians.

Hence, the indictment of our laws: They favor criminals. McNulty & his kind are driven to drink because they see this: It makes no sense. Why enforce laws if criminals thrive? Privacy no longer distinguishes citizens from criminals – the death knell of liberalism. What is rule then? The police just falsify crime statistics to please politicians who want to please the people.