There are two Americas. In one, bankers get golden parachutes, insider traders return to society as well-paid consultants, and influence is for sale. In the other, opportunity is scarce and forgiveness scarcer, jail awaits those caught possessing recreational drugs, and cries for help are ignored. Society preaches forgiveness for the rich and retribution for the poor. Entrenched inequality and its companion, poverty, are the dark side of the American dream for a citizenry united by name, but not by rules.
Is the divide fair, the result of natural winners and losers, or is it built into the system? We know that inequality is bad for the rich as well as the poor, and that more equal countries are healthier and happier, but this knowledge won't bring change by itself. What can be done when those with the power to change the divide are those that benefit most from it? As long as the more equal won’t let go, the less equal will suffer.
From his journalist days on the crime beat through to his work on shows like The Wire and Treme, David Simon has brought the divide between these two America’s to life like no other. Simon looks at the oppressed, the victims of manmade disasters such as the war on drugs through to natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina, and forces us to ask whether the fictional stories he shows us on screen are any less real than the theatre of compassion we see on the news from the very same people who have the power to treat all citizens equally but choose not to.
David Simon is a journalist, author, and television writer/producer best known as the creator and showrunner of HBO series The Wire and Treme. He spent twelve years on the crime beat for the Baltimore Sun. He also worked on the adaptations of his books Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood for NBC and HBO respectively.
Chair: Michael Williams is the director of Melbourne’s The Wheeler Centre. He worked in publishing and radio broadcasting before joining The Wheeler Centre as programming director at the Centre’s inception, helping nurture it into a culturally significant institution.