“I’ve been a cop for a long time. And drugs out there, we’re never gonna win that. There’s a hundred open-air drug markets in this city and fifty thousand drug fiends out there. And we are taking on human desires with lawyers, and jailhouses, and lockups, and you and I both know human desire is kicking us in the ass.”—Meldrick Lewis, played by Clark Johnson, on Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999)
In the 1850’s the South witnessed a series of splendid tournaments, complete with flashing knights and queens of beauty. But if such pageantry enchanted romantic imaginations from Maryland to South Carolina, it could not conceal the darker undercurrent of brutal violence which was often confused with chivalry. Whereas the duel in Europe had been conducted with rapiers or pistols, often ending with a superficial wound and a reconciliation and amounting to no more than a formal display of honor, there was an increasing tendency in America to use shotguns, rifles, and bowie knives and to fight under such conditions that death was inevitable. In practice, the duel tended to degenerate into unrestrained personal combat, providing the professional killer, the bully, and the psychopath with an opportunity to win reputation and honor from cold-blooded murder.
What saddens me is something that is much harder to put my finger on. It’s not development as such. It’s the kind of development. North Delta has changed. It went from strip malls and little Ma-and-Pa-owned corner stores where people knew each other (however superficially) to multi-function stores with nationwide television commercials. When I walk down Scott Road now, it’s hard to ignore all of the signs that conjure well-known jingles. Now that there’s a Cactus Club, a Moxie’s, a Keg, an Earls and a Taco Bell, it feels like Scott Road could be anywhere in the Lower Mainland, anywhere in BC, anywhere in Western Canada. North Delta is no longer the North Delta that Lynde, Elaine and I were so desperate to escape. It has become a generic mixture of new-fangled restaurant chains, megastores and discount outlets. I thought I wouldn’t care what happened to North Delta. However much I claimed to hate the place, however begrudgingly I admitted it, North Delta was home.
When the metro finally arrives, the people outside all bunch together real tight and the people inside all bunch the same and some want to get in and others want to get out. The one who pushes the most wins. In the beginning, I thought this was the way city folk did their exercises and I got into the spirit of things, urging them on with, “A people united can never be defeated,” but I finally decided it wasn’t that, and that they were just like that, pushy, I mean, at least the pedestrian ones, cause the ones in the cars are all different. They just cruise around all the time and holler blow it out your ass at each other, or asshole, like they was really pissed, but they’re not, that’s just what they do, blow it out their asses, I guess.
A consistent Marxian would have to call the detective story—perhaps together with the Hollywood pictures, the comics and the “art” of strip-tease—the artistic superstructure of the epoch of labor unionism and socialization.
The game of dominos is an exact science, just like the Marxism of Engels, Plekhanov, and Bukharin. There are twenty-eight tiles distributed around the table and seven rounds to play them. In theory, if you study the first plays and take into account the tiles in your own hand, it is relatively simple to deduce the tiles in anyone else’s hand. That, like Marxism, is the theory. But a social revolution did not take place in nineteenth-century England, despite the fact that it was crawling with horrible little factories and a hard-fighting, beer-drinking proletariat; the dictatorship of the proletariat never actually defended the proletariat, and sometimes quantitative leaps produced qualitative regressions. In dominos, as in life, the chance factor plays a role, sometimes the starring role, and if that isn’t enough, there’re four morons around a table trying to dupe one another.