An appetizer for Breaking Bad fans, In Hell, “We Shall Be Free”: On ‘Breaking Bad’
Here lies the crux of Breaking Bad, the heart of its terror. It is a morality lesson — the sort that, since adolescence, we have studiously avoided. Like much literature, Breaking Bad suggests that consciousness is crucial; but this show goes further. Conscience, consciousness do not absolve you. Indeed, nothing will. You must not only recognize your sin — you must also be ready to pay for it. This, again, is Old Testament at its core.
Breaking Bad appears, at first, to ask the age-old question posed by the Book of Job: why do good people suffer — why must Walt, mild-mannered family man, be struck with a debilitating illness and forced to illegality because of a broken health-care system? But the show soon inverts Job’s question, asking instead: why do bad people flourish? What moral universe produces, and then propels, a man like Walt?
Breaking Bad is not alone in showcasing complex, three-dimensional characters, whom the reader and audience is unsure of whether to love or hate (why do we root for Medea’s escape even after she has killed her children?).
This is a great cultural analysis of Breaking Bad. The insights are sharply drawn. Though I am fascinated and put off a little by dragging in comparisons to Milton’s Paradise Lost. It is one of those books that I would recommend everyone read, not because of some great moral benefit to be gained, but because the thinking in it has been responsible for so much evil in the world. Perhaps because Paradise is old, written before the invention of the telephone it’s so old, it has a mystical quality, sometimes referenced as though it was part of church doctrine. It is a story born of Milton’s incredible imagination that is both a prequel to events in the Bible and also parallels the Bible with its own interpretation. Milton was a Protestant. Paradise is not just a condemnation of what Milton saw as the corruption of the Catholic church – on that score there is not much to argue with, and what he saw as Catholic idolatry, via church structures and statues. Milton’s condemns the idolatry of old paganism as well. Yet it is that same paganism gave rise to the concept of battling god-like beings over supremacy and issues of good, freewill and evil. Milton envisioned, imagined some kind of pure relationship with God that no one is capable of so he is of the look at where things went terribly wrong and we cannot go back, dammit school of judgement. If we think of Breaking Bad’s Walter as an anti-hero whose persona reflects that of Milton’s Satan, of course Walt is doomed. As they note Walt does not have any direct antagonism with God or Satan, but with himself and the world humans have created. The critics and Milton see Satan as human-like, displaying all the pride, arrogance and ambition of men. Walter’s nemesis at first is his own flesh, the health care system and a world that can be altruistic in the general, but deeply apathetic in the particular. While his relationship with Jesse has clearly become toxic to Jesse, Walter hardly has any ambition to bring down humanity. Other than the nebulous desire to want out, Walter’s future are on the micro-scale, is all about concern for the safety and well-being of his wife and kids ( even as tenuous as that seems at times). One of the reasons, to be obvious, that Walter, a control freak, flies into such terrible rages is that he realizes how little easily things spin out of his control. In Paradise Milton, along with his God, look down on man. Certainly God and angels such as Michael show some understanding, but once Adam and Eve fall from grace, they also see mankind as lowly and pitiful – these superhuman, yet amazingly human creatures are condescending and superior. Walter makes one bad turn and life, circumstances or destiny become both unforgiving and brutal. Milton’s God forgives, yet condemns and ejects mankind from Eden. One lousy mistake, which they were tempted into, and they’re out.
Here is what distinguishes Breaking Bad from the other shows of its genre. The show capitalizes on our repulsion with Walt’s desire to believe that the world is “simple chaos,” that it’s nothing but “subatomic particles in endless collision.” Though we may personally hold modern and scientific beliefs and though likely we dismiss the Old Testament notion of an angry god as a frightful, violent fable, we do not particularly want Walt to believe that the world is random, that the world is chaotic — to do so would secure Walt’s failure to ever understand the damage he has done.
At least for me, that captures the kind of tension I feel when watching the show. I don’t want to throw a shoe at the TV, I want to shout, please make better decisions. Maybe Walter’s life narrative, and Jessie’s, has turned into a bucket of tar from which they cannot extricate themselves, but I want them to try harder. If I remember correctly there was an episode last season where Jesse did start to leave town and stopped. That moment was like watching the monster in a horror film grab the last camper.
Making our prison system into a for profit enterprise is past the slippery slope. Alabama Judge Rebukes Private Correctional Company For Running ‘Debtors Prison’
Judge Harrington goes on say that defendants appearing before the Harpersville Municipal Court are “subjected to repeated and ongoing violations of almost every safeguard afforded by the Unite[d] States Constitution, the laws of Alabama and the Rules of Criminal Procedure.”
At issue are the fines that JCS is authorized to impose if an individual convicted of a crime is not immediately able to pay the imposed fine. That person is placed on “probation,” and JCS begins to collect an additional $35 fee every day the individual does not pay in full his or her penalty. If the mounting debt is not paid, JCS forwards the case back to the court and the person is imprisoned for “probation violations” with no adjudication.
The ruling, which enjoined the court and JCS from further imprisoning probation violators and added a 30 day grace period for individuals to pay off a court-ordered penalty before JCS begins to charge their $35 fee, highlights yet another problem with states’ growing reliance on private companies to run corrections services.
In Florida, lawmakers who accepted thousands of dollars from private prison companies have passed legislation to expand private prison contracts, in Arizona Governor Jan Brewer accepted more than $60,000 from another private prison company in exchange for favorable legislation, and in Pennsylvania, a judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison after it was revealed he channeled hundreds of young people into privately run juvenile detention facilities in exchange for lofty payouts.
The judge noted that debtors prisons, which were part of the reason many immigrants escaped Europe in the 1600s, were fairly common in the U.S. until the 1800s. Slowly eliminated everywhere except Harpersville. Making crime pay for everyone even tangentially related to law enforcement seems to provide an amazing motivation to create criminals and to keep them that way.
Arrogant liars: Mitt Romney for the daily double. How can one have nothing to do with a company – nothing as in nada, zip, zero, when you are listed as “As member of the Management Committee “. More dates and things Romney had nothing to do with here.
I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.