Stepping Off The Carousel

Here’s my admission: I’ve never watched Breaking Bad. I never watched it because the inherent premise of it — a good man forced into crime by circumstance — was abhorrent to me, and because I’ve always been the guy who tried to do what was right regardless of circumstance.

But lately, I’m starting to think I may have been an idiot all these years, because when the system can be so easily gamed by people with fewer scruples and lower morals than mine, what’s the point of being the good guy?

Over at Return of Kings, some guy makes the same point in an article entitled In A Broken America, Only The Dishonorable Are Rewarded. (By the way, I love articles whose titles make reading the thing unnecessary, but you should read it anyway.) In true RoK fashion, he refers to people like me as “dupes”, and in his frame of the situation, he’s probably quite right.

Fortunately, of course, I’m in the majority of the population because up until now, most people can be counted on to do the right thing. I suspect too that this is why Social Security is pretty much untouchable: not because of the greediness of retirees, but because having done the right thing their whole lives and paid into the system (albeit at gunpoint), people are insistent that government also does the right thing and delivers on their promise by supporting retirees.

That government might one day renege on that promise is the stuff of nightmares — and not just for the cheated retirees, either.

What concerns me is that our public morality is becoming frayed by the increasing growth of private immorality. When I stated above that the “majority” of people can be counted on to do the right thing, what happens when that majority becomes a lot less so, and the wrongdoers become ascendant? Which, I think, is Furioso’s underlying point of his article, albeit not enunciated as such. If everybody else is cheating, then why aren’t you? It’s an enticing question, and sadly, a seductive one.

Even worse is that the wrongdoers,  by cheating and abusing the system, make thing intolerable for those who are on the straight and narrow. No better example can be found than in the pain management scenario, where people who are experiencing real and excruciating pain on a daily basis are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the drugs needed to treat their condition because a jillion fuckups are abusing opiates and government, of course, is applying legislation like a hammer when what’s called for is a scalpel. My late wife was actually fired by two pain management medical practices because the doctors were finding the burden of government intervention and intrusiveness too difficult — and career-threatening — for Connie’s care to be in their best interest. Only when she was diagnosed with cancer did her care improve, because (as the new doctor explained), government doesn’t actually care about terminal patients because their condition is finite.

Imagine my reaction to that little nugget of information. And no, I didn’t load up the old AK-47 and pay a visit to the nearest government office. What I wanted to do was load up the AK and start paying visits to the cockroaches who had created this situation by abusing the drugs which my wife desperately needed. Seriously, had I known the Breaking Bad guy in person, I would have been mightily tempted to slaughter him, his dealers and every single “patient” who used his product. But not even I have enough ammo to make that problem go away because cockroaches seem to be in infinite supply these days.

I worry about this situation, about this waning of public morality. In fact, I worry about this more than I worry about any other aspect of modern society — more than un-Constitutional campus speech codes, more than corrupt IRS officials who target conservatives, and far more than the Russians (who are surely the best example of nationally-degraded public morality) attempting to fiddle with our electoral system.

And I know that our beloved government is worried about it too. How else can you explain the recent huge purchases of guns and ammunition by the Fedgov, and the arming of the thousands of federal agents and bureaucrats who are not even close to being in actual law enforcement?

Never before has W.B. Yeats’s Second Coming been more chilling:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

At the risk of sounding apocalyptic: keep your powder dry and your guns at hand, folks. Because when more than a few decent folks start to break bad, it’s SHTF time.


  1. I passed on Breaking Bad when it was showing. But I binged it on Netflix, seeing all 5 seasons in about a 3 week period. And while the premise was a good man trying to stash some cash to ensure his family would be cared for after he was gone was not a straight and narrow choice. The show documented the decline of his personality, and the dissolution of what he was trying to protect. as well as the decline of the person he tapped to help him as the kid was a user so he should know how to deal.

    It is well worth the time it takes to watch as the story unfolds. It will convince you, which is not really needed, of the venal nature of the bulk of humanity.

    I do like Netflix buying TNT dramas and am currently watching hell on wheels. I might even have to watch sons of anarchy.

    But is does point out that keeping our powder dry and guns close to hand are good things. Keep your head on a swivel and your eyes open. It is amazing what you will notice. and hopefully with enough lead time you can follow the first rule of survival. Don’t be there.

  2. The great mistake with selectively enforcing the law is that eventually the citizens start selectively obeying the law. This applies to morals also. Chaos and anarchy are then assured.

    1. Exactly. If my Presidents (former and present) decide which laws they’re going to enforce, I’ve decided that I’m not going to obey stupid laws re: guns and pain meds. What are they going to do to me? I’m a 60-ish single coot that’s only half as crippled as Denny Wilson of and I’ll play the Crippled Veteran Card with no shame at all.

      And as far as “morals” go, I don’t have much choice; I’ve always abhored thievery and time, prostate cancer and back surgery have taken care of the other possibilities.

      (I’ve never watched Breaking Bad either; mostly because I haven’t turned the TV on in years. To me, it’s all either claptrap or indoctrination.)

  3. I binge watched Breaking Bad on Netflix. I thought it was a very well written and performed show.

    You’re right about more people “breaking bad.” What happens when more and more people decide they’ve had enough of following the law and a moral code? We see that at any number of riots across the country, Ferguson, MO, Baltimore, MD, LA Riots after Rodney King verdict etc etc.

  4. There would be fewer cockroaches if the FedGov wasn’t so intent on protecting Americans from the consequences of our own stupidity. Drug addition is a self-correcting problem for those who can’t handle it, and not a problem at all for those who can.

    Speaking of the corruption of morals and the consequent social problems which result therefrom, you might find Karen Straughan’s latest video interesting. She takes Jordan Peterson, with whom she generally agrees, to task for his mischaracterization of the MGTOW phenomenon.

  5. When everything is fraud (and I do mean everything) and nothing is punished except hard work, well, you’re not going to like me as a gangster.

    I have never met anyone in government service. (any branch, any occupation) who I felt was smarter than I was. yet in the private world, I was surrounded by people smarter than me. (which is, of course, how to be successful). I’m not all worried about getting caught.

    .Gov and society in general should be really worried about people like me giving up and making up my own rules. They aren’t going to like the result.

  6. I never watched it because the inherent premise of it — a good man forced into crime by circumstance — was abhorrent to me, and because I’ve always been the guy who tried to do what was right regardless of circumstance.

    That’s the implied premise at the beginning. It’s not long into the show that astute viewers realize that Walter has always been a bad man who was kept in line by social norms and his own cowardice. (Spoiler because I don’t believe in them — Walter continues his crime syndicate long, long after it is clear that his cancer is in remission and he’s essentially cured.)

    His partner Jesse is more of the type you are thinking — the guy with a somewhat decent moral compass who makes bad decisions through laziness and general dumbassery. The show makes it clear, though, that Jesse is the one who is trapped into the situation by Walter, since Jesse tries several times to get out, and eventually succumbs to temptation. Walter doesn’t succumb — he is the tempter.

    1. You seem to have missed a significant portion of the development of that character– he was not “always bad”. The concept of Walt was: What would happen if someone who played by the rules all his life, despite being screwed over on more than one occasion, went bad. Then, how much of that badness would we excuse because he was once “good”?

      Gilligan’s whole arc for Walt was entirely to keep asking the audience: Okay, NOW do you still like him? That’s why it was good– building up a character with empathy, then turning him into the devil, is pretty old hat so far as drama goes.

      1. As someone pointed out, at what point do you stop cheering for him and start cheering against him?

        1. I suspect just about everyone has a different answer to that. That was some of the secret sauce that made the character interesting.

    2. At the risk of coming off like a BB fan boy, I lean towards this theory rather than the “good man gone bad” one.

      In the beginning Walter is a pitiable sad sack. He gets ridiculed by everyone from his domineering wife to his car-wash boss to the snotty spoiled teenagers that he is trying to teach. You may feel some sympathy for the guy, but there is never a time when you feel any real admiration or respect for him. When he lashes out (like when he sets the asshole yuppie’s car on fire at the gas station) he comes across not as a warrior for justice but as a toddler throwing a temper tantrum (and he has a LOT of temper tantrums.)

      Halfway through the 3rd season you start to realize that he’s always been an insufferable ass, it’s just that he was considered harmless when he didn’t really have the ability to screw up anyone’s life. But money, power and drugs give him the ability to be the obnoxious dick he’s always been inside.

  7. It started with a show called Deadwood. A great show, especially the dialog. There were some good people that had some flaws, and there were some bad people that were really bad. Over the course of the show, bad people showed some good qualities that confused you, but damn they were very bad. Looking at you Al Swearengen.

    Fast forward to the Sopranos, another great show. Mostly very bad people you are supposed to grow to like. It made you uncomfortable, at least it should if you have morals.

    These two shows opened the floodgates. Coincidentally reality TV hit big time which I consider even more morally challenged. People watching human train wreaks for entertainment, really? I don’t get it myself. All the worst qualities of human interactions on display, AND encouraged.

    I never watched Breaking Bad either, I didn’t see any upside message. Wife liked it though. Same with Game of Thrones, I watched the 1st episode and thought all these people are fucking sick and never watched again. The Magicians show is a good example of millennial’s and their moral challenges, or what they have decided to normalize. I watch it but yell at the screen a lot.

    I don’t yell at kids to get off my lawn, yet… but I do sorta pine for more uplifting TV than just super hero shows.

    I do take some comfort in the fact that Plato, Socrates, etc. all wrote in their day that the youth of their time was fucking up everything and were causing the collapse of known civilization. The cycle repeats.

    1. I’ve tried watching Breaking Bad, but just couldn’t get into it.
      The Fargo series, on the other hand, actually does have moral characters worth cheering for.
      Oddly enough, best to start with the second series. It’s set in 1979, and is awesome.

  8. Breaking Bad was a study of the gray– yes, X is illegal, but I’m going to do it because Y. In playing with X and Y you eventually end up in a place where the majority of folk find X indefensible– though some will still try and find a way, because of their empathy to Y. That’s why it was brilliant, if predictable.

    I submit that most people still play by the rules and are inherently “good” when left to their own devices. Otherwise, we’d have been voting from the rooftops for some while now. That said, when the system is unfairly rigged against them, most will tend to bend the rules as much as they can expect to get away with– be it traffic laws or tax law or what have you. In my mind that has as much to do with the laws being largely unjust as it does any particular trend towards evil.

    Is society going to hell? Probably. Will we go full Gomorrah? Probably not.

  9. I’ve recently been binge watching old episodes of Route 66.

    From Wikipedia “Tod and Buz (and later, Linc) symbolized restless youth searching for meaning in the early 1960s. The two men take odd jobs along their journey, like toiling in a California vineyard or manning a Maine lobster boat, bringing them in contact with dysfunctional families or troubled individuals in need of help. The lead characters are not always the focus of any given episode, and their backstories are revealed only in occasional references across widely spaced episodes.

    Tod Stiles, portrayed by clean-cut Milner, is the epitome of the decent, honest, all-American type. Tod came from a background of wealth and privilege; his father owned a shipping company, and Tod’s early years were spent in New York and Connecticut. He attended Yale, but after the death of his father, Tod discovered that his father’s business had essentially gone bankrupt. The only legacy left to Tod was a new Corvette.

    Buz Murdock, meanwhile, was an orphan who had worked with Tod’s father as a laborer on one of his ships in New York City. After the death of the senior Mr. Stiles, and the subsequent collapse of his business, Tod and Buz decided to drive across America in search of work, adventure, and themselves. The working-class Buz (George Maharis) is looser, hipper, and more Beat Generation in attitude than Tod, though the two characters share a mutual respect for each other. Subtle indications were given that the Buz character was intended to loosely embody Jack Kerouac in appearance and attitude. Kerouac, in fact, contemplated a lawsuit against Leonard, Silliphant, and Chevrolet for misappropriating the characters and theme from his iconic novel On the Road.”

    These two guys did have a moral compass and though the series is a half century old, the dialog is intelligent and watchable.

    1. Yeah, it was The Fugitive, without anyone being chased. That Vet was always my fantasy car too.

  10. Watching “Breaking Bad” requires a willing suspension of disbelief. The premise is that a high school chemistry teacher in a prosperous suburban school district turns to crime because he has crappy health insurance. Pull the other one.

    1. You missed the part where dying of cancer would leave his family destitute, so he engaged in a life of crime to build a nest egg for his family until the life of crime consumed him, and his cancer, and his family. the only thing he was left with was crime, which was more enjoyable than family, but yet he missed family, and threw it all away…

  11. Lots of good comments and thoughts here Kim and you are building some momentum with your site with good thoughtful postings. My wife and I watched the Sopranos until she told me that they were evil people who killed other people and she was identifying with them and, she had started to care about the families. We had to stope watching the show because the was right. Media sells evil behavior as just a slight fault of really interesting people.

    As for movies showing evil and the results of criminal behavior, the great movie Fargo is still my favorite the an asshole finds himself in a hard spot and ends up losing everything. I really love the ending when Margie, the pregnant sheriff has to shot the bad killer guy and bring him in saying she just doesn’t understand why people do what they do.

    My goodness I miss the old days when the good guys beat the bad guys and it was obvious who was good and who was bad.

    1. FX is doing a Fargo series. Each one is a stand-alone, 10 episode story, and only loosely tied together.
      Start with the second one, the one set in 1979.

    2. I like Margerie’s final line in the movie as she’s driving away while it’s snowing sideways: “And it’s such a beautiful day too.”

  12. I liken the situation to vaccines. Not all vaccinations actually work and some folks don’t get vaccinated but that doesn’t matter so long as a sufficiently high faction do get vaccinated. If so, we get “herd immunity” and life goes on.

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