This is the second part of an article I wrote on man’s bent towards self destruction in the TV show Breaking Bad.
Walt on the other hand is a force of active destruction. True, he may not know the consequences of every step he takes at first, starting out in a blind haze of naivety, but very soon he becomes the moving force of destruction within the show. Walt’s destruction is nearly always towards others: lying to his family, letting Jesse’s girlfriend die, and by proxy in that event, killing over a hundred and fifty people in an airplane crash. However, what Walt either sees and doesn’t care about, or what he is blind to, is the loss of his own soul. Either Walt knows where this path takes him and doesn’t care, or he is naïve enough to believe he can have both. He can have his family and be a respected drug dealer. He can rise to power without inflicting harm on others. He is either unaware of his own destruction or chooses not to care about it. True, there are still moments when we see a genuine older Walter White trying to win back his family and become a good person, whatever that means, but by and large Walt is on the path to self-destruction. If he doesn’t care, which, I don’t think he does, it is because of the ironic fact that for most of his life he has been like Jesse, the passive recipient of whatever came at him.
However, there came a point, obviously ignited by his cancer but exacerbated by the success of former colleagues while he languished into nothing, where Walt made a choice to stop becoming the recipient and begin to come the aggressor. In a sense, you can’t blame him; Walt chooses self-destruction because self-destruction within the context of power is a much better life than destruction at the hands of a random and unfair world.
The other theme of self-destruction is most noticeably captured in Jesse’s girlfriend. She is a former heroin addict who relapses and od’s one night next to Jesse. In many ways she is the archetype of self-inflicted suffering for no reason. Everything we know about her seems to indicate she has a good family, people who care about her, and a decent life. And yet, whether it be for pleasure or some other reason, she continues to relapse to heroine.
She is both like and unlike Jesse in very distinct ways. It appears that Jesse had a good family too, one who cared about him and tried to help him, but Jesse naturally falls into the events around him. She is a much more active force than Jesse as we see when she threatens Walt. It appears she should have the resolve to stop using, however, heroin is the devil and the bent of human nature towards destruction will always seem a mystery.
Really heroin itself is the perfect example of something everyone knows is destructive but continues to do anyways.
Why does she choose death when she is so close to life? Her and Jesse have a bag full of money and they have their love for each other. They are this close to starting a new life. Is it the momentary pleasure that outweighs the long-term consequences? Is it the rush of fast living that blurs out human rationality?
Why would I, after knowing all there is to know about smoking, knowing that it will lead to my death one day, either through lung cancer or heart disease, continue to smoke?
The answer, I think, lies in tomorrow. Tomorrow always seems so far away. Tomorrow will be a better day to change. In two weeks we think, once the craziness has died down, we can change. But we never do, we hold onto today. But tomorrow comes and tomorrow becomes today.
Perhaps we humans have an unhealthy ability to compartmentalize. What happens today we think, does not effect tomorrow. I mean it could. But it probably won’t. So we have affairs because for now, this is good, and in our brains at the moment, the rationality of this action affecting tomorrow becomes less and less until we somehow believe that what we are participating in is isolated instances of life which we can subjugate and organize.
But we are sweaters, with one thread tied to the whole piece, and the more we pull, the more things fall apart.