Prejudice and cultural snobbery are funny things. When I noticed a couple of years ago that Sky One was running a documentary series entitled “Ross Kemp On Gangs”, the Liberal Guardian Reader Beast was unleashed.
“It’s on Sky One, urghh. Trailer Trash Channel of the Year! And it‘s News International! Right Wing!”
“Ross Kemp aka Grant Mitchell? It’ll be some Kray Twins inspired love in!”
But, only when it won a BAFTA for Best Documentary Series and got a positive review from the Guardian’s Sam Woolstan, was I prepared to watch.
Initial reactions proved to me my loss, as Kemp has delivered an incisive and important document proving how Neil Kinnock was right on the money when he described poverty as; “the worst form of violence.”
The themes running through the series are universal. From Jamaica to New Zealand, Brixton to this episode’s focus of Poland, the subtext is the same.
If you are prepared to write off a minority of young men and tacitly acknowledge that they are beyond the reach of Society, then Bad Things are going to happen, and as the Rhys Jones killing in Liverpool showed, it won’t be long before the Daily Mail readership become touched by this lawless and amoral underclass.
Poland has a population of 38 million, of which 3 million live abroad. Contrary to popular myth, the Poles abroad do not come from the poorest sections of society, in fact the EU Population Audit of December 2006 showed that barely any Poles from the bottom third of the socio economic strata had joined the 3 million strong Diaspora. The main group within the émigré community are educated to the equivalent of the UK A level standard, and whilst many are under 25 years old, a significant minority are over 30 and have partners and off spring back home.
Thus, as with Ireland until the 1990’s, the brightest and best leave the country, which has resulted in a disastrous collapse of the infrastructure, as you can earn up to 4 times more as a menial worker in the West, than as a Professional such as a teacher or engineer back home. Ergo there is little constructive Civil Service, or Local Government to progress matters such as housing forward on a micro managed level. There simply isn’t the calibre of people available to do the job.
The result is chronic unemployment and a seething resentment amongst the poorer communities, which exhibits itself in the depressing combination, familiar to ’Eighties Britain, of football hooliganism and Far Right politics.
Kemp may be accused of being simplistic in his analysis, of selective interviewing and filming technique, but his grilling of expert witnesses bears out his thesis and it behoven of the EU as a whole to address this serious breakdown of Society in its Eastern Regions by increasing subsidies in order to encourage the cream to stay put. Ireland proves an object lesson in what can be achieved, and if you ask my parents generation whether they would have rather stayed at home and made their way in life, the answer is obvious.
Ross Kemp has made an interesting and worthwhile set of films, and once you get behind the testosterone there are important issues which we ignore at our peril.