Commercial channels are becoming increasingly keen to produce the kind of programmes designed to polarise viewers and provoke angry debate; shows with dialogue which is overtly designed to divide. We recently had Benefits Street, and the latest attempt designed to stir up trouble has aired over the last few days.
In Channel 5’s Gypsies on Benefits and Proud, we see people who are simply trying to do what’s best for themselves and their families – who come from countries where they don’t have access to free medical care, can’t find work, often face state discrimination, and live in real poverty in UK terms – and they find out that they can freely move to settle in another country with the help of a gang master, who will cram several of them into a house and get them sorted with an NI number, at which point they have access to all our state’s services and benefits and earn a minimum wage several hundred percent higher than they could get at home.
You really can’t blame them at all. I would do exactly the same if I could. You’d be bleedin’ mad not to!
But these programmes set out to polarise, and that is exactly what they do.
Based on social media comments, you get a bunch of people who get really angry at those using the system on the one hand – many of their comments blatantly racist, offensive, generalising, and outright aggressive towards the subjects of the shows, who are doing nothing more than legally moving to another EU member state, which they are perfectly entitled to do, and simply using a system to get most out of it, in a way which oddly enough mirrors the way large companies exploit the tax system to cream the maximum profits possible through tax avoidance schemes.
And then you get those who will absolutely not concede that there is anything wrong with the current state of affairs. In the case of Gypsies on Benefits and Proud, there are those who appear to support a completely open door on immigration (thanks to the crazy EU notion of expansionism and of open borders between nations with massively varied economies and living standards) or an internationalist or cultural Marxist agenda.
Their first criticism is that the programme demonises a whole ethnic group based on the actions of a few. Well, I can’t say I saw any assertion on the part of the programme-makers that this was a widespread phenomenon (it mentions 200,000 Roma who have moved to the UK) and applied to all Gypsies or to the wider immigrant community. Perhaps I missed that bit, or perhaps the proponents of the current system just want to shut down any attempt at reforming it by playing the racism card.
Proponents of an open-door immigration policy will absolutely refuse to comment negatively about the current system. Rather, their utmost priority is to prevent others from seeing how some can exploit our benefits system to the maximum. Their comments betray their desire to stop the programme airing, lest viewers be lulled away from the standard, politically-correct view of how the system works. Many have been raised seemingly without critical facilities of their own, but have a simple, naive understanding of the world where all people are pretty much the same, apparently have access to the same benefits wherever they live, and share the same world view and cultural values. So, yes, we may have swathes of unskilled, poverty-stricken people and their families move to the UK to benefit from our benefits, but Brits go abroad to work too, so it all evens out in the end… apparently.
They are probably puzzled when seemingly decent father-figure, Ion Lazar says he will come to the UK and wilfully claim the maximum benefits. He will be supported in how best to exploit our welfare system to raise money for his family, send child benefit home, which he is still entitled to do, of course – although the government wants to change that (good luck getting agreement from the other 27 EU members there, Dave), and, if necessary, he will turn to crime. Yes, he has done so before. He needs to make enough money through UK work and benefits to build a new house back in Romania, which he reckons will take him one or two years.
“I know it’s very, very easy to take benefit in England. She’s give me home free, yeah. She’s give me money free. She’s give me everything.”
It was easy to feel for disabled Viorel Dinu, who lost both his legs as a child in a railway accident and used to have to beg in Romania, but now receives £750 per month in handouts from the UK. But here at least was someone who had a long-term desire to establish a life in the UK, to learn English, to work and to integrate into UK society.
The funny thing in all this is that there are a large number of ordinary people in the middle of all this debate, who see the flaws in the system. We believe in the nation state – that the primary responsibility of care of a government is to its own people – not to the world’s population at large. We don’t really resent those who exploit the system, but are critical of a system which allows exploitation. We are critical of a system which, on the one hand, allows large, pro-EU companies with great lobbying powers to exploit tax system loop-holes, but we are also critical of a system which allows those who have no birthright in our country to exploit our social welfare schemes which are far more generous than those in their country of origin.
We feel that it is imperative that countries which share an open border policy have similar economies, social conditions, and levels of pay – otherwise, brain drain occurs. We have plenty of historic evidence of this, notably in eastern Germany in the 1950s – a migration of skilled people which resulted in the construction of Walter Ulbricht’s ultimate means to stop the migration – the Wall.
Finally, we are critical of a system which enables massive population increases without due consideration of the pressures on our already strained schools, hospitals, and housing stock. At a time when we should be trying to decrease population and mitigate the need to build more, our political masters are happily embracing the opposite course of action in opening our borders.
We have long known that the more we build, the more we cause surface runoff and flooding, and yet according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Britain is heading for a property shortage of more than one million homes by 2022. The inevitable consequence of such a building plan is not only the loss of more green fields, but of further localised and wider flooding. It’s odd that the Green party is not more vocal about this and keen to stop this population increase – especially when migrants often come from cultures of large families.
As one of the programme’s subjects, Peter, a Slovakian Gypsy who lives who lives with his wife, Katarina (a woman sanctioned by JSA on multiple occasions for failure to seek work and criticised by her Romanian support worker for steadfastly refusing to learn English and for her failure to make any attempt to integrate), 11 children, and 11 grandchildren in Rotherham stated, with barely-contained incredulity and glee,
“England give me house, give me doctor, give school… benefit. England good. Thank you so much, England. Thank you very much.”
You’re welcome, buddy. In your shoes, I’d feel the same way and do exactly what you’ve done.