The Flight From Greenland?

Last night, KNR, the Greenlandic TV channel screened the Danish documentary ”Flugten fra Grønland” – ”The Flight from Greenland”. The show had been advertised for a couple of weeks, and was awaited with both hesitation and anticipation.

There are many social problems in Greenland, of child abuse and alcoholism in particular. And as I hear, there are also many cases of nepotism and some of corruption as well.

In my estimate, the program was not of very good quality, quite shameful really. The program was the big topic of discussion today at the ”Little University” here in Nuuk, but before I get to what other people say, here is how I saw it.

The program chose one angle only, namely that because Greenland has Home Rule, the Greenlandic Parliament is responsible for any and every problem in the country, BUT if only everything was controlled and managed from Copenhagen, all would be well.

The program did take up several important issues, but it did not dig much into any of them. There were a few interviews with a couple of school teachers telling of how very few children go to school, how they sleep in class, how they don’t do their homework and so on. But none of the kids or their parents were interviewed about why they do not go to school.

A picture was drawn, through interviews with Greenlandic university students in Denmark, of well-educated people ’fleeing’ from Greenland which was taken as an indication of a corrupt poitical-administrative regime. One might think it natural that some people who study abroad during their twenties get ’stuck’ where there are more jobs available, and where they might have met a spouse already. This question was not asked.

There was also a comparison made between Greenland and North Korea and Cuba respectively. It was a young Greenlandic student of political science who made this comparison. But the journalist did not ask what the similarities were. This was rather inferred from the general picture, the program sought to draw, about a fairly collectively organised economy.

One might have asked an economist: ”How easy is it to establish competitive markets in such a small country with the geography of Greenland?” What might such an economist say? Or one might ask if Greenland is not still different, in some important respects, from North Korea and Cuba, for one thing that it is a multiparty political system.

Finally, the program took up some cases of nepotism and corruption, but they did not dig very deeply into them. The journalists should have focused on one case only, and dug deeper. They might also have sought to draw a picture of those networks of nepotism the program told of, but they were never specified or exemplified.

Worst of all, as I see it, is not so much that the program sought to present social and political problems in Greenland. That is needed. But it was just so badly done and so terribly self-righteous and imprecise that Greenlandic politicians can easily disregard it as ’the usual colonisation from Denmark’. The immediate result of the broadcast was that Søren Espersen of the Danish People’s Party thinks that Greenland should be put under administration from Denmark.

This should be seen in context. Currently there are negotiations between Denmark and Greenland about sovereignty as regards Greenland’s natural resources. Espersen, who is on the Home Rule Commission, has opined that Denmark should retain a relatively large share of any overhead to be had from oil or minerals in the underground of Greenland. Which means that when he now stands up as a champion of Greenlanders’ social and political rights as Danish citizens, this corresponds to the former claim on behalf of all Danish citizens to Greenland’s natural resources.

As regards the first point, I might actually agree with Espersen. Apart from that I think that oil revenue (if it’s of some larger scale) should go into a UN fund or something, which is not the most realistic scenario, I suppose.

In any case, upon watching the program I thought that many Greenlanders would feel that “here come the colonialists again”. I was a bit surprised, therefore, at the response of the students I talked to. Most of them thought the program was simplistic, but were still glad that the issues were taken up. So despite it being one-sided, many were quite happy with it.

So there. I just hope the journalists do better next time.


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