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Postcards from Scotland

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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 07/02/2010 | 1 Comment

I haven't been much of a blogger of late: I've just been too preoccupied with writing my latest book on Glasgow to have time left over to write other things. Since much of my new book is historical I also found it difficult to write about Glasgow's history in the evening and then turn my attention to the latest matters of the day.

What I did, however, manage to do by way of distraction was watch all five series of The Wire. For those who have not been fortunate enough to see it let me tell you what you have missed. Essentially it is about drugs and crime in Baltimore. What is fantastic about the series is the way the programmes slowly build up a picture of life in the city - we get to know the kingpins of the drugs world but also the youngsters sitting out on the corners selling; we also get to know the dockers, the unions, the lawyers, the police, the teachers, the politicians and the press ...  What's more these characters are complex. Some of the heroes that we are expected to care about are capable of the most crass, self-serving acts and some of the violent drug dealers can, in their own terms, act with principle and even compassion.

The Wire is entertaining and engrossing but it is also disturbing - very violent and sexist - and depressing. One of the most poignant aspects of the stories is the way they repeatedly show how many of the characters may ostensibly be free yet they are trapped in a nightmarish world. Unexpectedly, one of The Wire's strongest themes is one very close to my heart - how the work done by government agencies such as the police and schools is completely distorted by targets. Indeed the target driven culture they operate in is one of the main reasons not just for police cynicism and disaffection but also poor performance.

GIven the complexity of The Wire, and its relevance to some of the big issues of the day, it is hardly surprising that one of the USA's top sociologists - William Julius Wilson - is now teaching a class on it at Harvard. I'm sure there will be some useful learning points for those interested in how we can solve some of Glasgow's problems ....    

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john daly
Joined: 23/10/2009

Comment Posted: 09/02/2010 13:59
The Wire must be one of the best TV shows ever. I envy anyone yet to discover it. For anyone experiencing the terrible void at the end of watching series 5 you can find great comfort reading David Simon's two books, 'The Corner' and 'Homocide'. One is inside the world of drug users and the other inside the police force. Both are masterpieces in terms of journalism and literature and once you've read them you see where the Wire gets its strong sense of reality from. After that, I don't know where to go!
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