Wednesday, 6 April 2016
You either like Michael Moore and his brand of politics or you don't. The good news for those who don't, is that you can enjoy his latest documentary as less a polemical exercise and more of a travelogue. In Where To Invade Next, Moore, Democrat, documentarian and citizen journalist, travels throughout Europe -- and dips into North Africa -- to take a snap shot at what social policies various countries are employing to make them succeed; policies he wants to claim for America and bring them back home as the 'spoils of war'.
Moore readily admits that he's cherry picking on his expedition; picking out the best bits from each country and not focusing on their failings. That's why we feel just a tad jealous at Italy's seemingly plethora of paid vacations and public holidays, and five months of paid maternity leave; why we're a little skeptical of Portugal's leniency on drug-related offences; why we look on in awe at Norway's penitentiary system, where "maximum security" doesn't mean what it does in most other countries, especially America; and why you can't help but get a little teary-eyed at the way the teachers in the Finnish education system wholeheartedly embrace their role, not just for molding young minds but for producing well-rounded people.
Then there's free university education in Slovenia, for locals and foreign students; and the ways in which the equality of women has impacted so strongly on both Tunisia (yes, Islamic Tunisia) and Iceland, a country which elected its first female president back in 1980, and which is one of the few countries to jail those (men) responsible for the the 2008 global financial crisis.
Like Donald Drumpf, Michael Moore wants America to be great again. Unlike Drumpf, Moore is sincere. Sadly, in America, where corporations rule and equality is often equated with Communism, that doesn't seem likely to happen anytime soon. Not even if Moore's preferred candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, Bernie Sanders, were to cause major upsets by defeating fellow Democrat, Hillary Clinton, and then Republican front runner, Drumpf, to set his "revolution" in motion. (One doubts Americans will be 'feeling the Bern' anytime soon.)
Of course, a more balanced investigation would have also looked at the negative aspects of each of these countries' social policies, and one could argue that, if so inclined, Moore's exercise could have produced an incisive television series where each week he looked at a country's good and bad aspects and how they could be applied to the United States.
As it is, Where To Invade Next is an eye-opening, pleasant if overly long edu-vacation. You'll love what you see in the brochure, but you'll have to abandon the tour group and your guide, Mr. Moore, to get a sense of what each country really has to offer.