February 16, 2016

Last week I watched Michael Moore's new film Where to Invade Next, the GOP and Democratic debates.

The GOP debate was funny and confrontational. The Democratic was optimistic and educational.

The movie was the funny, optimistic, educational and provocative. It also made me a bit sad, but that shouldn't stop people from watching it, because it has a lot to offer about what Americans say we value vs. how we act.

In the movie and the debates people talked about ideas that could help Americans succeed.

Moore showed specific ideas and programs already implemented in foreign countries that helped a majority of the citizens there. During the debate Sanders talked about ideas and programs that he believes could create a better future for most Americans here. Trump gave ideas and slogans that looked to the past that he believes would help "many many" Americans win--again.

They all said they want to help America and Americans. The distinction is which America and which Americans they want to help win.

One of the movie themes that struck me is how often the idea of putting "me" first vs. "us" first is pushed in America.  Moore asks why a CEO would walk away from more money that came at the expense of workers. A CEO who doesn't put money over employees seems puzzling to someone familiar with American management. How is less money for the CEO a win?  Isn't a bigger win for the CEO what they should naturally want?

The idea of winning at the expense of others seemed a bit...foreign to the people interviewed. If you have to compete with foreign slave labor savvy American companies find a way--by using America's new prison slave labor force.

Another big movie theme was the dignity of humans and their lives. Moore raised the question to various citizens around the world, why are you, your government and your business leaders doing these nice things for the people in your country?  They also raise the issue of who are your countrymen and why should they be helped.

It reminded me of an old story about a guy who knew that taking care of his neighbor, as well as himself, was a good thing. But he didn't really want to, so he asked a teacher to define neighbor. Was his neighbor only someone from the same religion? From the same elite family? Interestingly, the teacher's definition of neighbor involved a person from another country--with a different faith--who did the right thing.  

In the movie they talked about how American values have been eaten away here in the US, and how in current American establishment culture money really trumps everything.  (Yes, yes, pun intended)

Perhaps this explain why Trump feels he is qualified to lead,. "I'm qualified because I'm super rich."

Why isn't the right hating Where to Invade Next more?

Where to Invade Next, is one of Moore's most optimistic films--and least confrontational. He pokes fun at his own persona from past films like Roger and Me when he meets with business CEOs and political leaders.

He interviews other officials and working people in other countries who explain their ideas and programs in education, workers' rights, health care and abortion, women in politics, crime, prosecution of crimes, remembering of past crimes and prison systems. Connecting these is a theme of human dignity, community and the ability to make change that benefits a lot of people vs. only a few.  He contrasts these with programs and attitudes in United States.

The people in other countries are often flabbergasted by how mean-spirited, short-sited and sad our programs are here in the United States. I was nodding along in agreement listening to Moore describe what happens in America in schools and work and it made me sad. I thought, "What is WRONG with us?"

At some point in the movie I felt a tribal protective attitude, "Hey, don't pick on my country/state/city, neighborhood/school!" and "We aren't all bad! He's cherry picking! Italy and France have problems too!" Moore addresses that right up front by saying he knows he is picking the flowers, not the weeds.

When someone on the left criticizes America and suggests there is another way to act we hear the usual defensive denial and anger. "If you don't like it here, LEAVE!" Of course these are the people who like to "send a message" to other countries by renaming their deep-fat fried potatoes. Message received, it was delicious. So the idea of bringing the ideas here, vs going there, confuses them.

Why are programs that would clearly help a majority of Americans attacked?

A friend who is widely traveled said he had been waiting 20 years for people to see how other countries did things. He wondered, how can these good things not be clear to Americans? I explained that there are people whose full-time job it is to push division and hate of others--and that doesn't count the unpaid volunteers. Moore points out that fear is a money maker in the US. Since other countries don't spend almost 60 percent of their taxes on the military, they can have those nice things. But it's not just about moving money around from one program to another. It is also about attitudes about people, the role of government and what constitutes a good life.

We have seen that a message of hating others can unite people. Keeping people angry and afraid can make a lot of money for some people. In America we are using the majority of our tax money to kick the crap out of people in other countries and to pay for real and imaginary programs to protect us from old terrorists and the new ones we have made.

Michael Moore reveals the shocking truth behind the French lunch program!

We say we value education but cling to programs that don't work, we say we want a happy and a healthy working life, but encourage and reward programs and incentives that destroy jobs, crush dreams and sicken people.  He shows us examples of how other countries make good programs work. This part was hopeful, but made me sad too.

As I said, this is one of the least confrontational of Moore's films. It is fun to watch him be welcomed into factories and government offices. This gives him the opportunity to show solutions rather than just problems. It's a nice switch from trying to meet CEOs in America.

Near the end of the film Moore goes to the Berlin Wall to point out that attitudes can change. Good ideas do take root and succeed. Positive changes have happened, and in our lifetimes. The fight for good things is worth it, but it won't be easy.

Spocko sez, check it out. Two Vulcan salutes up

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