Yo – Other Countries – Invade Us, Please?

Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next” is a breath of fresh air in a movie industry otherwise flooded with dystopian thrillers (Star Wars, Mad Max, The Hunger Games Part 2, Mockingjay), or the triumph of the individual against all odds (Revenant, Carol, The Danish Girl, Brooklyn, Room).

The movie begins with Michael telling us that he’s been called to a secret meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What they tell him in this meeting is that conditions in the U.S. are deteriorating and that all the wars they’ve waged sine “the big one” have been disasters. They confide to him; “Michael, we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing”. He then volunteers as a one man Army to “invade other countries populated by Caucasians whose names I can mostly pronounce, take the things we need from them, and bring them back home to the United States of America”. Sound like a familiar plan? So, wrapped in the U.S. flag, off he goes. Moore is at his schlubby, shuffling, feigned-incredulous best as he “invades” numerous countries in Western and Eastern Europe to learn what they’re doing better than we are doing here in the U.S., and steal it to bring back home. He finds lots to steal.

In Italy, he notes how Italians always look like they just had sex. When he talks to working class people he learns that they get:

  • 8 weeks vacation a year
  • 5 months paid maternity leave
  • 2 hour lunches – they can go home for lunch

It’s easy to understand why they look like they just had sex! He stares at them uncomprehendingly. He interviews the owner of the factory where some of these folks work and the owners explain to him that they believe happier workers are more productive workers. However, in a brief interview with a union rep, he is told that these gains have been hard-won and still require a struggle. It would have made for a deeper movie if Moore had explored the place of unions in European countries and contrasted it to the weakness of the unions in the United States. We know for certain that in a capitalist system, even a social democratic system, the profit motive is foremost. Owners and boards of directors of companies do not, out of the goodness of their hearts, strive to make their workers “happy”.

He then invades France, where he eats lunch with kids at a public school and samples their delicious, healthy, chef-prepared, multiple course meal. The chef explains that, not only are these kids getting the benefit of a balanced and nutritious meal, they are also learning to recognize and value good food. He also points out that it’s cheaper than the food kids in the U.S. are served in school. Moore is aghast when he learns that the only beverage they have is……….water. Water?!? He manages to get some of the kids to sample the sugary, chemical-laden soft drinks kids in the U.S. are given and they practically gag.

Beginning to compile a respectable list of good information, Moore moves on to Finland, where he learns that they stand at #1 in the educational ranking of public schools; whereas the U.S. ranks a sorry #20. The reason for their climb from a system that was just as bad as ours only 20 years ago? They don’t give their kids homework! What?? And they’ve abandoned standardized testing! Well, that’s just wrong, we think. But, hmmmm……it seems to be working.

From there he moves to Slovenia, where everyone, even people from other countries, is provided a free college education. In Iceland he discovers that the bankers who caused the collapse of the Icelandic economy in 2008 were sent to jail – and the state did not bail out their banks. Contrast that with the United States where none of the bankers have been prosecuted or convicted. In fact, the U.S. not only bailed the banks out after the sub-prime mortgage collapse but took loans from the same banks to finance the bailout. Wait! What?

He’s shocked to learn that in Portugal the use of drugs is not a crime and in Norway, the focus of prison is on rehabilitation, rather than incarceration. Norway is ranked #29 in per capita total crime rate and we are ranked #1. Portugal is ranked #35. How great it would have been if he had pointed out the enormity of the prison industrial complex in this country, yet again feeding the capitalist frenzy for profits. Recently there was a report that private prisons are suing governments for not providing them with enough prisoners. Well, that seems pretty fair to me. I mean, how are they going to stay in business if they don’t have a whole passel of prisoners??

All in all this is a worthwhile movie. But it could have been an AMAZING movie. How we wish that Moore had spent some time in South America and Spain, exploring worker cooperatives – an alternative to business as usual under capitalism. We wish he had not wasted time on identity politics – suggesting that the government in Iceland is as successful as it is because of the high percentage of women in office and on boards of directors. That time could have been better spent interviewing more union reps and workers. And why did he never use the words ‘socialism’ or ‘capitalism’? Or, if he did, we missed them. The movie lacked a framework, a clear point – other than some countries do it better than we do, and we can learn from them. In fact, as long as capitalism is the dominant economic system, we will never learn from them, but the capitalists will continue chasing the almighty profit. And we all know that when you keep doing the same things you’ve always done, you’ll get the same result you’ve always gotten.

Statistics from http://www.nationmaster.com/au

Copyright http://wheretoinvadenext.com/

About Barbara MacLean

Barbara MacLean has worked as an academic and career counselor at California State University, East Bay (CSUEB), Merritt and West Valley Colleges and as a career counselor and manager of the Oakland One Stop Career Center, a public career and jobs center in partnership with EDD. She is a co-founder and editor of Planning Beyond Capitalism.

View all posts by Barbara MacLean →

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