Saturday, March 19, 2016

Where To Invade Next

We saw Michael Moore's Where To Invade Next Wednesday night.

It's simplistic.  It's silly.  The premise is that Michael Moore is going to invade other countries and take home their best ideas.  He plants an American flag in these various nations and claims their good ideas for the US.  And most of the people he talks with, tell him with a big smile, he's welcome to take the ideas.

In the end, I thought the films strongest point was that the different parts of the world are doing many things better than we do in the US.  While one could quibble that Moore cherry picks the best examples and ignores the problems, the overall impact is simply showing Americans the level of services that people get in other countries, and he quite cleverly gets many of his foreign informants to say that the idea originally came from the US.  Presumably to appease those Americans who can't deal with the idea that the US isn't number one for everything.

It reminds of me of when the Chinese showed American films that displayed the levels of crime and discord in the US, what the Chinese saw were typical American kitchens, that everyone had a car, etc.  That's what this film has to leave Americans with - the realization that there places around the world where they have figured out how to do things much better than we are doing them.   Even Trump supporters can't help but see that the rest of the world isn't living in poverty under evil socialist tyrants.

We see, for example, vacation time for workers in Italy,  school lunches in France, mid-day lunches at home in Spain, prisons in Norway, schools in Finland, drug enforcement in Portugal (no one is arrested or imprisoned there for using drugs;  instead they have treatment programs), and women's health clinics in Tunisia, as well as the position of women in Iceland where he interviews the first woman president who was elected back in the 1970s.  

I was wondering whether I should even try to write about this film.  And then I saw this article in the
 Los Angeles Times today by a visiting professor whose kid spent time in a Finish school.  It really backs up everything Moore was trying to present.
"In Finland, children don’t receive formal academic training until the age of 7. Until then, many are in day care and learn through play, songs, games and conversation. Most children walk or bike to school, even the youngest. School hours are short and homework is generally light. Unlike in the United States, where many schools are slashing recess, schoolchildren in Finland have a mandatory 15-minute outdoor free-play break every hour of every day. Fresh air, nature and regular physical activity breaks are considered engines of learning. According to one Finnish maxim, 'There is no bad weather. Only inadequate clothing.'”

"In class, children are allowed to have fun, giggle and daydream from time to time. Finns put into practice the cultural mantras I heard over and over: “Let children be children,” “The work of a child is to play,” and 'Children learn best through play.'”
Now we need more first hand experience articles say for Norwegian prisons and with American students getting free education at the University of Slovenia (well, Moore did interview some who went there to avoid the high cost of US college tuition.)

I suspect the segments that will irritate believers in hard work and discipline the most are the Norwegian prisons and Finnish schools.  For some conservatives, treating people with respect is difficult.  Kids and prisoners should be disciplined and punished if they disobey the rules.  But these examples suggest the hardline discipline and control models may not be as good as the decency and respect models.

Despite the political rhetoric, we aren't the best at everything.  We're good at a lot of things, but we can learn a lot from other countries.  This film is a good start for folks who consciously or unconsciously think, while complaining, that we are the best at everything.

After writing this I found the NY Times review, which is more or less on the same vein as mine.  Though he felt it was more a bad reflection of the US rather than a good reflections of the places Moore visited.

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