Thursday, February 11, 2016

An invasion Michael Moore supports

If you were gainfully employed in Italy, you'd get 30 days paid leave every year -- if you had a job, that is. Italy's unemployment rate hovers around 11 percent.

You'll only learn the first part of that statement from Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next, a jocular European travelogue in which Moore visits a variety of countries to show us some of the civilized perks they enjoy. I take that back; they're not perks, but accepted parts of what's considered a normal and decent life.

As is often the case with Moore's approach, you won't get a whole lot of context for the stories he tells. Where to Invade Next seems intended less to make us think deeply than to stir the fires of our discontent.

Not only are we now supposed to look at the one percent with a mixture of resentment, envy and righteous anger, we're supposed to look at Europe and wonder why our lives are so stressful and depleted that we can't even enjoy life's simple pleasures.

Take the Ducati motorcycle factory. This Italian enterprise gives its employees two hour lunches. Most of them go home to enjoy a hearty meal with their families. They don't gobble sandwiches in their cars as they race from one appointment to the next.

And, yes, it gives you pause, providing you're not one of those folks who would view lunch with the family as a less-than-invigorating prospect.

The list of Moore's discoveries is long. College education is free in Slovenia. A French school serves its pupils lunches that look very much like gourmet meals. Norway has a prison system that doesn't rob inmates of their dignity. Finland has one of the world's best school systems, but the country's teachers don't believe in homework. They think kids need time to be kids. They don't believe kids have to be little achieving machines.

Moore builds all this information (and more) around a somewhat flimsy comic idea: He's going to invade many countries, steal their best ideas and bring them back to the US. He'll conduct the kind of invasion that will succeed where so many of our military adventures have failed.

Considered Moore's most upbeat film to date, Where to Invade Next is really a collection of stories tailored to make us wonder about the inadequacy of so much of American life.

That's fine -- as far as it goes.

Moore doesn't, however, talk about why the countries he visited are able to do the things they do and why we aren't.

Let's consider school lunches. I recently listened to my grandkids talk about what they eat in school. Let's just say their comments ranged from disgust to disbelief to descriptions of dishes that they thought defied all known gastronomic classification.

Would I rather they hate well, and at a pace that allowed them to digest what they've consumed? Of course. But if we had a national school lunch ballot initiative that would require even a modest tax increase, would it pass?

And who's going to fight for American workers? Depleted unions? A Congress that has little time for anything other than repealing Obama care?

Don't get me wrong. I have no answers here, but Moore at least should have raised some of these questions so that his film could have been more than a breezy series of cherry picked anecdotes -- no matter how entertainingly told.

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