Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Where to Invade Next

Year 9, Day 150 - 5/30/17 - Movie #2,645

BEFORE: I'm going to take a 3-day documentary break, because I feel like I still haven't concentrated enough on politics this year, and really, what's been in the news besides politics?  Such a crazy sideshow, and it's taking up all of everyone's time, around the clock or so it seems, mine included, except you wouldn't know it from my blog entries.  And as long as I try to keep the actor-linking chain going, then I'll never stop for that documentary break - so let me put a pin in the linking, right on Billy Bob Thornton, and I'll pick up the chain in a couple of days.  Thematically, this is the best place for the docu-break, so I'll work them in here, since the last film dealt with the invasion of Afghanistan, and this film is also about "invading" other countries.  (Then the docu-break will end with a political film, and the narrative chain will also pick up from there - this should make some kind of sense in a few days, I hope...)

But by dropping in three documentaries this week, and then making plans to hit up Netflix for some animated films starting on June 20 or so, I can extend my linked chain until nearly the end of June - at that point it will be just three weeks until my Comic-Con break, and I may be able to engineer another extension by then.

THE PLOT: To explore what the USA can learn from other nations, Michael Moore playfully "invades" them to see what they have to offer.

AFTER: First off, there's no real "invading" going on here, not on any practical level demonstrating what we've come to understand that word to mean.  I mean, look at Michael Moore, the only international thing he ever invaded was an IHOP on unlimited pancakes day.  Supposedly he was called to the White House as a consultant (this would have been during the Obama administration, only it, umm, never happened) and his advice to the President would have been to "Stop with all the invading", referring to Iraq and Afghanistan, no doubt.  But supposedly this got Michael Moore thinking (again, unlikely) about what benefits we could gain as a nation from invading our allies (umm, this wouldn't happen either, because they're OUR ALLIES) and appropriating bits of their culture into ours to improve it.

Yeah, the premise just doesn't work, because as a bunch of Ammurricans, we're pretty set in our ways, and mostly rigid in our thinking, plus we don't really take ideas from other countries when we invade them - that's not the way invasion works.  I mean, we invaded Afghanistan, and you don't see us working a lot of Afghani culture and practices into our daily routine, right?  The burka just hasn't caught on as a fashion trend in the U.S., nor has their been a sudden spike in teens bowing to Mecca 6 times a day, and there's not some trendy Afghan cafe or hookah lounge opening on every other corner in the cool neighborhoods in town.  The last time that a war or invasion influenced American culture was probably World War II, which put more women in the workplace and put Spam and Chef Boy-ar-Dee into our cupboards.  I don't think we took much from the cultures of Korea and Vietnam except for maybe some war orphans among the trend-setters.

So the premise here just didn't work for me - what Michael Moore really wanted to do was to say that THIS country has a better policy with regards to workers' rights, and THIS country has a better policy when it comes to women in power, and THIS country has a better policy with regards to de-criminalizing drugs, but he couldn't really say those things, because that would be un-American, and no one would listen.  But that's still what he's really saying, and while I'm not in favor of being very jingoistic ("America - love it or leave it") I still think you can accomplish more when you look at how far America has come, rather than by focusing on how far it still has to go.

Plus, there's just no way that Michael Moore can be impartial about this - he's clearly got a liberal agenda, and he's aware of the agenda that most liberals espouse, so he's gotten himself on that track, and there's just no getting off of it.  I see myself as a liberal, too, but he's way too far gone to look at anything from a neutral POV.  When he says that he's going to go to another country and take their best ideas back to America, naturally he's already determined that he's going to take the ideas that best fit with his already-fixed mindset.  If he found out that in another country they rounded up all the marijuana smokers and threw them in jail, well he's not going to champion that idea, because it doesn't fit in with the liberal agenda he wants to put forward, instead he's going to find a country (Portugal) where they de-criminalized drug use, and found that drug-related crime went down and not up.  In a way this is just playing around with statistics (why, yes, if you de-criminalize something there will be less crime, technically) and in other cases, this leads me to other unanswered questions - what happened in that country when police no longer arrested drug users.  Were there more overdoses?  Can you prove that their society was, on the whole, happier?

So they do certain things differently in other countries - so what?  "Different" does not automatically mean "better", even if you could get everyone in the U.S.A. to agree that things here are not perfect.  Which you can't, because everyone's got a different concept about how society should function, or what constitutes a "good" way of doing things and what defines "not so good".  Plus you'll never get certain parts of the U.S. to agree on things like free birth control or available abortions, because the most hardcore religious nuts don't believe in the separation of church and state, so they only sponsor legislation that makes birth control and abortions less available, with the eventual goal of eliminating them all together, except for abstinence-based programs, which have been proven to not work.

I could go through the "better" ideas that Moore finds one-by-one - 8 weeks of paid vacations for everyone in Italy?  Now what employer in their right mind would cover that in the U.S.? - same goes for free college in Slovenia, where would the money come from in the U.S. to send everyone to college?  College costs too much in the U.S.?  Well, that's capitalism for you, and if you start to provide free college for everyone, that's starting to sound a bit like socialism, and isn't that a bit too close to Communism?

Somehow I think that when Reagan started the "War on Drugs" in the 1980's, the ultimate goal was not to incarcerate as many African-American men as possible, in order to affect the outcome of elections 10 or 20 years down the road - but of course, I've got no proof of that.  (Funny thing, Moore has no proof that it WAS, either...)  Of all the ideas put forward in this film, this one might warrant a full documentary of its own to really examine the issue.

But the worst offender among his discovered ideas is the idea to put women in power, not only as elected officials (clearly Moore was predicting a Hillary Clinton victory in 2016...) but also in charge of the banking system, as they did in Iceland.  But if we hire only women to do certain jobs, like running banks, isn't that just reverse sexism?  Don't women want to earn those jobs, by becoming the most qualified people to apply for them?  Wouldn't it be somewhat meaningless if they didn't genuinely deserve to do those jobs?  Similarly, we shouldn't just elect a woman as President because "it's time" or even "it's overdue".  We could have ended up with someone like Sarah Palin that way, or that French woman, Le Pen, who ran for President.  If you believe in gender equality, then you should believe that women (in general, not any specific one...) have the equal ability to be horrible Presidents - so therefore we have to judge each candidate on her merits, and not advance someone just because she's a woman - then we'd be right back where we started.

Speaking of being right back where we started, Moore "suddenly" realizes at the end of the film that the ideas that he decided to cherry-pick from other cultures - and by the way, there's a HUGE gap between finding the right policies for the future of our society and actually, you know, implementing them - all had their genesis somewhere in the U.S.  In the blue states, no doubt.  The May Day holiday, the abolishing of the death penalty, the forbidding of cruel and unusual punishment, and the Equal Rights movement (aka the failed ERA amendment) all were originally American ideas.

Great, the only thing worse then blind progressive policies is blind nostalgia - with everyone longing for the "good old days", but nobody can seem to pinpoint exactly when those were, or where exactly the country starting going to hell.  Personally, I blame Warren Harding, but what do I know?

NITPICK POINT: If you're going to pick a theme, Michael Moore, you've got to stick with it.  What was all that nonsense about the Berlin Wall, that had nothing to do with anything?  You can't suggest that we bring the idea of the Berlin Wall to America, because that serves no purpose, or tear down the wall that we have, because we don't have one.  This section should have been excised out, it went nowhere.

Can we just acknowledge the obvious, that Michael Moore probably just wanted to take a vacation around Europe, and have his production company pay for it?  The documentary he made along the way was nothing more than a cover story.

Starring Michael Moore (last seen in "Edtv")

RATING: 4 out of 10 school lunches

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