"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Where to Invade Next" (2015) a gentle agenda

How to evaluate "Where to Invade Next?" Shall we look upon it as a political statement or artistic work? As art I thought it was rather weak. It struck me as more suited to the small screen than the big screen. It's on the big screen thanks to the stature of Michael Moore.
"Where to Invade Next" is Moore's 2015 documentary, coming across as a travelogue. As entertainment it is surely not riveting. About halfway through I felt it was becoming redundant. There's a set of progressive ideas as the underpinning for this movie. They all work consistently with each other. If I were to identify a common thread, it would be European-style socialism.
The Republican Party of America recoils at this, or at least they have been showing a profound distaste. There is an extreme conservative strain in America that looms as a real impediment. The strain seems almost designed more for entertainment purposes than anything. Following Mitt Romney's loss in 2012, the renowned analyst David Frum wrote about the "conservative entertainment complex."
What Americans really want, of course, is greater relief from the economic anxiety that continually seems to seep in. European-style socialism provides a buffer to all the economic vicissitudes. "Oh, but that's not America," many would proclaim.
The naysayers seem dragged along by that old notion of frontier self-reliance. "Here in America, we have the freedom to be all we can be." Problem is, many common folk around this great land are finding futility as they try to carve out the good life. In misplaced angst they affirm the candidacy of Donald Trump.
"Freedom" in terms of trade deals doesn't seem very uplifting. We are in fact drifting toward European style socialism. People increasingly live well beyond their productive years. What is to become of them? Government is now being asked to bail out people whose health insurance premiums are shooting up. Why not get rid of the insurance industry completely for health care? Insurance companies do not provide health care.
The morons of Fox News would say "government-run health care? You mean, health care being run like the Post Office?"
Well, government seems to do fine administering Medicare and Social Security. We are already a socialist nation to an extent. All advanced industrial nations are a blend of free enterprise and socialism. Americans like the socialist-oriented programs we already have.
"Liberalism" is so often put forward as a boogeyman. But as Chris Matthews of MSNBC points out regularly: "Liberalism always wins in the end." Progress is often halting.
"Where to Invade Next" was Moore's first film in six years. I might criticize the movie based on its title. The casual observer might think it was a movie about war and our questionable "invasions" like of Iraq. Cinema history is dotted with examples of movies that could be titled better. Examples that pop into my head include the early Steve Martin movie "The Jerk," and the 007 movie "A View to a Kill." A movie I greatly liked, "A History of Violence," had a title that suggested it was some sort of documentary. Oh no, it was terrific drama.
"Where to Invade Next" is a rather cumbersome title in addition to possibly being misleading. I commend Moore for the movie's content and its implications for America. We're overdue paying attention to these ideas. One of those ideas is, getting women more into positions of power. What if a woman had been at the top of Wells Fargo? Women have an instinct of wanting to preserve and nurture. The instinct is directed to everyone - i.e. a human life has inherent value.
When General MacArthur began planning the rebuilding of Japan after World War II, he called on women to get the vote. He called for trade unions. Get the point? The Japanese empire had been built by men with destructive impulses, perhaps caused by their own hormones. Did the head of Wells Fargo get carried away by impulses consistent with that, a "slash and burn" set of impulses? Women are not wired like that.
Moore visits a host of nations to learn how the United States could improve its own prospects. He gleans information on worker benefits, school lunches, early education, college education, worker inclusion, decriminalized drugs, low recidivism, women's health care and women's inclusion.
I say "hallelujah" to the no-homework policy of Finland's schools. No standardized testing there either. In my personal background, I was absolutely scarred by how public education took over my life when I was an adolescent. I couldn't come up to breathe. Everything I did was built around what the public school wanted me to do. These included weird reading assignments that had a political agenda consistent with what was happening in the 1960s. We were supposed to support avant garde ideas that ended up looking faddish. To this day I'm bitter about that. Why was I required to take home my band instrument each day? Wasn't one hour of rehearsal enough?
You could not challenge any of this. It was a model of totalitarianism.
Moore speaks with the Finnish minister of education. He goes to Slovenia and learns about debt-free, tuition-free higher education. Germany accents its labor rights and work-life balance. Norway has a quite humane prison system. Women's rights in Tunisia are celebrated. Women have shown wisdom in power in Iceland. Iceland went after bankers in a way that could have been a template for the U.S. after the 2008 crisis.
I question the movie on entertainment criteria but here is some good news: "Where to Invade Next" got good critical reviews. Moore's movies are all about people learning to become decent human beings through social systems. Moore pretends to "invade" the various countries. Whatever you want to say about these countries, I'm sure their young men weren't forced to go fight and die in Viet Nam in the 1960s. Why do you think we had the "British invasion" in music? The English were not distracted by the hellish specter of military conscription.
Hillary Clinton's election will highlight the humanitarian ideals of a female leader. Bernie Sanders may have seemed more liberal. But I assure you, Clinton as a true politician will move to the left if she senses there's a mandate from the American people.
I'd like for Moore to hear my song "Michigan, We Need You to Win again," on YouTube. If you know how to give him a heads-up, please do it for me. God bless.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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