America’s upcoming election may have surreally morphed beyond satire, but Michael Moore still finds a lot to laugh at in our national body politic.
His new documentary is more lighthearted and humorous than much of his recent work. It follows Moore on a tour from Iceland across Europe and down to North Africa, where he aims to rip off domestic policy ideas better than our own. The inside joke is that virtually all the breakthrough strategies he finds are long-ignored U.S. ideas borrowed by foreign ministers of economics, health and human services.
And what idealistic ideas they are. In Iceland, he discovers that the government perp-walked banking executives into court when they set off the little country’s 2008 financial meltdown and slammed the cell door shut when they were convicted. The part of the power elite that avoided that fate were the managers of the nation’s women-run bank, who had the good sense not to treat their customers’ capital like a risk-it-all crapshoot.
Norway shows us its lenient prison system, where the aim is rehabilitation instead of punishment. In Italy, factory workers are respected by their employers, receive eight vacation weeks annually and year-end bonuses big enough to let them travel the globe. Rome’s economy is not currently at its best, but the working people look irresistibly happy. Slovenia’s system of no-cost higher education is so attractive that flocks of American students register at the tuition-free university, where classes are taught in English. Portugal has successfully decriminalized drugs, France feeds its schoolchildren lunches of healthy haute cuisine (80 cheeses!) and in Muslim Tunisia feminist activists successfully lobbied for a women’s rights amendment to their constitution.
Clearly Moore is picking the flowers here while ignoring the weeds. But he’s not advocating a utopian fantasy world, merely optimistic ways to repair and improve the one we’re living in right now.
As he points out during a travelogue visit to Germany, if the Berlin Wall can fall, maybe social injustices can, too. “Where to Invade Next” isn’t only a love letter to European successes; it’s a cheer-up note to Fortress America, too.