On the eve of massive publicity for his new documentary movie, "Where to Invade Next", film-maker Michael Moore was struck down with a severe case of pneumonia. Hospitalized for several days and then required to stay in bed at home for additional time, he was unable to appear on several of the most heavily-viewed, national television shows, ranging from The Today Show, to Late Night to more. Because the film had a definite launch date, and the television shows had to be cancelled, he was unable to secure the publicity that would ordinarily have brought large audiences to what he regards as his finest film.
And thus, a travel film taking the viewer to several European countries, opened quietly to smaller-than-usual audiences. That, to me, is a pity, because the theme of "Where to Invade Next" revolved about the unique solutions to urban, economic and social problems that Europe has adopted, which the strongly-partisan Moore argues should also be emulated in the United States. Whether you agree or disagree with that position, the film provides a basis for considering Moore's positions. To remedy that lack, I thought I'd briefly outline the major social policies that he depicts as prevailing in most European countries, which can also be studied on a trip to Europe--a good reason for going there.
In Italy, which starts the film, Moore examines the considerable vacation time that almost all European nations require for their populations: from four to even eight weeks a year. Moore believes that such policies greatly increase the productivity of workers and are beneficial to the companies for which they work. He also discusses the several months of paid maternity leave given to Italian women who have just given birth.
In France, he takes the viewer into the dining halls of elementary schools, where young children receive three course luncheons with cheese. His camera then goes into a classroom, again in an elementary school, where children are given calm instruction in sex education, including the use of contraceptives. He draws a contrast to the outspoken assertion of former Governor Perry of Texas (shown on the film), who claims that abstinence is the answer to teenage pregnancy in America (in a state having the highest degree of teenage pregnancy in the nation).
In Finland, he discusses with school officials their limitation of the school day to three or three and a half hours, and to the firm Finnish policy against giving homework to students. Reacting comfortably and positively to their school experience, Finnish students have some of the highest educational scores in all the world. He also interviews Finnish school officials who point out that charging tuition for education is illegal in Finland, which means that even rich parents must send their children to public schools.
In Slovenia, he discusses the almost universal policy of European countries to make university education free of charge. In the capital city of Ljubljana, he interviews several American young people who are obtaining a university education free of charge in that city. They graduate without debt. And to accommodate students from the United States, Slovenian universities now teach more than a hundred courses in English.
In Portugal, he speaks with police officials who point out that drug possession is entirely legal in that country, thus removing criminal activity from the drug trade. Portugal, according to them, has much less of a drug problem than almost anywhere else. They also emphasize that capital punishment is illegal in Portugal.
In Norway, he visits comfortable prisons, where the emphasis is on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Prisoners are treated humanely, are encouraged to study and acquire vocational skills, and the amount of recidivism is much lower than in the U.S. A large number of Norwegian law-breakers return to society as worthy citizens.
In Germany, workers occupy seats on the Board of Directors of the companies for which they work. Labor strife is thus kept to a minimum. Workers' privacy is respected, and managers are prohibited from making phone calls or issuing e-mails to their employees outside of normal business hours.
And there is much more to "Where to Invade Next" (which I have summarized based on seeing the film twice). Although Michael Moore's policies are strongly partisan, the widespread showing of the film is useful to Americans of all political persuasions, both in favor of and opposed to the European practices shown in the film. Every American should see it.