Michael Moore’s New Movie Tells Americans: Pack Your Bags for Europe – Jennifer Swann/TakePart.com
In ‘Where to Invade Next,’ the filmmaker shows how America can reform in prison, health care, education, and more.
A documentary based on the benefits of invading other countries sounds like an unlikely premise for Michael Moore, the controversial filmmaker and antiwar activist who slammed the U.S. invasion of Iraq a decade ago in Fahrenheit 9/11. But his latest movie, Where to Invade Next, relies on the concept of a metaphorical, not a physical, attack.
There’s a scene in Where to Invade Next where Moore sits down for lunch with a group of elementary school students in France and shows them what a typical American cafeteria meal looks like. The students gasp in revulsion, and wonder whether the mess of sloppy goop in the photo is actually edible. Their reaction makes more sense when you see the four-course, chef-prepared fine dining they’re accustomed to being served—yes, delivered by a waitstaff—at their public schools in a working-class neighborhood in France. A school administrator explains to Moore that the leisurely lunch period is intended to teach kids lifelong lessons about nutrition, right down to the choice of green salads and artisanal cheese plates. Despite how indulgent they may seem, the lunch plans appear to be working: France’s childhood obesity rate is one of the lowest in the developed world.
Portugal’s Drug Laws
While “invading” the small Southern European country of Portugal, Moore tells a law enforcement officer that he’s carrying cocaine. He’s bluffing—or at least trying to get a rise out of the cop, but the officer doesn’t so much as blink. That’s because drugs have been decriminalized in Portugal since 2001, and those found carrying small quantities of substances considered illicit in America—opioids, hallucinogens, amphetamines, you name it—aren’t treated as criminals. Instead, they might be charged a fine or referred to a voluntary drug rehabilitation program to help break the addiction. As a result, the country has seen a dramatic decrease not only in its prison population but also in its numbers of drug users and its drug-related mortality rate. Portugal boasts the second-lowest rate of drug overdose deaths in the European Union, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
If there’s one takeaway from Where to Invade Next, it’s that Italians know how to take a vacation. In one of the first scenes of the movie, Moore spends some time with an Italian couple who share their beachside photos and travel stories from the dozen or so places they’ve visited around the globe—all on their employers’ dime. Italy, along with the other 27 members of the European Union, is required by law to offer all employees a minimum of four weeks—20 days per year—of paid vacation. On top of that, Italy offers its workers an additional 10 days off for public holidays, and in some regions, bonus days are added for observing the festival of their local patron saint. But Italy’s paid leave isn’t even Europe’s most generous. Residents of France, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, and Finland enjoy between 25 and 30 days paid vacation, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
While “invading” Norway, Moore visits an idyllic island town where men lay out in the sun, go running through the park, and live in cabins reminiscent of summer camp. But what appears at first to be a recreational retreat is actually a prison. There are no bars, metal toilets, or solitary confinement. Even in the country’s maximum-security facilities, inmates participate in painting classes, perform music in a recording studio, and view works from contemporary artists. And yet, the system appears to be working: Norway’s two-year recidivism rate is about 20 percent—one of the lowest in the world—according to a survey of inmates released in 2005. The country also boasts a relatively low level of crime and an incarceration rate of just 75 for every 100,000 people, as of last year.