After giving it some thought, we finally watched the latest Michael Moore film, Where to Invade Next. I was a bit sceptical at first: the premise sounded like a marketting ploy to appeal to European audiences by showing them how wonderful they are and bashing the USA in the process (after all, I understand that Moore is already far more popular in Europe than in the US, and that sort of strategy might make sense). I’m quite glad we went after all. Yes, the movie relied on a lot of over-simplifications. Yes, it left out some very embarrassing details (it’s great to praise the German system where people only have to work 36 hours per week for a decent salary, but it’s a shame the movie didn’t mention that Germany doesn’t have rules on minimum wages and that some businesses, like slaughterhouses, run thanks to foreign workers who are paid one euro per hour or so), and it didn’t teach us all that much about Europe, but our politicians have been trying to adopt a more American brand of organisation for years, including giving up on free social security and university, and that’s terrifying. Even assuming that this movie was in fact mostly directed at the European market, I think it’s a great idea to remind Europeans every now and then that we shouldn’t spit on the social advances our grandparents fought so hard for.
One part that got our hair to stand on end was the bit about sexual education in France. Things must really, really look bad in your country if you start to think of France as an example of country that does sex ed right. I mean, of course we don’t have that whole abstinence crap, thank God. But, really, is that something big enough to make us proud? It’s sex ed. Not knitting ed, not watching-TV-while-texting ed, not mushroom-picking ed. Of course you should talk about sex, focusing sex ed on abstinence makes about as much sense as having a math class teach that numbers are useless and why don’t we cook toad-in-the-hole instead. So we haven’t descended to this level of absurdity yet, fair enough. Aside from that, things are far from good-looking. There may be one sex-ed class per year in most schools. The focus is still overwhelmingly on preventing teen pregnancy and STDs; we still have a way to go before teaching about consent and pleasure becomes the norm (apparently, rape is not serious enough to teach young boys to refrain from assaulting their girlfriends even if they feel like it). Most mature concepts are tackled when students are already fifteen or sixteen, which feels extremely absurd to me, given that the age of consent in France is 15. Basically, you are not considered mature enough to talk about things before you’re considered mature enough to do them. And that makes us an example to follow? If Moore is right about the US, then the situation over there must be really dire.
The part about gender equality in Iceland made us smile. It’s funny to hear that women should be put in more positions of power because they’re more compassionate than men and have a less selfish and more pacifist outlook on life. In 2016, it’s really strange to hear that women are so much better than men, and I’m not a fan of these approaches at all, since they seem to imply that you’d need a justification to put women in positions of power (I mean, other than the fact that they exist and they’re human). But when you think about it, perhaps things are not that one-sided. Perhaps a society where men and women are real equals is bound to be more compassionate and pacifist, through the simple fact that when you don’t allow yourself to disregard and dehumanise half of your population, you’re bound to think more carefully about how your actions affect others. If we got used to treating absolutely everyone around us like human beings, maybe we would do many things very differently. We’d think twice about hammering on how we deserve certain things, because we would realise that if we deserve to have them, it means other people don’t. We’d have a different outlook on war or punishment, because there’s no way we’d think it’s the only way to deal with ‘those people’: there would be no such thing as ‘those people’, there would only be us. Maybe our capacity for dehumanisation wouldn’t be so endless if we weren’t taught from birth that there are at least two very different groups of people that shouldn’t be treated in the same way.
Naive and all, this film was still worth seeing.