I wish that Americans could discount whatever bias they may have for Michael Moore and see his new movie, Where to Invade Next. Moore travels the world to look at ways of life different from the U.S., things that foreign countries do better than us through their governments. This is an extremely patriotic movie, as Moore not only wants to see America get better, but also makes note that many of the ideas in the film were originally American. He also makes it clear that the countries have these things because their populations were politically motivated enough to make them happen.
Now I know some cynics will say that these countries have other problems. Moore does not try to paint other countries as utopias. He is simply trying to get Americans to take the best ideas from around the world and put them together to benefit our society. There are alternatives to our current state of affairs, which if you look at our election cycle it is clear that, despite our differences, people feel something needs to change.
I keep thinking of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from things passing in front of a fire behind them, and they begin to give names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.
I have traveled quite extensively and I have seen some of the things presented in the movie with my own eyes. However, I was unaware of many of the things in the movie, though they jive with what I have seen in the countries I have visited. I think what Moore is trying to do is to show a world that is not often presented in our terrible celebrity driven corporate media.
If we could get out of our whole right/left paradigm and view Moore’s film as a set of ideas to be discussed I think it would do us a lot of good. Although our country often disagrees about the cause of our ills, many people of different political persuasions realize there is something deeply strange going on in our culture and in our politics. How do we create a government that benefits the most amount of people possible? Due to our media, which thrives on scandal, tragedy, and covering our political discourse like a horse race, ideas on how to fix things, many of which already exist in other parts of the world, are often left behind in the shadows.
Moore’s movie is the work of an optimist. If people could only see things as they truly are, they would make better decisions on how they govern and want to be governed. Kurt Vonnegut once called the idea that the American people would do the right thing if given the right leader, “Hunter Thompson’s disease”. Thompson, despite the dark nature of much of his writing, believed that that was the case. That is why he actively participated in the public arena. (Though I don’t think Vonnegut would have written the things he did if he thought there was no hope, even if at times, especially near the end of his life, he viewed our prospects as bleak.) Are people like Thompson and Moore dreamers? Are we merely a country that is driven by our tribal allegiances. Are we too easily manipulated to ever discern right from wrong? If I’m honest, I have my good days and bad days with that whole deal. But I still have hope that if more people were presented with information, that enough of them would make the right choice. (“There are some people you just can’t reach.”) I think Moore’s film is a fountain of ideas that are worthy of debate. It’s a great conversation starter. If we can at least have a debate based on ideas, if we can have that conversation, maybe, just maybe, we can find a path through the darkness.