Did you know, in some countries:
- Prison cells aren’t locked, there’s very little if any prison violence, and homicide rates have declined (Norway)?
- There are no drug crimes and correspondingly less drug use (Portugal)?
- Employees are given almost 2 months paid vacation and holidays per year as well as 5 months of paid maternity leave when needed (Italy)?
These represent some of the positive ideas that Michael Moore suggests importing to America in his recent movie, “Where To Invade Next.” The title misleads as this exploration only “invades” in a whimsical way to “steal” methods aligned with love, care, and respect for human dignity.
I love the way Godfrey Cheshire described this film at RogerEbert.com:
Michael Moore's surprising and extraordinarily winning 'Where to Invade Next' will almost surely cast his detractors at Fox News and similar sinkholes into consternation. They get lots of mileage out of painting Moore as a far-left provocateur who’s all about 'running America down.' But his new film is all about building America up, in some amazingly novel and thought-provoking ways. In my view, it’s one of the most genuinely, and valuably, patriotic films any American has ever made.
If you're American, it might be embarrassing at first to see how the countries featured in this movie operate from a more compassionate model of society instead of the “me first” approach to getting all that you can for yourself characteristic of the modern America ethos. But the film is irresistibly inspiring.
Ironically, Michael Moore discovers that many of these ideas originated in America. What happened to us, I wonder? Isn't it time to take these thriving models from other countries and apply them at home to create a culture rooted in care and compassion rather than continue to germinate a hotbed of violence?
Freedom or Insanity?
You see, I find it confusing that American leaders preach the need for a war on terrorism, when violence runs rampant in our very own country.
These facts that depict the unique face of gun violence in America from the BBC startle me and make me wonder what on earth is collectively wrong with us?
- "So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq."
- There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents.
- There were 64 school shootings in 2015, according to a dedicated campaign group set up in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut in 2012.
- Some 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and 26,819 people were injured [those figures exclude suicide]. Those figures are likely to rise by several hundred, once incidents in the final week of the year are counted.
- The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 - the most recent year for comparable statistics - was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1.
- The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime.
Naturally, we all feel devastated when an incident of mass gun violence occurs. But how often do we have a chance to sit down and take in the whole picture? How often do we let it sink in that this is not normal when you consider the experience in many other countries, which shows this is not inevitable?
After reading these facts, these are some of the questions that come to my mind:
- Is this freedom or insanity?
- Is it freedom to live in fear when your child goes to school?
- Is it freedom to live in fear because your skin is a different color?
- Is it freedom to feel fear when you practice your religion?
- Do I want to live in a violent country?
- Does this country really need a "war" on terrorism, when terrorism only accounts for a small number of gun deaths in this country, or would we be better off improving own dysfunctional systems? (Note, I'm not suggesting we ignore terrorism.)
What thoughts come up for you?
Be the Change
As an American, I feel we need to seriously review our societal structures and values and ask, “Why do so many of our people feel compelled to kill others?” And, please don’t blame it on the poor, disenfranchised, or people of color.
It doesn’t have to be like this. It’s not this way in many other countries. For example,
In 1996, after a gun massacre left 35 dead, Australia banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. What happened? Their gun homicide rate fell by 65%, without a parallel increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides. (Occupy Democrats)
It’s not enough to think, “I’m not violent so this doesn’t relate to me.” There’s something built into our societal fabric that allows murder to be too commonplace. As long as we don’t speak up and go about business as usual, we silently support these structures.
We're part of this collective, thus we each need to stand up and lend our voice to a new America that says "no" to aggression, unbridled power for the rich, and disrespect of human dignity.
If you watch Michael Moore’s movie, you’ll also learn how children are served delectable school lunches in France and teens are honestly taught about the Holocaust in Germany, rather than denying this unsavory part of history. You’ll see how workers are mandated representation on company boards in Italy and women are given equal representation on these boards in Iceland.
I don’t think we could adopt any of these methods wholesale. They wouldn’t necessarily work for us without addressing our underlying value structures at the same time. But we could begin with one step and that step forward would already be changing our values. And then we could move on to the next step.
For example, how could nutritious school lunches threaten anyone? French school lunches are even cheaper than their counterparts in the US, and they're multi-course meals.
But we each have a choice to make. Will you accept living in a violent country or will you make a commitment to live in a compassionate one?
Shift the Focus to 'We'
When asked to share a message for America, one female CEO from Iceland said: “Change your focus from 'I' to 'we.'"
A Portuguese police officer responded this way to the same question: “Respect for human dignity.”
And, in fact, as you watch the people in this film, you feel their caring heart. For example, you get the sense it feels entirely normal, healthy, and unquestionable to want children to have delicious and nutritious lunches at school. The life-enhancing structures they've created in these countries express their love for children, their wish for good health for all, and their commitment to equality.
I'm not saying that Americans are bad. I'm just saying parts of our system are terribly broken. We could do far better, but that won't happen if we don't stand up.
I’m not saying the people in Michael Moore's movie are perfect either, that these countries are not contributing to global warming, or that they don't use more than their fair share of the world's resources. But they have a better, more compassionate way of living together.
Time to wake up America, take notice, learn, and change.
What do you think? I would love to hear.
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