Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Karl Puschmann: Why did we escape the American invasion?

New Zealand, it seems, has no inspirational policies film-maker wants to grab.

It was easy to miss the recent news that America had invaded France, Italy and Germany, with a couple of smaller European powerhouses.

Sure, it sounds important but at the time there was much more pressing news to report.

An inexplicably popular dating TV show had spluttered to what the nation was calling a thoroughly unsatisfying climax.

Despite being underwhelmed by its ending, the public still had an insatiable appetite for news on this bullpaki and relentlessly shovelled big helpings of it down their drooling mouth holes before demanding more, more, more.

Naturally, a few things like the American invasion of Europe were bound to slip through the cracks during such a busy news time.

As far as invasions go it was a fairly minor one, consisting only of documentarian Michael Moore's army of one and his film crew.

Throughout Where to Invade Next, in cinemas now, Moore would shuffle into countries where they do things right and land-grab their ideas to take back to America where so much is done wrong.

The spoils of Moore's war were bountiful. From Italy, five months maternity pay at 80 per cent of salary and the law that sees each worker receive a yearly Christmas "bonus" of an extra full month's pay.

From the French, he got three-course gourmet school lunches and free daycare. Finland gave him an end to private schools and Slovenia gave free university education. From Germany he nabbed the law that half of a company's board must consist of workers while Iceland contributed a 40 per cent gender representation on company boards.

It was fairly unsexy stuff. With the shambolic Moore leading the charge, how could it not be? But it gave me much to think about.

I'm not really a huge fan of doing that. Firstly, because it hurts mah brain, and secondly because thinking about things like this tends to bum me out. I'm much happier being distracted by discussions about, say, 2016's best album so far or a flag than I am considering the gross short-sightedness of outrageous tertiary education fees or the cynical railroading of a lopsided and potentially disastrous free trade deal.

As Moore's war rolled on and his greedy hands swiped the cream of Europe's social ideologies, I couldn't help but compare all the gobsmackingly great policies going on overseas, and the astounding results these policies were having, with the rubbish policies we were bringing in here and how we seemed to be quite willingly eschewing much of our own good stuff in favour of waltzing down America's lousy path.

Michael Moore's new documentary ponders the question, where should America invade next? Photo/AP
Michael Moore's new documentary ponders the question, where should America invade next? Photo/AP

Some captured policies were easy to grasp, like Finland's law against declaring products "the best". Others, like Norway's lovely prisons or Portugal's drug attitudes, challenged convention.

But all were backed up by startlingly good results. All hammered home the shoddy policies being implemented here and how it is starting to feel like a slow crumbling of a once-decent society.

When the Government's most successful social policy of the past few years is Max Key, you know you've got problems, man.

We Kiwis used to pride ourselves on giving everyone a fair go and on being good, decent people. We have free healthcare and had free education. We banned nukes, went green and gave every person a vote before it was cool. We started the process of making peace with the past to secure a future. We had a place where everyone could afford to get educated, get a job, live in a house and raise a family.

We had paradise. A slice of heaven. Then we got greedy and it all went to shit.

Now families can't afford houses, kids don't have any lunches, corporations are dodging taxes, rates are going up, the cost of living is going up, students are being arrested at airports, people are living in cars, there's more homeless in the streets, poverty is growing, child abuse stats are appalling ... it's just a never-ending misery.

Watching Moore battle for what is, at its heart, just common decency and a restraint of pure greed really hammered home how many great things we once had or have since watered down as we rush to emulate the States.

It was a sentiment Moore shared when he spoke to Radio New Zealand.

"I would not try to emulate us in these ways," he said. "You already do ... but it can be worse. You want to stop that.

"You want to preserve those good things that you had over the years, the belief system that you have, the values that you have."

As I left the cinema it slowly dawned on me that Moore had not invaded us. We had nothing he wanted. And that, my friends, was something to really think about.

- NZ Herald

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Karl Puschmann is an entertainment writer for the New Zealand Herald.

A pop culture junkie, Karl has spent his career writing about the important things in life; music, film, television, comics and video games. He was editor of a popular music rag for five years and has since written regularly for every local culture/arts/lifestyle magazine worth a damn. His recent expansion into travel writing has flung him far, far from the comfort of his couch and into that bewildering place known as the ‘outdoors’. He is also currently endeavouring to make sense of the world by reviewing it over at critikarlreviewstheworld.com

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