Somehow Michael Moore’s principal message with his latest film Sicko has been amazingly written off as, simply, another Michael Moore publicity stunt, when in fact, Sicko is Moore’s most fully realized message movie to date. This one really has a point.
Bowling for Columbine, for which Moore won the Oscar, and Fahrenheit 9/11 and of course, Roger and Me were the work of a clever satirist. No one can find the hypocrite in the room and point him/her out like Moore can. He’s the guy who sits in the back of the class, rebels against the teacher and still gets the highest grade in the class.
You don’t have to throw a rock particularly far in American government to hit a hypocrite. It is practically a job requirement. But Moore doesn’t spend a lot of time being hard on the government or the hypocrites therein. This time, the focus is on us. Why do we put up with it? Why have we given away all of our voting power? Why do we continually live in fear and self-loathing? Why are the rich getting richer and the poor getting screwed? Doesn’t anyone give a damn anymore?
Sicko is a film every American should willingly take the time and spend the money to see. Even if you think Moore’s films are riddled with unfair inaccuracies and agitprop hysteria, there is one important reason to see it. To ponder and decide, once and for all, if we are living in the America we want to be living in because, as the film so clearly points out, we have the power. We have the power only we don’t know it and we don’t use it.
In Sicko, Moore examines the by all accounts broken US health care system. He isn’t even looking at those millions who are uninsured (of which I am one, full disclosure), but instead focuses on those who have been thus far screwed over by their HMOs. You know, those wonderfully sympathetic corporations out to make your life easier? Most of us who live on spare means know what it is to “deal with” insurance companies and HMOs.
There wouldn’t be a point in showing all of the mostly satisfied customers of corporations like Aetna, Kaiser and Blue Cross. But there is a point in showing anyone who died because they were refused treatment or anyone who was turned down or turned away because of a ludicrous pre-existing condition.
The film is not a point-by-point presentation of what is wrong with our system nor is it a long lecture on what we should be doing right. Rather, it is asking us to answer a fundamental question about why we live in a country where it is considered unpatriotic to take care of its people?
The most persuasive voice in the film is Tony Benn, a former member of Britain’s Parliament, who says that democracy itself is the reason they ended up with universal health care. The poor people got the vote and they changed things. He also says that there are two ways in which people are controlled: “frighten people and secondly demoralize them. An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.” Gee, sound at all familiar?
And yes, of course the film is sensationalistic. It wouldn’t be half as entertaining if it weren’t. But it’s more than that. It’s more, even, than a wakeup call about the ailing health care system. It is a patriotic call to arms. It’s odd that two of the most patriotic and powerful messages have come from documentary filmmakers this year, with Moore’s film and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. With the help of some innovative distributors, the films have somehow broken through the veil of corporate-owned news to bring at least one side of the truth. They’ve both been spun to near-death but somehow the message pokes through obnoxiously anyway.
Maybe you will see the film and you will decide that America really isn’t that bad. After all, you have got it pretty good. And you’d never want to live in France, Canada or Cuba. Maybe you’ll decide that our government is on the right track, leading the country for all of its people rather than its five richest. Maybe you won’t long for a time when doctors treated you because you were sick and you needed treatment. Maybe you’ll decide that life can’t get any better than it is. But you’ll have seen the film at least. And you’ll have answered the question.