July 3rd, 2007



I watched Sicko, Michael Moore's new documentary about the health system in America, last night, and I have to say, if I were American, I'd be pissed the fuck off.

I'd also be looking to move to France.

Fuck, I'm tempted to move to France for the benefits.

At any rate, the horror of the American health system is well documented amongst my friends from the States and I was curious how the film was going to treat the subject. Instead of focusing on people without health insurance, Sicko chooses to focus on those in the States who do, and in doing so, opens a whole new dimension of tragedy up. It shows an elderly couple who, after three heart attacks and cancer in each, are left bankrupt, and must move into their daughter's house because of the cost of their treatment, even with insurance. It talks to the man who cut off the tips of two of his fingers--the middle and the ring--and was told, in hospital, that the cost of reattaching his middle finger was $60,000 and the ring finger $12,000. He could only afford the lesser of the two. I can't remember if he had insurance or not, but that story fucking horrified me. It then goes through a list of men and women who have been screwed over by their health insurance, who have denied their treatment, and which often results in death. A husband. A little girl. One gets the feeling that Moore could very well have filled up two hours of these stories, but he doesn't, heartbreaking though they are.

Instead, Moore compares America to the UK, Canada, France, and to Cuba, and finds, in hospitals, in doctors and patients, people who are, in turn, horrified and amused, by the notion that you would have to pay for operations.

"We're not in America," they say, more often than not. "This isn't the States."

It is, really, a heartbreaking film.

Especially if you're American.

The question that Moore raises is the film is how can a country do this to its people, and continue to allow it to be done? In answering it, he returns to the answer he gave in Bowling for Columbine, wherein Moore argued that it was fear that ultimately motivated the country's love for firearms. However, here, Moore argues that it is fear that allows the country to continue to treat its citizens so poorly. Whereas in the earlier film, Moore can be seen to arguing that fear is a cause of gun related deaths, and that it is fed by the media who sensationalise violence, Moore is instead arguing that fear of losing health care, of losing jobs, of losing something, is what American citizens need to get over to change their situation. It is almost as if he can be seen, in the edges of the film, whispering, "If we have a revolution, we can all get universal health care. Unbought politicians, too."

Perhaps the only complaint I have about the film is that his vision of free health care for everyone is, from my own experience in this country, a bit perfect. You will not, with free health care, suddenly be living in a fine and happy society in which everyone gets what they need--there will still be waits, health insurance companies, and the lovely 'elective surgery' option. Moore's view of free health care, then, is just a little rose tinted. However, even with this oversight, you cannot look at this film and leave it thinking that America has a good and fine health system that takes care of its people and that it has made the right choice in not having free health care. It's a film that, while for Americans is trying to motivate social change, is also a film for that serves as a warning for everyone else, of what can happen when profits are placed before people, and it's well worth watching on that level for anyone who wonders how it will relate to the Non-American.

Lastly, it should be said, I downloaded Sicko. It's not out in Australia yet and I was curious. I hear Moore is good with the notion of people downloading it and, with that knowledge, I suspect the film has been released by the studio for such use, since the download I got of it was DVD quality, with perfect sound and image. It's not a dodge bootleg, like sometimes happens with newly released films (and which is why, for the most part, I can't be fucked wasting the bandwidth--there are better, older films to download). So, if you want to watch it now, go find the torrent.

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