Sicko: With Michael Moore, you always want more

More from MooreI think there are few mavericks who have the portly charm of Michael Moore and genuine wit, and fewer still with his abilities to spin documentaries that show the high and mighty in the finery of their ‘new clothes’.

Sicko from Michael is heartwarmingly direct. To see all those people in the impoverished neighbourhoods rooting for him is delightful, a bizarre reflection of 21st Century America’s failing policies.

But even if Moore’s film is firmly socialistic in its moorings, some of his premises aren’t. He seems to have got global politics by the wrong end of the stick, when he tells Larry King on CNN that the best care is being  given in Gitmo to those accused of plotting 9/11. The whole world knows that Guantanamo Bay is a no-man’s land, and that it has no legal status of existence and that its detenus are those who have been plucked out of various countries beyond the scope of international law.

If you ignore this somewhat unintelligent premise of Sicko and focus instead on Moore’s powerful broadsides against America’s usurious health insurance companies, the picture looks brighter and wittier. It has apparently been effective enough for someone high up in Google to try and rustle up some ad campaigns for the bruised healthcare insurers and then backtracked a little.

Moore’s ailing and dejected US subjects are the visible symptoms of an inferior healthcare system that is guided by profits; those abroad represent the healthy outcomes of universal healthcare in the welfare state. Moore has chosen the victims of the HMOs in America and contrasted them with their luckier welfare state counterparts across the border, across the Atlantic and across the keys in Florida. 

Just too bad that Moore got his politics a little mixed up. His belief in rights would gain in health if he could shed some of his politically correct positions vis-a-vis 9/11. Ditto for the religious fervour that he brings to some of his commentary. He should instead root himself in the human condition and its frailties.

But these imperfections apart, Moore’s message of healthcare for all paid for by taxes is indeed universal in its appeal and Sicko is bound to be a hit.  There is some talk that he will be in Iran to show the film. With some luck, Moore could arrange a special screening for Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and P.Chidambaram to cure them of their insurance fetish; as things stand, India has neither medicaid for the emergencies nor medicare for the elderly, two interventions that are weak even for the US but available by law, nonetheless.

India does not offer free treatment for renal failure and its cancer patients run out of money trying to treat themselves. What the hell, it cannot even feed its entire population at optimum nutrition levels.

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