When: 2016/11/26 – 2016/11/27, 10 AM SLT (PDT)

Destination: The Science Circle @ Second Life

We’re attending: Michael Moore’s “Where To Invade Next” Documentary Discussion

Next discussion:  2016/12/10, 10 AM SLT (PDT). “How to reverse the trend of anti-intellectualism?” Discussion

More information: Science Circle Students in-world group (click the link while logged on in Second Life to open the group profile), The Science Circle website

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The world is plagued by international conflicts. Small and large countries, developed and developing, keep coming up with the issues of a geopolitical, economical, even religious character, each of which has a potential to spark an armed conflict. Needless to say that the invasions orchestrated by the U.S. have been among the most devastating and disrupting of all the modern ones, but the discussion about the U.S. invasions can be beneficial for the politicians all around the world.

The title “Where To Invade Next” suggests exactly this type of discussion, and since this title belongs to a documentary film and not a U.S. Ministry of Defense speech, one can be hopeful that the documentary will give us a rough idea for the best course of action to prevent this potential conflict. Turns out that the viewer of this documentary is too late. The film depicts the U.S. invasion happening right as the filming goes, country after country.

The results of these invasions will leave stunned anybody concerned with the well-being of humanity.

(From this point on, the report will be containing spoilers to the documentary.)

To watch “Where To Invade Next” was mandatory for all participants, and to those who love doing it in a good company while having the luxury of discussing it together in real time, there was an option of joining The Science Circle this Saturday at 10 AM SLT, where the film had been streamed for all to watch. The crowd that has gathered there on Saturday was relatively modest – most of the participants went with an option of watching “Where To Invade Next” on their own. Still, some of us have commenced the discussion this Saturday, while watching the film itself. We have got a lovely company of two Americans (Dae Miami, the teacher from Virginia, USA, and Fosdick (electronicdetectivesubstitute)), two Dutches (SC’s own Chantal and Q), a Russian (yours truly), and also an Egyptian (Burner, the SC student) briefly joining us, and another American coming over when we have ended watching the film.

As it was expected, the watching session did not go smoothly (as Dae Miami has commented, “how many scientists does it take to watch a video”). To be even more honest, to each of us the stream has started at its own time – the differences in delays were roughly 5 to 45 minutes, so all of us have finished before or after the others. That, however, hardly hurt the discussion we have been having. It was particularly fun to hear others writing in the chat where they’re at in the film, and comment on that moment together, when we were already past it and knew what it’s about.

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Taxes – United Stated vs. France

Of course, the Saturday discussion was dynamic only to a degree, since the main focus was the film. Nevertheless, we have talked about how things are running in our countries, comparing to the countries shown in the film (like Dae Miami making a comment that he also has “8 weeks of vacations, but not paid”, and Burner was shocked to learn that there was a sex museum in Amsterdam), quoted the characters of the documentary as they were saying something to remember, and overall were enjoying the component of interaction with each other as we were watching the film. Country borders between us were not an issue at all!

Most of the audience has left as the film has ended, but myself and Chantal have stayed a bit longer to help out Vocalist, another SC student from USA, with watching “Where To Invade Next” on her own for the Sunday discussion. We also have talked about government-facilitated censorship in Russia, emerging from the fact that I could not open the LinkedIn link, the Turkey issues, particularly with how they treat their women on the government level, the issue with the immigrants from Middle East to Europe, with which Chantal’s family is dealing on a daily basis… There sure was a lot to discuss, but we have saved most of it for Sunday.

On Sunday, the amphitheatre was much more populated. From the Saturday’s audience, along with myself and Chantal, there were Dae Miami and Vocalist, and we were joined by 2 more Americans, a Finnish and a Japanese participants, therefore 5 countries (Netherlands, the USA, Russia, Japan and Finland) had their representatives – a pretty diverse crowd!

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For that conversation, we all had been asked the question that goes: “Which outstanding solutions/facilities did your country develop? What can we learn from your culture?”, and each of us was to prepare an answer in text for the discussion. Indeed, we all look at other countries and admire their solutions, as much as critisize our home countries’ shortcomings – it is easy to idealize the foreign land which puts only the best on the surface for everybody to observe. It is time to appreciate something our home countries do for us as their citizens!

Chantal, as the host of the conversation, had opened it with her answer to this question and had got us acquainted with the water management system that had been implemented in Netherlands, her home country. Indeed, Netherlands, being susceptible to floods and relying on water in various fields, needs to pay special attention to what is going on with its water sources. It turns out that there are large parts of the land located 6 metres below the sea level – if Chantal did not bring that up, I am not sure many of us would take that into account! Of course, Dutch engineers share their technologies with engineers from all over the world, from Russia to Indonesia to London to the U.S. The participants had expressed deep appreciation for Netherlands’ concern – one of the U.S. residents had recalled the fact that the entire country can potentially disappear underwater, as the climate change issue worsens. Of course, for a moment, that has brought up the subject of Trump for a moment – one of the participants even has lamented that she wishes there was one discussion without Trump being brought up. However, a man of such nature as Trump on such high position he is about to take inevitably raises a lot of questions, so he is quite expected to be brought up in discussions on global affairs.

Water management, however, was not the only thing Netherlands could be proud of. Chantal continued with telling us about equal treatment of sexual minorities in Netherlands, with the first law allowing the marriage of the same sex people being enacted as early as 2001. But they do not stop there and actively fight for the LGBT rights all over the world.

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In parallel, there was a discussion about education going on, inspired by the presence of Dirlandaa from Finland, the country that had been featured in “Where To Invade Next” as a home of highly efficient educational system. Due to the presence of a large number of educators of different levels, needless to say the subject was of great interest to many. Getting rid of standardized tests was just one of the many things participants have applauded to. The fact that all american schoolbooks are written in Texas was quite shocking to me…

Next up was Arianne from Japan who has shared her country’s views on war “as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes”. In simple words, her country tolerates the sensible use of military force when required. She admitted that she herself is not sure what the best solution is, however she sees it as a global peace issue, and rightfully so.

Meanwhile, Dirlandaa has shared with us her notecard in which she has written about the remarkable educational system in Finland and thus kindled an already ongoing conversation on the subject of education. To begin with, ALL education in Finland is tuition-free for EU students, (however, starting August 2017, there will be tuition for non-EU/EEA citizens). Teachers are allowed to bring equipment in their classroom that suits them, like exercise balls to sit on, using phenomenon-based learning as a cornerstone of the education to keep students engaged, and of course, the infamous “no homework” system.

As the subject of education was being talked out, I followed with my answer to the question. I did not have to look any further than my home city of Moscow, a perfect place for illegal business activities up until 2010, when the new mayor of the city took the post. The city is becoming cleaner, safer and more convenient with every little change introduced by the new mayor – from widening the pavements of the streets in the city centre, making the streets more pleasant to walk down, to leveling illegal markets thus eliminating the hotbeds of criminal activities, to introducing new means of commuting, up to having a test electrobus on one of the Moscow routes! American members have recalled the New York City situation when Rudy Guiliani took over the mayor post, finding it to be familiar with the one in Moscow.

Then the US participants followed with their answers. Tagline has shared his fascination with the sheer nature of the American nation, where different cultures clash and merge, “and the resulting culture though chaotic is a fascinating synthesis”. CB Axel loved all the ideas introduced by the States and now implemented all around the world, except for the States themselves, unfortunately. So, even the country that took the biggest hit in the Michael Moore’s documentary, had something for its citizens to be proud of!

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As the discussion went over an hour, some people had to go, and that is where the discussion had taken the free format, where remaining participants had discussed personal affairs a little. Then a couple more Americans, who were late for the main discussion, joined in to express their feelings about the documentary. The conversation went from recalling the positive examples from the documentary to human rights violation, in particular in Middle Eastern countries, in particular towards women and the youth, to the treatment of youngsters who break the law, to the Jimi Hendrix’ death cause.

Then, we have arrived to the immigrants problem in Europe, which Chantal and Dirlandaa, being European citizens, face first hand, and stayed on this topic for a while. Chantal has shared the examples of despicable behaviour from Turkish immigrants towards herself and her son. The control on the political level is hardly exercised, since governments of European countries prefer to appear as “tolerant” and therefore are not in a hurry to impose rules upon the immigrants due to the risk of appearing “oppressive”. There is Sharia law practiced in Britain and parts of Sweden already… What is more, governments dedicate money to feed and house these immigrants, up to having a law in Netherlands, by which any immigrant is paid 2000 euros to leave, if they come from a safe country – a system heavily exploited by Eastern Europeans. As a result, social programs suffer, like education and retirement funding. Obviously, most of these immigrants lack education and refuse to learn the language of the European country, and therefore cannot get a legal job, so they resort to criminal activities.

As we were talking politics, a subject of freedom of press came up, where the issue of misinformation exists. That is where Netherlands could take pride in their freedom of press – according to Chantal, they are ranked #1 in the world, and that shows in how informed Chantal always is. However, as long as we are connected with each other over Second Life and other international social platforms, we can get the first hand experience and information from each other, and therefore not being as dependent on the local press as we were mere decades ago!

The conversation, which went well over 3 hours in its length, had been concluded with warm appreciation of The Science Circle as a platform for connecting people from different areas and with different states of mind, and then it was time for most of the participants to go back to the real world, so diverse, so complicated and so interesting. Each of us had everybody else’s experience to take away from the discussion, and of course we all have learned something that day. Our education does not stop with “Where To Invade Next” and this discussion, and The Science Circle will be there to facilitate it!