The Great Dictator Chaplin’s words are as relevant today as they were in 1940.
Charlie Chaplin’s famous portrayal of fictitious dictator Adenoid Hynkel, a thinly-veiled version of Hitler, made waves around the world when he premiered the 1940 comedy, “The Great Dictator.”
Some call it the greatest speech ever made. This remix puts Charlie Chaplin’s climactic address from “The Great Dictator” into present-day context, showing how the spirit of liberty, brotherhood, and equality that defeated fascism seven decades ago must be urgently reclaimed.
Democracy calls for the people to take a stand and fight for their beliefs around dinner tables, in public forums, and on social media, or in the case of France on the very streets But in the Brexit era, rancour has eclipsed civil discourse far too often.
Vulgarity, lies, and bitterness have marred the democratic process, and in some cases, the animosity between those on the left and the right, ‘Remain or Leave’ has become so personal, that it’s easy to forget we’re all fighting for the future together in a shared community of people with a shared history and language.
As a nation fully engaged in the politics of the moment, we take a valuable lesson in stepping back and reflecting on the true goals of democracy.
Charlie Chaplin’s speech at the end of The Great Dictator provides an excellent road map of how a citizenry can conquer the issues that divide it and how a selfless leader should view the world.
Even though our political leaders fall well short of this vision it has become more and more evident that all workers should unite and set aside our differences as we face in this unprecedented attack on our families and homes that will impoverish not just the poorer in society but both the masses and the middle-classes.
This attack from the oligarchy is unprecedented, they have become intent on crushing all resistance using the very resources that should be in public hands our energy utilities to press down on our very existence with this so-called cost of living crisis, we need to unite for the common good in a common cause, to reclaim what is ours.
Charlie Chaplin’s Greatest Speech
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white.
We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world, there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. …..
Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!
In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!
Final speech from The Great Dictator Copyright © Roy Export S.A.S. All rights reserved
The Great Dictator Chaplin’s words are as relevant today as they were in 1940.
The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first film with dialogue. Chaplin plays both a little Jewish barber, living in the ghetto, and Hynkel, the dictator ruler of Tomainia. In his autobiography Chaplin quotes himself as having said: “One doesn’t have to be a Jew to be anti Nazi. All one has to be is a normal decent human being.”
Chaplin and Hitler were born within a week of one another. “There was something uncanny in the resemblance between the Little Tramp and Adolf Hitler, representing opposite poles of humanity, ” writes Chaplin biographer David Robinson, reproducing an unsigned article from The Spectator dated 21st April 1939:
“Providence was in an ironical mood when, fifty years ago this week, it was ordained that Charles Chaplin and Adolf Hitler should make their entry into the world within four days of each other….Each in his own way has expressed the ideas, sentiments, aspirations of the millions of struggling citizens ground between the upper and the lower millstone of society. (…) Each has mirrored the same reality – the predicament of the “little man” in modern society. Each is a distorting mirror, the one for good, the other for untold evil.”
Chaplin spent many months drafting and re-writing the speech for the end of the film, a call for peace from the barber who has been mistaken for Hynkel.
Many people criticised the speech, and thought it was superfluous to the film. Others found it uplifting. Regrettably Chaplin’s words are as relevant today as they were in 1940.
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