I haven’t seen Charlie Chaplin’s famous movie, “The Great Dictator“, yet. The movie is a satire based on the Nazi regime and is a grand case of mistaken identity. The movie’s namesake is a recognisable despot who switches places with a Jewish barber (albeit involuntarily).
I came across a segment of the movie featuring the dictator’s powerful speech on Facebook this morning. The speech is powerful and is as relevant today as it was during the Second World War. More than 70 years later we still have our own dictators who promise to protect their citizens from perceived enemies from convenient threats.
The speech’s text is available on the Charlie Chaplin site and is well worth reading. Here is an extract that could easily describe much of what we see around us today, particularly in many of our so-called leaders:
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….
Watching the campaigning for the US Presidential elections feels unreal at times. We are so caught up in what Donald Trump said the day before, or a decade or so ago and how Hillary Clinton is just as bad (in her way) or a much better choice (depending on your politics).
I maintain that Clinton is the better of two poor options but my opinion doesn’t count for much. Like most of the world, I have to watch from the sidelines as the United States of America hurtles towards its uncertain fate.
What is clear to me is that we haven’t heard the sentiments this 1940s fake dictator expressed in this famous scene nearly enough in the campaign speeches. Certainly, Trump hasn’t risen close to the level of this speech except to exemplify what the speech opposes. If anything, he looks set to the join the elite club of dictators who rose to power on popular support fueled by terror and rage.
The fate of the world literally depends on this election and much of what drives it is hatred and fear. I’m still hopeful that better judgment will prevail next month but you can’t underestimate the power of fear and the hatred it breeds. Our collective hope rests with American voters who will hopefully exercise their vote and elect a leader who the world needs, not a leader who needs the world to be his.
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!