Released in 1940, The Great Dictator was Charlie Chaplin’s first true ‘talking picture.’ A humorous film based on the age-old comedic concept of mistaken identity, it nonetheless has serious overtones in its parody of despots like Hitler, making it a welcome addition to the UK/US propaganda machine of the day.
One might suppose that such a film would be well past its sell-by date by now, but not so – the final speech might have been written today, touching as it does the modern zeitgeist and growing universal desire for change on a global scale. I remember seeing the film decades ago, and of course the final speech was no doubt lost on me at the time. So my thanks to Shunkaha Wanagi (@LisaGSD) for reminding me. Despite some of the sentiments being a little ‘of their time,’ this is still a relevant battle-cry for humanity at the edge of the precipice. So, making allowances for some of the rhetoric and odd bit of political or ecological correctness, enjoy the essence of the message that we the people need to wake up. So here is the text, with a link to a good YouTube clip for those who want pictures too . . .
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 yourself 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 seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written, “ThekingdomofGodis withinMan.” 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 their 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!