I’m in the middle of writing a blog post at the moment about an abhorrent murder. It’s one of those news stories that you read and just stare at in disbelief and sadness that this has happened on this earth. There’s so much strife in the news at the moment, from the Grenfell Tower disaster, to North Korea carrying out repeated missile tests; from increasingly regular terrorist attacks, to atrocious murders such as the killing of Bijan Ebrahimi (about which I am currently writing the blog post).
Quite often, when I read the news these days I want to curl up under my desk and stay there forever. The world seems so bleak, unfeeling and cruel. On days like that, I watch this video. It’s a video of the speech from the end of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and it is so stirring and never fails to lift me and give me hope when I think that humanity is finished.
I wanted to dedicate an entire post to this speech, firstly because it has been such a great source of strength and comfort to me, but also because I was looking to put an extract in the blog post that I’m working on and suddenly realised that it would do no justice to the speech as a whole if I only stole an extract from it.
So here it is. I would really recommend watching the video (it’s just under four minutes long), but if you haven’t time then please just read the words below and rest assured that it’s not so bad out there after all.
“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 airplane 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 do not 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 that 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 fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill 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!”
– from ‘The Great Dictator”, written, directed, produced and starring Charlie Chaplin