Thought for the Day: Let us unite for freedom!

Released in the midst of the greatest war in history, Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator was the actor's masterwork of political commentary and comedic art in its highest form. Chaplin, whose trademark mustache closely resembled Adolf Hitler's, used the film to satirize the evil dictator using the tools he had at hand: scalpel-like wit and his worldwide renown stemming from his one of the earliest stars in movie history.

In the film, Chaplin plays an Adolf Hitler lookalike called Adenoid Hynkle. Hitler, said Chaplin, "must be laughed at," a profound but controversial take on the man whose Blitzkrieg was reducing much of Europe to rubble as he hounded so-called untermensch into the gas chambers at Auschwitz and Buchenwald and burned his way through Poland and Russia. 

While the film was greeted by many critics as both worthy and warranted, it was the six minute monolog delivered by Chaplin in character at the end of the speech that drew criticism. Some even linked it to the beginning of the end of his career, which was accompanied by accusations of fathering a child out of wedlock as well as his marriage to Oona O'Neill.

The speech, for whatever its artistic merits, still bears heeding today. There is no end to tyranny in the world, even while there has been a change in the faces of dictators and the causes for which they are willing to shed the blood of the masses they rule. Underlying conflicts between people are economic and business interests that pit nations against each other, even against their respective wills. "Wars, conflict, it's all business," said Chaplin in 1947, and quoting Anglican Bishop Beilby Porteous - a famed advocate of the manumission of slaves - "'One murder makes a villain. Millions a hero.'"

Playing a Jewish barber who is mistakenly identified as the dictator Hynkle, Chaplin addresses the masses assembled to hear the words of the tyrant, but instead hears a speech calling upon their better nature. But he also calls upon the woman he loves, Hannah, who represents the democratic working class soul of Europe that struggled against the advance of Fascism and Nazism. Chaplin's Great Dictator speech is excerpted below:

 

"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.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."
 
Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up, Hannah. The clouds are lifting. The sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world, a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality. Look up, Hannah. The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow — into the light of hope, into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up!"


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.
Filed under politics, us, democracy, politics, society, Democracy and Human Rights

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