The Great Speech by Charlie Chaplin: Relevance in Today’s World
Charlie Chaplin is arguably one of the most important actors in the history of cinema. He started acting during the silent film era and continued with the trade throughout his life until his untimely death in 1977. One of his most famous works is the movie The Great Dictator released in 1940. The movie is a political satire with a bit of comedy and was seen to speak out against the dictators of the time and the bad consequences of their actions like creating ethnic wars and condemning innocents to poverty.
A little context
In the last scene of the movie, playing the character of German dictator Adenoid Hynkel, Charlie made a speech infamously known as the great speech. Before we talk about the speech i am going to put it into context so you can understand the sequence of events that led to the speech. In 1918 a Jewish barber saves a German pilot Schultz who was wounded. Twenty years later Schultz declines to follow the orders of the dictator Hynkel to kill jews and is sent to jail where he manages to escape and hides with the barber in his Jewish ghetto. Unfortunately they get arrested although their family manages to escape to Austria. Hynkel conquers Austria and a huge parade of soldiers await to be addressed by him. Schultz and the barber manage to escape by stealing uniforms and join the parade The barber and Hynkel were both played by chaplin and therefore when they arrived at the parade, Schultz convinced him to take the stage and pretend to be Hynkel as they looked like identical twins and thus made the great speech.
Old but very actual
The speech basically addresses the causes of human suffering and its root cause which is human greed. He says that leaders have enslaved people and freed themselves, this is true as business leaders that is corporate heads like bankers rake in millions of shillings at the expense of ordinary citizens take for instance the recent recession where millions of homes were foreclosed yet bankers took away a lot of money. Political leaders of powerful countries also exploit poor countries for their natural resources by aiding conflicts then pretend to be peacekeepers only to steal from them. He also says in the speech that humans today think too much and feel too little, which is true as governments and big businesses first agenda is to make money and the welfare of people comes secondary. He says that he hopes that science will lead to all men’s happiness since science has been used to cause suffering to many people. Think of nuclear bombs and drones being used to kill people. Medical industry competes to make drugs for terminal diseases only to price them expensively to millions of people who eventually die because decision makers do not feel for them.
Greed is the poison that has led to all these problems as he notes that the earth is so rich that it can accommodate everyone to live happily. However this is not the case as few people have the majority of the wealth in the world as many continue to live impoverished lives.
The Final Speech
Final Speech of “The Great Dictator” by Charlie Chaplin
Written and delivered by Sir Charles Chaplin
The Jewish Barber (Charlie Chaplin): 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 men, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each others’ 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 as 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 man; 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 and 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 a 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’s 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 fulfill their 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!