Charlie Chaplin is still regarded as one of the most influential artists of cinema history, an icon and a towering figure of world culture.
But as time goes on, new generations only have heard of him and his old movies briefly, without having any reason to take an interest in his works.
Through most of his films, he never spoke. His style consisted of silent movies and slapstick comedy. But there is one thing he produced that I personally consider timeless and now more than ever, important for everyone who lives on this earth.
Those who know him and his films already know what this is going to be about. But if you’ve never watched any of his movies, please bear with me for a minute.
He will leave you speechless, too. It’s advice we all should follow every day. Especially with the political tension in the US, rising risk of conflict between China and Taiwan, and a still ongoing war in the middle east.
The dictator — Not just about the Nazis
One of his most acclaimed movies was “the dictator”, which hit cinemas in 1940, 1 year before the US officially declared war on Nazi Germany.
It was the first movie he actually spoke in, and the speech he held at the end of the movie blurred the lines between film-making and addressing us directly to teach us about the importance of life.
This speech is more valuable, more relatable, and more important than any speech a politician has given to date.
I don’t think everyone needs to be a fan of any of his movies or him as a person. But this speech should be an important lesson for all of us.
“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. And this world has 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 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 don’t hate! Only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural!
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. 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!”
— Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator”
This is the only political speech we ever really need. But people don’t listen. They didn’t listen back then and they don’t listen now. Everyone just fights for themselves.
Please carry this speech close to heart and try to make a difference. Don’t give people false promises, give them hope. Don’t think. Feel. We need to remind humanity every day that it is we who define our future.
We are all unique. We are all different in our own ways. But at the same time, we are all equal. And we need to work together if we ever want to create a world that we one day can call fair and loving to all.