Here’s a must watch 4 min. clip of Charlie Chaplin’s speech from his 1940 comedy-drama, The Great Dictator, which includes a well done contemporary montage.
Chaplin plays two characters in the film, Adenoid Hynkel, the dictator and The Jewish Barber. Because of their likenesses, one is confused for the other and the Jewish Barber winds up giving this speech, powerful and important when the film was made (on the eve of the US entry into World War II), but so too today when overt dictators have been largely replaced (and/or joined) by the power of capital and its possessors who proffer globally their narrow and inhuman understanding of the world. Capital is the new global dictator pricing the world’s natural and human resources and imposing social and economic homogeneity. Chaplin uses the word “greed” which we should now replace with “pleonexia”, the Greek word often translated as “greed” but better understood as insatiability. Pleonexia is the driving force behind capitalism’s unlimited growth and consumption, as well as the limitless accumulation and concentration of wealth.
We all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery.
Healthy human beings are quite different, not only able to find satiety, but willing and able to feel for and help others. This, not endless competitive accumulation, is the basis of human nature. Chaplin says as much in his opening lines:
“I’m sorry. I don’t want to be an emperor. 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 all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. (emphasis added) We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.”
“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.”
Here’s one clip, original (w/o montage) which includes most of Chaplin's impassioned plea, only cutting out the last sentence.
As we face ecological and economic collapse, and all the injustice inherent in a world ordered by capital, it's time for us to imagine new and multifarious ways to live based on satiety, empathy and well-being.
"You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let's use that power, let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world..."
Full transcript of the speech here
Full film here
Opening night NYT Review Oct. 16, 1940 here
(For more on capital, pleonexia and human nature see the tabs: Capitalism and Unhappiness, Pleonexia and Psychopathy, and Human Nature: Empathy and Equity)