Tolerant people of the past: Charlie Chaplin

I am not the first nor the last to try and create a more tolerant attitude in our society. There have been great people in the past, each trying to make the world a better place in their way. I want to make this a series in which every week a different person is put in the spotlight. If you have a recommendation then please comment. It does not even have to be a famous person, if the story is moving I will post it.

This week: Charlie Chaplin (Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin) 1889-1997

There is a lot to say about Charlie Chaplin, but a biography can be easily found elsewhere (see link above). I will let his work speak for itself.

Although he is best known for his during the silent film era, the most fitting work for this blog is his masterpiece The Great Dictator (1940). The barber’s speech is a true work of art and a timeless speech. I shall let you judge it for yourself:


The Barber’s speech

Closing speech of the Jewish barber, after being mistaken for Hynkel. – Full text, video and audio online at American Rhetoric

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 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 or 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 the 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!

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




1 Comment

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One response to “Tolerant people of the past: Charlie Chaplin

  1. Brilliant speech and stunningly relevant after 70 years. I hope to be part of the generation that upon looking back can say that they made a change in the way people interacted with each other. I believe that every person is responsible for his own thoughts and actions regarding all others and the perspective that Chaplin provides here is as available for anyone as the opposite one. In the last decades the world has been opening up towards each other rapidly and with the help of technology like social media is continuing to do so even faster. “Technology is God’s answer for a better world.” a wise man once said to me. Therefore hereby my support for your idea of sharing your thoughts through this blog. I hope the message will provide a new perspective upon the readers of it and thereby change their world a small way. Change the world one reader at a time and maybe in a few years you can look back and be proud of what you you have achieved. Stay sharp, write without fear and persist in what you believe in. Or as Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I’ll be following your posts… 🙂

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