Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator Speech

This speech is pretty moving; especially when you cheesily set it to "Time", by Hans Zimmer, as in this youtube video:

A hastily-typed transcript:

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 despire one another. In this world there's 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 would 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 (kul)children. Victims of a system that makes men torture, and imprison innocent people. For those who can hear me I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon is us 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 yourself 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 seventeenth 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 would 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 mens' happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

some unqualified thoughts:

I've never shook the feeling that this speech somewhat divides into two parts: innocence/aspiration and corruption/demand. He begins as an honest, humble man reassuring us that the world will improve, but eventually slides toward the role of the dictator, not just inspiring but demanding the forceful capture of fairly specific ideological goals. I'm doubtful that this was Chaplin's intent, but the tenor of the speech does seem to shift at the midpoint.

The causes of reason, science, progress, kindness, and democracy are near to my heart, but are they worth uniting and moreso, fighting over? Is demanding that we fight those who would oppose them the same message as aspiring toward the hate of men passing, dictators dying, and their power returning to the people? One seems a meditative reflection, while the other is a clear and forceful call to action. Fighting for these things does sound worthwhile, but he says himself, brutes have risen to power on the promise of them -- but his call is different. Could his vision of progress differ from the viewer's?

The ready cheer of the crowd at the end and his striken, taken-aback look seem to support the notion that the speech carries the man too far. That even with the best of intentions, none of us are far removed from a dictatorial streak and that absolute power does absolutely corrupt. It could also just be his cathartic expression of relief that given a truly just message, the people would agree.

What does making the world better in this vein look like, if it is not phrased as a fight? If a brutish machine person is opposed to the betterment of all merely for their own greed, what means are justified in fighting that greed? What ensues could be just or tragic. It could be a triumphal step of the downtrodden toward liberty, or it could be a heinous act of greed in its own right. It can be both. Is there a path toward real justice that's effective, and not divisive? Is there any real justice? What is its price?

well uh, that's all for now in this edition of big questions, small text!