by Fr Lew Eberhart
Prior to the United States entry into World War II, the famous silent film actor Charlie Chaplin, wrote a story about an anonymous private fighting in World War I. The private saves a fellow soldier but is hurt in a crash and loses his memory for 20 years. Eventually the private recovers and makes his way home.
The private fought for the Country of Tomania. The private is a barber and only wants to reopen his barbershop, however, because of the memory loss he is unaware of the troubles his country has gone through with a Dictator taking control of the Tomania, Der Fooey Adenoid Hynkel. The story was a caricature of Nazi Germany.
Chaplin plays both parts, the barber and the dictator Hynkel. They resemble each other. The barber returns home to open his barbershop and finds out that his fellow Jews are being persecuted by Hynkel (Hitler) and his two thugs Garbitsch and Herring (Joseph Goebbels and Herman Goering). The people of the Jewish Ghetto flee from Tomania and move to Osterlich (Austria).
Eventually Der Fooey Hynkel invades Osterlich. The barber has switched places with Hynkel and is prepared to give his invasion speech to the world. Slowly the Barber makes his way to the podium.
It is here that Charlie Chaplin comes out of character as Hynkel and the Barber. Chaplin looks directly into the camera and makes the following speech.
“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 airplane 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 fulfil that promise. They never will!”
“Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil 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!”
These words of Charlie Chaplin spoke of the evils of racism and hate, they were fitting in 1940 when the film the Great Dictator was screened. His words are still relevant today.