A couple of years ago, I accidentally stumbled on a short clip of Charlie Chaplin’s grand speech from the The Great Dictator‘s (1940) final scene. This must have been about five or six years ago, and something about the speech struck a chord within me, especially with how it relates to today’s environmental problems. Chaplin was an actor in black and white, that in my eyes often made me laugh with his round hat, his cane, and that iconic moustache of his. I’ve always respected him as an actor, as many would say he came from rags-to-riches; a true story of fame.
When I saw this video, I replayed it and wrote down what Chaplin’s speech was on a word document, having to pause and go back many times to make sure I had caught everything. I guess it didn’t cross my mind that I could simply just google his speech rather than take 45-minutes to write a 4-minute speech. But the time I took to write and go over this, I more clearly understood the message and all that was being said.
From his speech, the thing that struck the most was the ending sentence: “let us all unite!” This is so relevant with our world today. We’re stuck in front of our computers, phones, and apps and often forget to just step back and enjoy the moment. We let other’s opinions dictate how we’ll feel for the rest of the day, or even the rest of our lives. We’re as un-united as a species could ever be. And I find that quite upsetting. We have to unite as earthlings, and understand that yes, High School Musical was right, we’re all in this together.
I know you’re probably DYING to know what Charlie Chaplin said that could’ve inspired me to be this moved years ago, and still think about it today and decide to write something about it. So, here goes. Warning: you might feel inspired after reading this.
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’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 would 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 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 but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress, the hate of men who 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 what to feel! Who drill you – tire you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fire. 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 men” – 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 man a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie, they do not fulfil their 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!Final speech from The Great Dictator (1940)
Inspired? I told you.
So! You heard Chaplin – the environment, our society, and our planet are all calling for change.
Our dying planet needs us and we must make a change because at the end of the day, Earth couldn’t care less about what’s happening to it at the moment. If you think about it, the earth has gone through millions of years of just being covered in lava, or being a barren land. What’s happening today to our environment affects us, not the planet. In ten thousand years, the planet will still be around – we probably won’t be.
So, let us all unite! Whether you’ve decreased your carbon footprint, stopped using plastic straws to save the turtles, started recycling, or have simply just been trying to learn about more sustainable methods to enhance your day-to-day… it all counts. Don’t be afraid to change your ways and make a change, no matter how small. It all counts, and there’s people who will support, inform, and aid you along the way. You are not machines, you are not robots. You have emotions and love inside. Using our intelligence to advance our social networks and appreciation towards others, the environment, animals, resources, and our blue planet as a whole are some of the key takeaways from this speech.
If you’re interested to partake in this modern debate and hear more about other’s opinions, I recommend watching the following video of college kids reacting to this speech at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB7Gjo1uw90.