75 years ago, with America on the brink of joining in the Second World War, Charlie Chaplin made his film “The Great Dictator.” It is a satirical political comedy-drama designed to confront Hitler, Mussolini, fascism, anti-semitism and the Nazis. It was Chaplin’s first talking movie, and became his most commercially successful film.
I’ve only just come across it, for some reason. I bumped into it on Facebook, where people are making all sorts of statements of support for France in the light of the atrocities there last week. It made such an impact on me when I first saw it that I had to learn more about it.
I feel compelled to share it in case you too have never seen it.
According to several analyses, it is one of the most moving and uplifting speeches of all time. It seems so relevant today – almost impossibly so. Let me quote you a few lines from the text, the full version of which you can click on here:
“We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than clevernesss we need kindness and gentleness.”
“Without these qualities, life will be violent, and all will be lost.”
Ponder that. I’m working with a group of leaders in an American tech business this week. The main emphasis of our work is on emotional and social intelligence, helping them to find ways to connect with other people more meaningfully, and to build better relationships across the business. It takes time, but when people gradually start opening up to each other as human beings and sharing what they really think and feel, the connections between them as people start to grow, and you can feel the humanity asserting itself over the “machinery”.
The war on terrorism is indeed the war for our generation, but we are also fighting a second war, against “machinery” and the increasing need to protect our humanity. As Chaplin puts it in the speech:
“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.”
We can only hope that we have the sense to use our power in an Intelligent way.
Enjoy the speech, and ask yourself not only how it is relevant to what is going on today, but also what impact these words have on you as a human being.