I find it very difficult to put into words how sad the world makes me feel sometimes. I fail to understand that in the year 2014, girls cannot go to school without the danger of being kidnapped. Women in Pakistan cannot marry whom they choose without risking their life at the hands of enraged relatives. The rhetoric of racism, intolerance and hate has once again found a foothold in European countries – is our collective memory so short that we cannot remember what happened the last time this occurred?
For so many wonderful things I have experienced and loved, the darkness of reality always looms in my thoughts. But I have to remind myself that the world will change. It was not 50 years ago that Jim Crow Laws segregated America, and now an African American is the most powerful person in the world. That’s right, Beyoncé. (Sorry Barrack).
Apartheid divided a nation, the Berlin Wall divided a continent, but these things changed. The evil of men passed, and that is what I hold on to.
A lot of you will have heard Paolo Nutini’s most recent (and superb) album, ‘Caustic Love.’ The lead track, and perhaps the song of the year IMO, ‘Iron Sky’, features one of the most moving pieces of oratory I have ever heard.
Around 3 minutes 20 seconds, we hear an excerpt from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator.’ In this film, Chaplin’s character becomes mistaken for the Dictator of a country styled as Nazi Germany. In front of a crowd, he is pushed on stage to speak to his people. What, under the real Dictator would have been a rhetoric of hatred, of exclusion, of fear, is instead turned into one of hope by Chaplin…
“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….”
That is but a small part from the speech, which as I have mentioned, in an incredibly moving piece. What is so poignant, and also terrifying is how relevant his words are today. This film was a parody of Naziism, one of the darkest movements ever to have existed. Yet, his words to me ring true about a great many things today. The greed of men. The lack of trust. The fear we feel. The distance between us in a world in which we are connected more than ever.
We can educate ourselves. We can educate others. We can choose not to give in to fear and ignorance and hate. We just need to remember that, and we’ll be ok.
Here’s the link to the video of the speech. Give it a watch, and have a think on it.