Voters have spoken up and their verdict is clear: Trump is the President-elect of the US. Is this time Americans and the rest of the world grovellingly respect the election results and rally behind the new chief, as despicable as he may be? After all, elections are the foundation of democracy upon which the US and most of the West is built. Well, I beg to differ.
While I don’t encourage anyone to boycott election results, or to stage a coup (like they did earlier this year in Brazil), I invite people to expose and to boycott this man’s deeply reactionary, manipulative and deceitful actions. I vehemently disapprove of Theresa May’s words. She not only magnanimously congratulated Trump, without any criticism of his Islamophobic, racist and sexist rhetoric, but she also seized the opportunity to highlight her very own deeply reactionary and xenophobic, anti-immigration agenda. May’s stance is empowering an extremely dangerous egomaniac, who already has too much power in his hands. It’s like handing a box of matches to a three-year old. This is beyond appeasement. This is beyond connivance. This is sycophantic collusion. And we all know where this could lead.
In 1940, the London-born Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed, produced, scored and starred in the American political-satire comedy-drama The Great Dictator. The film tells the story a poor Jewish barber who is mistaken for a dictator of a similar appearance and takes his place. In his rejection of the position he ends up delivering one of the most inspirational speeches ever recorded. His speech remains incredibly accurate 76 years later, and his call for resistance is just as urgent.
A tale of two crooks
The Jewish barber is obviusly a parody of the Adolf Hitler, but many of his words would suit Donald Trump just as neatly. Despite the film title, Hitler was not a dictator. He was democratically elected in 1933 with 43,9% of the vote, not too far from Trump 47.3%. And unlike his modern American counterpart, Hitler won the popular vote. The dictator title here is merely figurative.
Chaplin’s message of unity and tolerance couldn’t be clearer: “I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. […] In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone”. Trump on the other hand has consitently decried equality and inclusiveness by slamming pretty much every existing minority. He has offended Mexicans immigrants: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best”, and he has proposed a blanked ban on Muslims entering the US. He also failed to disavow the Klu Klux Klan earlier this year.
Trump racial hygienist inclinations are bright as daylight, and this is no conspiracy theory. Today he appointed a white supremacist as his Chief Policy Advisor. Stephen Bannon is a prominent supporter of the ultranationalist alt-right movement, which advocates peaceful ethnic cleansing. “Our dream is a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.” – this is not Adolf Hitler, this is a declaration by a leader of the alt-right movement, which has now both a mandate and a platform inside the Whitehouse.
Chaplin asked for more: “we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost”. Trump has consistently dehumanised everyone except the normative, rich white males. He has objectified women, treating them as commodities to be grabbed “by the pussy”. He described supporters who beat up a homeless Latino man as “passionate”, and – according to a report – he described Brazilians as “latino pigs”. There actions are the antipode of humanity, kindness and gentleness.
Instead, it is greed and vulgar wealth that prevail in Trump’s grotesque world. “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich”, he fesses up. He campaign slogan heralded: “The point is, you can never be too greedy”. Chaplin couldn’t think more differently: “Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed”.
A message of hope
Chaplin wraps up his film with a very positive note of hope: “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”. Hopefully we won’t have to wait until Trump dies bbefore people in the US can reclaim their sense dignity and solidarity. I like to think that he won’t be reelected in four years.
The British director carries on, with a call for action and resistance: “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”. Of course Trump isn’t president yet and therefore he still hasn’t attacked any countries. Sadly military belligerence will be a natural byproduct of Trump’s tenure. I would even hazard a guess that Iran will be his first target. And the consequences will be catastrophic for the nation and the world, just like we saw with Iraq.
The UK refused to align itself with Germany during WWII, even if the declaration came a little late. On the other hand, the UK has enthusiastically aligned itself with the American war agenda since. Let’s hope this special relationship is not a blind one. Let’s hope that Britain will choose to honour Chaplin’s noble anti-war legacy of tolerance and kindness. Not Tony Blair’s. Let’s hope that dignity will prevail above political interests. So far, it’s not looking good.
Below are the video and the full transcript of Charlie Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator:
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 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 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!