George Floyd & Faizan: Will ‘Hate Pass’ And Make Way For Empathy?
Chaplin’s final speech for ‘The Great Dictator’ has been on a poster on my wall forever. It makes sense to me today.
A wandering teenager at a book fair had Rs 20 to spare. She bought a gazillion books – some she grew up reading, and some she wanted to read while growing up.
She bought the Quran and the Old Testament but ran out of money before she reached Amar Chitra Katha.
She reached into her pocket and was left with a red Gandhi. The wandering teenager dodged through crowd, the Rs 20 note crumpled in her clenched fist.
At the exit was a stall that sold posters for Rs 20 each. She ruffled through the sheets and found nothing interesting.
But now that she had made up her mind on spending it on a poster, she picked out a ‘Chaplin’ quote.
The poster has been up in her room since, with a long quote that she never understood. It never sparked curiosity, even though she spent time idly staring at it.
She moved cities and shifted homes, and Chaplin looked at her from walls yellow, white, pink and yellow. She often read those lines again and again and wondered why men harboured hatred.
The thoughts soon faded, and Chaplin blended into the dull hue of the room.
She now rarely noticed it, and even if she did, it felt like an unsolvable puzzle she chose to ignore.
Years passed by and she discovered various interests and conflict(s) of interest(s). Years passed by and she evolved from a life of denial – of being ‘politically neutral’.
Years passed by and she found strength – in speaking up than staying put.
Years passed by and she recognised the deeply embedded pattern of violence and HATRED across the world.
Years passed by, and she came home to her room filled with the stench of privilege.
She looked at Chaplin and it all made sense.
For he, in his first ever film with dialogues, said in his final speech:
“The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (1940)
For the ‘hate’ came naturally with power and privilege, and so her immature heart couldn’t dwell on it. For she was privileged but had no ‘power’.
For her innocent self was fed with films of the funny tramp, but her privilege blinded her from the jibes he took. Liberty for her was maybe just a stroll at night, but for others it meant their lives.
She now understands that George Floyd was killed by a man with power, by a man appointed to protect democracy, by a man whose skin colour was his license to kill.
She now understands that Faizan was killed by enforcers of law, by enforcers of nationalism. Killed because of his religion.
Different countries, same hatred.
That everyday people suffer because they were born...
And as Chaplin repeatedly told her about the impermanence of injustice, she set off to find its origin.
And found it in his final speech in ‘The Great Dictator’ (1940).
“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 the 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!”Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator (1940)
So goes an excerpt from the speech that Chaplin spent months writing and re-writing. Sadly enough, it remains relevant even today. It is still as relevant as it was in 1940.
Even today, as people are slaughtered and harassed and assaulted for their religion, colour, caste, gender and what not, looking back at this speech gives us a moment of hope that lies in the impermanence of things.
Today, that ‘impermanence’ has allowed several issues to emerge that were once shoved under the carpet.
As protests erupt across the world for liberty in different forms there is a ‘cry for universal brotherhood’ and ‘unity of all’ around the world in issues that need to be addressed, and that is how power returns to the people.
And finally as she pens this down, she looks up at the poster that has been staring back at her meaningfully – every time she looked at it idly and watched it blur away into oblivion – she realises that among all those purchases at the book fair, this one – bought with a red Rs 20 note – is the most relevant and valuable. She realises that many still exist in denial, with a forgotten poster stuck to their walls, going about their privileges.
(Sravya MG is interning with The Quint. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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