From his perspective a lot seemed possible. Some of it has come or is coming to pass. The dictators died. Mussolini at the hands of his own people. Hitler, at his own hand. And new dictators have arisen, continue to arise. But that, along with the civilizations that spawned dictatorship, is coming to an end.
I got to thinking: How would I amend his speech, for our time?
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. (I would add women, and the transgendered. Because we live in times in which cis genderism and heterosexism are issues, excuses for hate and hateful speech, I would add the gay, the straight, the lesbian and the queer. Because we live in an age in which hate is most often and notably and with deadly force fomented against Muslims, I would definitely include them…and add people of all faiths, and those of none.) 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. (I would say we must struggle to make room for everyone because the good earth has been stripped and mined and She is no longer rich. We have impoverished Her. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. She once was rich; She once could provide for everyone, every animal, plant, every micro-organism, every fungus. Can we make Her so again? What greater or more noble task could we set for ourselves in this time of mass extinction and catastrophic climate disruption?) The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. (Yes, and and almost certainly we have doomed our own species along with so many others. Can we not dedicate our last years, our final labours to creating peaceful abundance, rather than adding to the paroxysms of destruction and hate?)
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. (…and indeed, so has it come to pass. Not enough feeling and kindness, not enough courage for that path … but so long as we draw breath, we can behave otherwise.)
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. (Some of us, those with access to these trinkets. More so the internet. And these technologies have been used against us to convince us we are unworthy, ugly, smelly, too old, too fat, and that we can have happiness through consumption of all manner of useless, designed to be discarded products. They have divides us from our happiness and satisfaction and from one another and from all that lives, every bit as much, likely more than they have brought us together. And the aeroplane has brought death to millions, and is choking the skies, a leading factor in altering our once stable climate. For what? To move products more quickly. To move us more quickly. So the few can indulge in foreign travel, while we all pay the price. So that few can photograph themselves in exotic locations before the world goes to dust?) The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. (Apparently he was just grossly wrong about that.) 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. (Which continues and seems to have gotten worse. Torture has been normalized.)
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. (Charlie could still believe industrial machinery and human progress were compatible. Some still believe this. Strange, isn`t it?) The hate of men will pass, (Yes, with the last of us, certainly, perhaps, if we are courageous and really lucky, and we work on it, before then.) and dictators die, (They did. They do. They will, again.) and the power they took from the people will return to the people. (This is almost a sure thing. With declining energy, declining productivity and declining ability to project power. One small blessing amidst the wreckage of collapse.) And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. ….. (Nice idea. But liberty requires deep cooperation and the willingness to cede some decision-making power to a collective of individuals who respect one another`s liberty. This has become a rarity.)
Soldiers! (People!) don’t give yourselves to brutes (the industrial death machine)– men who despise you (a system threatening your death and the death of all that lives) – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! (Thanks to Edward Bernays.) Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, (Who, quite frankly, ought not to be “treated like cattle“ either!) use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men (this truly omnicidal system)– (which will make of you) machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! (Really this kind of speciesism is not called for! cattle are lovely.) You are men (people, even)! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! (Well, this is just patently untrue. people can get carried away with anger and blame and fall into hatred. We all can. We all must guard from it. It is always illogical and counter-productive. And it makes us prone to manipulation by demagogues.) Soldiers! (People!) Don’t fight for slavery (servitude is more appropriate)! Fight for liberty! (One thing the 20th century conclusively proved to me was that fighting for freedom and equality with guns, knives, or fists is just not possible. Not, certainly, in the mass movement, violent overthrow of the state sense, in any case. The state is always a problem, no matter who heads it. Unrepentant, repeat, bullies, however, can and must be turfed out of communities that seek to be egalitarian and respectful. If necessary, by force.)
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! (I actually think this kind of spiritual claim can be backed up by science. Whatever created the universe, whatever force, however we care to personify it – or not – is certainly in every one, in every thing, living or not.) You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. (Yeah, but let`s stop doing that, eh? Most of them have added to the problem.) The power to create happiness! (Yes, the power to love, to feel joy, appreciation, friendship, to nourish life, enrich soils, plant trees, protect diverse species, move water across the landscape slowly, so it has time to sink in and recharge shallow aquifers… We can do lots of things to aid life while feeding ourselves and our families and communities … and to simply enjoy being alive. The power to design pleasant, abundant, restorative systems for living. The power to make art and music and really cool solar dehydrators. The power to think and act and speak with compassion, with wisdom. There is still time and opportunity for all of that and more.) You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. (Yup! Life is a wonderful adventure, when you have relearned how to notice.)
Then – in the name of democracy (fuck democracy-in the name of All Life)- 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 (choose meaningful) work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. (Well, I am not sure giving youth too much of a future remains possible. But, at least in the short term, we can care for one another and do what we can to make life more possible for all life on earth.) By the promise of these things, brutes (not to mention the well-intentioned bunglers) have risen to power. But they lie! (Often to themselves, as well.) They do not fulfil that promise. They never will! (As true now as then…and good people have risen to power on such empty promises, too. And failed to deliver. Most political promises are simply un-keepable or else you wouldn`t want them kept!)
Dictators free themselves (Really, I am not sure about this. They certainly do seem desperate to hold onto power once they get it…they do seem to get pretty miserable and paranoid though the longer it lasts.) 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 (A VERY good idea, especially with 60 million humans on the move and more expected every year.)– to do away with greed, (Yeah, who needs it. A trail of broken promises that money was going to make us happy. An excess of leisure seems to make most people rather miserable and lost and sometimes nasty, too.) with hate and intolerance. (Actually, I am a big fan of embracing radical respect, which is the step beyond mere *tolerance* of differences. Bullying and abuse, cruelty and scapegoating, however, do not deserve tolerance.) Let us fight for a world of reason, (Now why does he go for the old *reason* bugaboo…when he was earlier telling us to get in touch with our feelings? The enlightenment, the great Age of Reason led us precisely to the edge of extinction. Calm contemplation and logic have their place, but only when reason is used consciously with deep emotional introspection and compassion is valued highly.) a world where science (See comment on Age of Reason directly above. Sad, is it not, how the scientific method became a corrupt religion?) and progress (Yeah. In the early 20th century a lot got hitched to the *progress* narrative, didn`t it? And we haven`t quite worked ourselves out of that tangle, yet.) will lead to all men’s (people`s) happiness . Soldiers! (People!) in the name of democracy, (Democracy was a false promise, never kept, unkeepable in current conditions. How about in the name of All Life, instead?) let us all unite!