Thursday 19 January 2017 – “The Great Dictator” speech, and Noam Chomsky, inspiring hope to see beyond Donald Trump’s presidency


With only hours to go before Donald J. Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America, the future for the people of the United States and the world seems bleaker than for a long time. We cannot know  what horrors President Trump will inflict on his country and on the world, but for many of us we see little hope of his presidency offering much to celebrate. Yet there is hope to be had beyond Trump’s time in the White House, whether it be short or long. Today I was watching an interview with Noam Chomsky in which he argued that there is hope to be seen even in the darkness of the election of Donald Trump. That hope, he says, lies in the youth of America – those who will be the future of the nation. Not only did a majority of all Americans who voted in November actually voted for Hillary Clinton, but the majority among young people was even more noticeable. Furthermore, the incredible campaign run by Bernie Sanders during this year’s general election in the United States showed clearly that a significant  majority of young American Democrats were supportive of his brand of socialist, liberal policies. It is too late to stop Trump becoming President. At 5pm GMT tomorrow he will be the most powerful man in the world and the United States will be at the mercy of this man who has demonstrated over and over again that he has neither the political experience or mental capacity to hold such a role. We can hope, as President Obama said this week, that  reality has a way of kicking back and that Trump will find that his grandiose and often ridiculous policy suggestions will struggle to see the light of day when faced with the realities of Washington. We can hope that Congress – even a Republican Congress – will show some common sense in restraining the new President’s more dangerous and outlandish ideas.  We can hope that more traditional Republicans will baulk at the extremism Trump offers and realise that the future of the GOP doesn’t rest with such extremism or with the shrinking demographic that has elected Trump. We can hope that the Democratic Party will be a credible and effective opposition in Congress. But above all, we can hope – and expect – the youth of America who have been politicised by the trauma of Donald J. Trump will continue to be active in opposing this “ignorant megalomaniac” – as Noam Chomsky described him.

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Senator Bernie Sanders and philosopher, linguist & social historian Noam Chomsky

The presidency of Donald Trump will be like no other. His election has thrown on its head all that we have come to believe from American presidential elections and we have no concept of where his presidency will take the United States. For many there seems little prospect of his presidency going well – or ending well, with some predicting that he will be impeached before too long. What I believe, watching from the relative safety of the United Kingdom, is that America is taking a huge step backwards with the election of Donald Trump. In a similar way to the Brexit vote to leave the European Union in Britain this year, Trump’s election is a terrible swing to the right and away from progressive politics.  Progress in America, as it is elsewhere, is often slow and painful with each step forward a hard won and richly deserved advancement. I can’t help believe that Donald Trump will halt this progress, or even actively aim to reverse many of the progresses made – such as on affordable health care, women’s rights and gay rights.  I recently watched Charlie Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator (1940) and was taken by the final speech. I think it has a lot to offer  those looking for hope in the face of an imminent Trump presidency, and especially speaks to the hearts and minds of millions of young Americans who have experienced unprecedented despair in the last few months. Do not despair, do not lose hope. Register to vote, protest, campaign, resist and above all unite against  the swing to the right Trump will take your nation. You are the future of America. It is your generation who will take America forward to a more enlightened and progressive future:

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!