I was sitting at work today, and my gaze happened to drift up to one of the many pictures/quotes/speeches that I have hanging in my office, and for some reason a line in one of them really got me to thinking.
The movie speech in question was Charlie Chaplin’s famous speech from the end of The Great Dictator (The movie is pretty ridiculous – standard Charlie Chaplin shtick – but the speech is worth checking out on YouTube, it’s wonderful). Several paragraphs into the speech, Chaplin as The Jewish Barber (character name), pretending to be the dictator Hynkel, speaking to the Tomanian (representing Nazi) soldiers and people, says:
“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 the chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security.
What struck me about this passage is not the words themselves, but how odd it is that we spend so much energy combating hatred and evil, and such little time we spend trying to spread love and happiness (thanks Al). Honestly, it’s just as easy to make someone feel great as it is to make someone feel awful. You give them a compliment, you make someone feel better; you give them an insult, you make them feel awful. And yet, too often we break each other down, instead of build each other up.
And why is that?
I think that we as a world and as a people have become cynical. We think that life is simply a struggle; therefore, we’ve reverted to the Hobbesian world of every person for themselves, and putting people down is the only way we’ve learned to build ourselves up. The problem with this philosophy is that we thrive, but no one is happy, and because of that no one cares about one another.
It’s time we change the tide; stem the anger, aggression and meanness. I’m not suggesting we fight human nature, but I am suggesting we fight human nurture. We all as humans – or at least most of us – are rational; therefore, the decisions we make typically derive from a thought out position, even if that position was thought out previously and have become a learned reaction. What we need to train ourselves to do is stop and think before we act about how we’re treating others. Instead of making a job at someone expense, say something nice about them. Instead of lashing out at your significant other because they were late for dinner, tell them that you were really anxious to see them, and therefore it was difficult to you to wait for them. Next time your child make you seething angry, remember that creating life is an amazing gift, and tell them that you love them, despite the fact that they’ve done something to make you angry (especially since they probably didn’t even know they did something to make you angry).
The bottom line is that we just need to stop and think about how we treat others, and how our treatment affects them. Stop, think and change our behavior to the positive, instead of the negative.