It’s not about The Environment, stupid

Posted:  June 27th, 2011 by:  The Environment Site comments:  0

As I’ve mentioned before, a significant part of my childhood was spent watching black and white silent comedies on BBC2.  Oddly enough though, I never really liked Charlie Chaplin.  This is probably because he’s alot deeper than justa slapstick merchant: the emotion and pathos is all his work is truly amazing.

Recently I came across Charlie Chaplin’s “Look up” speech from the end of The Great Dictator.  I’ve never seen the movie let alone this climax before and it really struck a chord.  Here’s one passage:

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”.

(My thanks to The Clown Ministry for the transcript)

The Great Dictator, released in 1940, is a very thinly veiled condemnation of Nazism.  Yet there is little if anything in this speech which is not relevant today.  This set me thinking about comparative history.

Rewind a century ago or so and all the main European countries were engaged in military struggles with one another around the world.  Militarism, the philosophy of protecting your nation’s interests through armed conflict, was fashionable and all sides kept and maintained huge standing armies.

The idea that we’re now in an era of economic imperialism is nothing new but when you compare the old idea of a military industrial complex with today’s financial services structures, you realise we haven’t really come that far in the last 50 to 100 years.

So while we all stomp around doing our bits for environmentalism, CSR, sustainability and whatever gets you going, let’s just remember that it’s not *really* about that.  This is all about man learning to actually treat himself and his neighbours with respect and compassion, and not letting anything get in the way of that.

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