Charlie Chaplin in “Modern Times”
Our session on the 23rd of October covered the topic “Design and Technology”. What really caught my attention about the lesson, was the movie we’ve been advised to watch before next session: “Modern Times” by Charlie Chaplin.
I always admired and recognized Chaplin’s value and importance, but never really had the chance to look at him in the academic mindset. I had watched one of his movies during high school, but can’t remember the title. Only the tone of denunciation has been clearly impressed in my mind. Charlie Chaplin shows in “Modern Times” the new reality of factories, where people work with no interruption, making repetitive motions all the day long and not having a chance to stop to use the toilet. The hard conditions of individuals at work are widely showed in a comical key through this movie. The part which most interested me were the first 20/30 minutes of broadcasting, where you quickly learn which was the importance attributed to human lives. The value of an individual was replaced by timing. Humans were considered a medium to achieve goals on production levels. The metaphor of this belief was the automatic machine which feeds the employees in order not to stop producing during their lunch break. I find the replacement of human potential for productiveness the cruellest thing in the word.
child labor during the second industrial revolution
Gmb Akash- Child Labor in a Factory
Another fact that depresses me is the non-collaboration among workers who share exactly the same situation. “Modern Times” shows it when Chaplin can’t follow the vital processes of the factory and drags all its environment to failure. The only coalition was among all the employees against Chaplin. This behaviour was common during the industrial revolution, especially the second one when individuals were willing to spy others to get benefits from their employers. During the Nazis dominion, same actions were happening within concentration camps, where deportees could denounce other deportees to the authorities of the camp, due to having an extra slice of bread, or a bowl of soup, and earn immunity to the cruel destiny they’d have had otherwise.
Unfortunately, Human beings employ such behaviour when the environment deprives them of the essential goods which give them the ‘tools’ to be differentiated from animals. A precise type of environment is necessary to act as a human: food, water, a house to rest and have an intimate place and an adequate job environment, that pays you well enough not to simply survive. This is the reason why our societies are balanced through the law, which, in my opinion, is the highest result of the human’s rationality.
Screen shots taken from Google Earth
Unluckily, contemporary societies are not willing to embrace the lessons from the past. Sweat factories and concentration camps are still working under governments’ awareness. I believe history is not taken into consideration enough: nazis’ extermination camps and inhuman working conditions, as we’ve seen before, are not ended, for example, North Corea have concentration camps, or well-known brands to export their production industries abroad from sweat factories. Either each of us, contribute to this sick program, by buying items from such brands. I firmly believe in collaboration among people to make the world a better place for humanity, and that’s why I admire reporters, activists and people like Shin Dong-Hyuk, who are willing to risk anything for the purpose of “liberty, equality [and] fraternity.”
By Nicole Afonso Alves Calistri, 2015
P.s. If you click on Shin Dong-Hyuk’s name, you’ll be linked to a very interesting article which is going to show you who he is 🙂