Linda Goodman's 'Sun Signs' has been one of my favourite books for the simple reason that it was a bold attempt to showcase the whole of mankind clinically segregated in twelve distinct clusters through a zodiac prism. One of the reasons for the book's success was that most readers found the observations of the similarities in motivations and patterns of people born under the same zodiac sign stunningly accurate irrespective of how they viewed the esoteric science of astrology… and that includes yours truly.
However, as much as the book triggered my interest in astrology, my new learning on the subject got derailed suddenly one afternoon, as I was lazily browsing through a "General Knowledge" magazine that my daughter had borrowed from her school library. The book had a page that listed the birthdays of famous personalities who shaped the twentieth century. Amongst the names mentioned were two personalities who certainly deserved their place in the distinguished list but for diametrically opposite reasons... two characters who were perceived to be as different as 'chalk and cheese' as the cliché goes…two passionate men whose MAD attitude and outlook brought two distinct results to the table with respect to world order and I refer to MAD only as an abbreviation for "Make A Difference". One made the world laugh while other made the world weep…and both of them born just four days apart in the third week of the April of 1889… Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin on the 16'th and Adolf Hitler on the 20'th… and so much for Aries zodiac sign I thought.
And then I noticed that they did have one thing common after all... the trademark toothbrush moustache. Did the similarity end there? I was suddenly intrigued and decided to explore more. Even on political ideologies they seemed to be so naturally opposite. While Hitler made no secret of his dislike for the Communists, and blamed them as one of reasons for the political anarchy of post World War I Germany and relentlessly pursued the clinical purging of the Fatherland from Communists, Chaplin's leftist leanings were well known and he was under the FBI scanner for being a suspected Communist sympathiser, which eventually forced him to leave America and resettle in Europe in the fifties.
As contemporaries, Hitler and Chaplin were not oblivious to each other and the difference they were making to the world. There are conflicting stories on Hitler's disposition to Chaplin. Some reports say that he was a secret admirer and there are other reports that say that Chaplin was on the Nazi hit list as early as 1931 when he received an overwhelming reception from fans on a trip to Berlin much to the chagrin of the Nazi authorities who were yet to assume absolute power over Germany.
It is also believed that Hitler watched Chaplin's first talkie movie "The Great Dictator" more than once. In the movie, Chaplin's portrayal of Adnoid Hynkel...a caricature spoof on Adolf Hitler is rated as one of his finest performances ever, earning him an Academy Award nomination. Who can forget his solo dance where he indulges with a globe balloon, nudging it around in the air with his butt and kicking it with the heel of his shoe… all this done with artistic elegance to Wagner's music playing in the background. It was Chaplin's way of showing us how Hitler treated the world as a toy for his amusement. Nevertheless, the grim seriousness embedded within the subtle humour could not be missed when the balloon finally burst in his hand.
Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin underground bunker in 1945, thereby effectively bringing down the curtains to the six year war he began, a war that killed millions and changed the face of the world. Chaplin went on to live for another 32 years, which also saw him being awarded an honorary Oscar for his colossal contribution to the field of filmmaking. But one might say that an uncompromising excellence in a career dedicated to making people laugh in an era that spanned across two World Wars, their aftermath and the great depression qualifies for an award for contribution to humanity at large.
So I wondered how these two men with apparently nothing in common except a toothbrush moustache and perhaps a love for Wagner's music could have similarities just because their birth signs fell in the same zodiac constellation. Then on closer study, certain observations became more evident. They were both denied the best of childhood. Their artistic inclinations were another point to be noted.
As a child, Hitler was an aspiring painter who unsuccessfully tried his luck at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. They both possessed a fiery temper. It was well known that the innocent 'Tramp' on the screen often brought the roof down on the sets. However, these things get trivialised when compared to the single most important factor that worked common for both Chaplin and Hitler – their passion. They were both strong willed men with a mission. Again they were both incredibly successful in the art of communication. Apart from their ability to stretch beyond the mind's frontiers, their mastery in the art of influencing the masses was the biggest common factor in these two men.
Hitler's rhetoric and oratorical prowess ignited his nation and inspired the Germans on the road to self redemption though the path chosen may have been wrong. As much as the world looked at him as a dictator and a villain, the Germans of the time looked at him as the saviour they have been waiting for to pull them from the abyss of the post World War I depression. His words inspired them to rediscover their pride and self respect.
Chaplin too was no less a genius when it came to connecting with the masses, most of which he he did through the medium of 'silent' movies. As a matter of fact there was a lot of skepticism and resentment amongst his fans when he announced 'The Great Dictator' as his first talkie movie. They felt that he would miss his connection with them if he talked in his movies. They felt that his unique identity would be compromised. How he proved them wrong is a part of cinema history. "The Great Dictator" went on to become his biggest hit ever and his last speech in the movie delivered in an uncharacteristic fashion is referred even today as one of the all time greatest speeches ever delivered.
Chaplin and Hitler, the madness they brought to the table came with a method…as much as their method came with an element of madness. As different as they seem at a peripheral level, one could see that their lives and destinies were meant to intermingle with the lives of millions. The lives they led and values they carried may have been different but that is perhaps only a reflection of the circumstances and environment they found themselves in. The commonality that cannot be denied is that destiny chose roles for them that shaped their generation and brought the world to what it is today.
So does the zodiac have a story to tell after all?
The writer is a resident of Sohar and is the author of ebooks titled"The 'Capillary' Effect! & Other Short Stories" published for Kindle and available on www.amazon.com