“You’ve got some labor trouble coming up. My friend can absolutely guarantee to make that trouble disappear. You have a top male star who makes a lot of money for your studio but he just graduated from marijuana to heroin. My friend will guarantee that your male star won’t be able to get any more heroin. And if some other little things come up over the years a phone call to me can solve your problems.”
The Godfather, Chapter 1, Page 55, Paragraph 3, Sentences 11 – 15.
There are two ways to read this list of problems and promises. One way, the standard way, is to see the hand of the Don behind the problems. The gross term that explains this reading is the word “extortion.” In the protection business, if you are the enemy your customer must be protected against, you are a criminal, a thug, a brute and to put no fine point upon it all, you are evil.
But, normal as that reading is, it depends upon an assumption, a typically invisible presumption. It depends upon the definition of the protection business as a bad thing.
Our author knows that the majority of us will read it this way. He usually feels that way, himself, except he doesn’t judge it as evil. Puzo went to great lengths to make his own actual opinions and beliefs clear, on the public record. But, I still smell a righteous rat.
The other reading of this list considers that a doctor, an accountant, really any professional always performs a type of protection function and that protection is inherent in the exchange of value, no matter how you twist or turn away. Thus, in this commentary we will reject the judgment of the protection business as evil, in itself.
Read the list again now. This time, though, picture the Don has having no impact or culpability in the creation of these problems. Picture as well that the Don, even in informing Jack Woltz of these things has, in the very act of offering, already provided a value, he has performed a leading act of friendship, real friendship.
If the Don created these situations, he is a thug. If he did not, he is not only a friend, he’s the very friend you want.
Who’s looking out for you?
[originally posted March 19, 2012 at my Facebook]