I was struck recently, while sitting in my car listening to Timothy’s lunchtime show, by an upsurge in the number of callers who felt they had to share with the Nation their gratitude to, and admiration of, The One who had provided them with temporary work.
Obviously, or at least to me it seemed so, the callers had been encouraged to make their contributions short and sweet to allow as many as possible to express their thanks, in stark contrast to the voluminously time-consuming contributions made by the Press Secretary; I usually switch off after a couple of minutes when she calls because I know Tim won’t get a word in edgeways for the remainder of the show, and you know where she is going after the first 90 seconds.
But enough of such frivolity, that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. What I did want to discuss were phrases and expressions from literature that have become part of everyday life.
“Make him an offer he can’t refuse” is certainly the best-known line from the 1969 book The Godfather and 1972 film of the same name, both written by Mario Puzo. In fact, it is one of the best-known lines in the history of the cinema, and ranks second only to “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, delivered by Rhett Butler, as his last words to Scarlett O’Hara, in response to her tearful question “What shall I do?” Rhett’s answer demonstrates that he has finally given up on Scarlett and their tumultuous relationship. After more than a decade of fruitlessly seeking her love, he no longer cares what happens to her.
There are certainly those who feel that our “betters,” after having wooed us assiduously for our votes, have finally given up on the country, and “frankly, my dear, don’t give a damn!”
As with most catchphrases, the expression “make an offer he can’t refuse” occurs elsewhere in literature and film prior to 1972, but not with the meaning that it has now taken on because of its use in The Godfather. In the 1934 film Burn Em Up Barnes, “I’ll make her an offer she can’t refuse” suggests making a tempting offer of cash rather than a threat.
In one of The Godfather film’s best-known scenes, Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, is visited by his godson who asks for help in securing a film role that will boost his fading career. The head of the film studio has refused to give the godson the part, but Don Corleone says, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse,” and the studio head wakes some time later to find the severed head of his favourite racehorse in his bed and the godson is subsequently given the part.
Throughout history, dictators and despots have made offers and issued invitations to their underlings and dependents that brooked no refusal, invitations that could not be refused. Those who are not for us are against us; we all know what that means – total devotion, total, unquestioning loyalty, complete trust and acceptance of the Leader’s actions and decisions. Usually, almost always, attendance at a function is obligatory and monitored so that participants will realize that no-shows will be punished for their demonstrated lack of support. Look at North Korea; remember China under Chairman Mao; or Hitler – good old Hitler loved his mass rallies replete with adoration and devotion.
Thank goodness, things are not like that in Saint Lucia. I mean, can you imagine select mini-masses comprising those who are dependent on the largesse of a Leader being “invited” to a demonstration of love, affection and gratitude and then, for safety’s sake, being “invited” to sign an attendance sheet so that their presence could be noted and verified?
Thank goodness our electoral processes are open, transparent, with no thought of buying votes through targeted employment possibilities; thank goodness there are no major projects, like hospitals, waiting to be completed and commissioned just in time for the next election.
And thank goodness we can go to bed each night without a soupçon of suspicion that our leader might be planning to borrow yet more millions in the name of his cash-strapped people to finance the building of yet another white elephant to provide employment down Vieux Fort way in good time for the next election.
“You want work? I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse because frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”