The Fundamentals

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – Vito Corleone / Michael Corleone

This quote is the most popular quote of all The Godfather quotes.  It epitomizes what the mafia is all about: discrete illegitimacy.  “An offer he can’t refuse” basically means, ”I told the guy, he can accept the offer or he’ll die.” Death is a very serious threat.  Thus, the mafia know no one is likely to refuse an unfortunate option over death.

he mafia hide the reality of what they’re doing in terms that make their actions sound less violent.  Thus this quote perfectly masks the reality, while subtly conveying the meesage.  Antoher example of their subtle violence deals with informing someone that they killed someone.  For example, when an enemy informs the people of a death, instead of saying “hey we led this person.” – the mafia say, ”This guy sleeps with fishes.” The message is subtle but understood.

The mystique of the mafia is likely why I love learning about them so much.  They’re not exactly a secret society like the Illuminati or the Knights’ Templar, but they provide onlookers with enough information to follow and enough information missing to keep us guessing.  For some odd reason, I have so much respect for the societal exploiters.  Although their morals are questionable, their tactics are very intelligent.  Intelligence knows no morals; thus, it is fair to appreciate the ingenuity of immoral people without necessarily agreeing with their choices.  That’s exactly how I feel about the mafia and Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.  Their morals are questionable but their intelligence is admirable.  The subtleness of the mafia’s “making offers people can’t refuse” highly exemplifies what the mafia is all about.

So next time, instead of completely condoning organized crime, I hope my blogs have encouraged readers to appreciate the intelligence of the mafia and understand where they are coming from.

Tough Life in the Thug Life

“Italians have a little joke, that the world is so hard a man must have two fathers to look after him, and that’s why they have godfathers.”
- Mario Puzo, The Godfather

This quote comes from the novel.

The concept of godparents arose in the early fifth century.  Initially, natural birth parents filled in this role of sponsor during the baptism of a child.  However, St. Augustine allowed exceptions to be made and by 813, it was decreed that biological parents could not be a child’s godparent.  Godparents were to give the child spiritual guidance, beyond baptismal sponsoring.  Obviously, Italians take this relationship seriously in different ways.

Because Vito is Johnny Fontane’s godfather, it is very difficult for Vito to refuse to help Johnny, even if Vito disapproves of Johnny’s behavior.  The world is too tough for Johnny and that’s why he needs Vito.  But Johnny clearly exploits this relationship.

In a literal sense of the quote, I think the Italians are being babies.  I have godparents and they barely play a role in my life.  My godparents are my mom’s sister (my aunt) and her brother-in-law (my uncle.)  The only meaning that this relationship has in my life is that they will act as my parents if anything happens to my mom and dad.  Maybe this is because I do not practice Catholicism as hardcore as I should be to have my godparents be more meaningful in my life apart from the fact that they are my relatives. (I do attend mass every Sunday and pray daily, but there’s more that I could do.)

Anyway, I think those in the mafia make their lives difficult because they are basically relying on the flaws of law enforcement to keep them from living behind bars, so a second father might be useful for extra guidance, protection, and resources.

Comedy

“Leave the gun, take the canoli.” – Clemenza.
This is my absolute FAVORITE quote from The Godfather Part I. This is after they kill Pauli while he is peeing. What a way to go.
As morbid as this scene is, this line reminds us all about how little mafia members value human life. They see it as “business.” How horrible is that?! How would you like to be killed to prove a point to an enemy. I think they sign up for that risk in the beginning, but does that make it right? Their whole life is immoral so I gyesss ito only makes sense that they’re immoral and belittle a death.
Anyway, the importance of taking a canoli and leaving the gun shows how serious the mafia is about not wanting to get caught. The public knows they did it, but everyone plays dumb. Is that moral, is that just? I feel like the system of government is never as black and white as it appears to be. I think what they do is justified, but I would never put myself in their positions.

The Meaning of Family

“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
- Don Corleone to Johnny Fontane in The Godfather Part I

In this scene, Johnny, one of the Don’s godchildren, visits the Don at the Don’s daughter’s wedding asking for help. The Don inquires about Johnny’s family life, and Johnny reveals that he really hasn’t spent much time with them at all. (Granted, Johnny is divorced but had two daughters with his ex.)

Johnny is in show business and he still horses around with young starlets and gets wasted when he can. He hasn’t “grown-up.” So I guess, in this context, the Don means that Johnny is not a real man because he doesn’t take life seriously, as one does when he has a family to look after.

Some parents who neglect their families are just very dedicated to their work. Is that a bad thing? Are they not “real men/women”? I think the Don is also trying to say that those who don’t make family a priority aren’t living virtuously. His emphasis on the value of family makes me feel like the mafia as better people. Anyway, I think if one decides to start a family and have children, then he or she should already know that a family is a HUGE part of one’s life and therefore requires a lot of time. If work is too consuming and he doesn’t want to give up some time of work for the family, then he should not have a family.

Personally, family is one of the most important parts of life. Some people don’t have families, like Tom Hagen, but they meet people and find those that can act as their families. Family keeps us going. No matter what, they are there. If a father puts power-hunger above family, missing dance recitals or award ceremonies for extra meetings and additional work, then he is not a real man. He doesn’t value those who value him most. He doesn’t appreciate what he will always have. He does not see his impact on those who think he can lift the universe (-yes, I used to think my dad was so strong he could life the universe at one point in my life). He is too selfish, and family is not an area to be selfish in.

As I write this, I feel guilty of my own selfishness. I am terrible at keeping in contact with my family since college. It’s not that I don’t value them or love them, but I get so distracted and busy. But that is a totally different situation than a father who LIVES in the same house as his children and wife and still neglects them.

In short, I think the moral of the message is that those who don’t value their family are selfish and not virtuous.

Dat Netwerk.

“Even the strongest man needs friends…Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger.”

Don Lucchesi to Vincent, Michael Corleone’s nephew, from The Godfather Part III

As much as I’d like to deny it, who you know is almost as, if not more, important than what you know.  I don’t agree with Don Lucchesi’s remarks about manipulating people, but I do recognize the necessity of networking.  Personal contacts can make a huge difference in whether or not one gets a job.  Unfortunately, sometimes this can mean that the most qualified candidate may lose to a less qualified candidate because that lesser candidate “knows the right people.”  But I think that “knowing the right people” as a way of getting a job can be justified.

To me, this is really a question of loyalty versus objectiveness.  How would you feel if you were applying to a job that your parent was the boss of and she picked a candidate that may has a stronger resume than you, but you both meet the positon’s requirements.  (I haven’t experienced this personally, but I’ve seen a similar situation on the show “Revenge.”)  I’d hate to be that other candidate that would lose the job to a family relation, but I can’t tell if I’d hate that more than being the kid that gets rejected by his or her own parent.

From the parental end, does the parent stay loyal to his or her child by picking the son/daughter?  Or does the parent remain loyal to the company and pick the candidate that would suit the company best?  One could argue that family comes first in everything about life. At the same time, one could argue that business is business and should not be taken personally.

There is so much hypocrisy and contradiction in the rationale of the mobsters.

The Trust Factor

“”Your father did business with Hyman Roth; Your father respected Hyman Roth; But your father never trusted Hyman Roth.”

hyman_roth (Do you think you can trust this guy?  It’s Hyman Roth and he really manipulated Michael all throughout The Godfather Part II.)

-Respect vs. trust is a fine line – or is it?  Respect can be very impersonal.  You can respect someone you don’t agree with, but trust runs pretty deep.  Can you trust someone you don’t respect?

I think trust relates to personal judgement.  I think trust is completely rooted in one’s personal interest and views.  If you know someone who is obsessed with money, you’re not going to loan them $50 and expect them to pay you back, regardless of whether you respect them or not.

I think the main difference between trust and respect is intimate connection.  You can respect someone without really even knowing them.  For instance, I respect all authority to some degree because they are in authority, or they have great credentials or their have a history of immaculate ethics and a notable open mind. With these traits, I don’t even have to meet the person to know I respect them.

However, when it comes to trust, different terms are at stake.  Trust puts that other individual in a responsible position, while respect merely puts person at an even position.  I would like to think you don’t have to respect someone you trust.  However, in order to trust someone, you have to know that their interests coincide with yours so that your stake isn’t at risk.

Thus, I feel like Don Corleone makes logical sense.  You can respect someone without necessarily trusting them, but gaining trust requires more than just respect.

The Real World

Micheal: “My father is no different than any other powerful man — any man who’s
responsible for other people, like a senator or president.”

KAY: “You know how naive you sound…senators and presidents don’t have men killed.”

MC: “Oh, who’s being naive, Kay?”

This was taken from the wedding scene in The Godfather Part I, when Michael begins to tell Kay of his family life.

I think Michael makes a great point, not just about how politics works, but about how everything works.  Unfortunately, not all seemingly clean institutions are all what they appear.  The skepticism that has resulted from many scams in the past has made it hard for legitimate organizations to gain trust.

I hope no one else had to experience this, but while canning for THON, one of my friends was told “This is for beer money, right?” by a driver.  Old people shook their heads as they passed me.  My own uncle questioned what canners were doing because he had just seen them a couple weeks ago.  (I explained that all of the canning is done in the Fall now.)  Unfortunately, there is some inherent skepticism in people about the genuiness of organizations based on seeing the few organizations that are scams get away with so much.

Michael is right, that there is so much more complexity and “dirty work” done behind closed doors that we’ll never really know about.  Unfortunately, this skepticism sometimes translates to the skepticism of good causes.

Public Enemies (or not!)

“Never hate your enemies.  It affects your judgement.” – Michael Corleone to Vincent Mancini, from The Godfather Part III

(In context, Michael is telling Vinny not to kill a foe, Joey Zasa.)

This quote comes from the third installment of The Godfather Saga, which Michael Corleone is regarded as the Don or Godfather, but I’ll still refer to him as Michael because he will never be a true Don to me.

Hate is a strong word.  Though none of us may have hated anyone in particular, I think we have all had some encounter with hate, whether it was seeing hate cause instances in history (the Holocaust) or depicted in a film.  The end-products of hate are rarely pleasant for anyone involved.  (In the case of the Holocaust, millions of Jews died and Hitler ended up killing himself.)  We may have never had enemies, people who have wronged us in such a way to engender hate.  However, I think this piece of advice is still considerably relevant to anyone.

Michael is basically telling Vinny to not let his emotions cause him to make irrational decisions.  I’m sure we’ve all fought with someone and said something that we wouldn’t have normally said to that person – as Mean Girls puts it, “word vomit.”  In the heat of the moment, some things may be said that shouldn’t have been.  The impact is irreversible.  The word vomit or rash action could lead to extremely undersirable consequences.  For example, if Vinny kills Zasa, Vinny’s life is now at stake because Zasa has supporters that would see to Vinny’s death.

 

Destiny

“It was from this experience came his oft-repeated belief that every man has but one destiny.”

-          From the novel The Godfather

In context, this part of the story is about when Vito decided to become a Mafioso after having outwitted the current town boss.

vito destiny(Vito Corleone in his early years as he developed his empire – kinda creepy smile, but nonetheless, the smile of someone on the brink of genius!)

Initially, I thought this was a very confining belief.  Only ONE destiny?  However, he did not say that this destiny was predetermined or that we are already on our way to this fate.  I think he meant that there is one life path that suits us perfectly, and it is up to us to find that destiny.

The question is: how do we know we’re on the right path?  How do we know that THIS is what we were meant to be doing?

In college, the alleged place where people “find themselves” and build a knowledge base geared toward a career, I feel there is a lot of pressure to discover that destiny.  The idea of having a specific major adds to that pressure.  At least through certain courses, one can better gauge their level of actual interest in that field.  I have personally seen friends, initially majoring biology and chemistry, switch to majoring in political science and international relations.  They love their classes now (well, as much as one can love school work) and are content with the direction they are headed.  Nothing is more refreshing than hearing about someone slowly progress toward becoming who they were meant to be.

yessss

Personally, I have never fully embraced my major.  As I sit studying details about E. coli that I don’t give a cent about while my friends are studying the music of the Beatles or Egyptian mythology, I sometimes question what I am doing with my life.  Would I be more content studying art history or linguistics?  Am I happy now?  Is what I am doing anywhere near what I had pictured my future to be as a child? (Unfortunately, no, I am not a supermodel popstar living in Hawaii.)

britney spearrrs(Britney Spears)

I’m sure I’m not the only who’s had the mid-shower breakdown where you question your entire existence, while reaching for the Dove soap.

kermit-shower-01

There is so much anxiety in uncertainty.   As thrilling as having a thousand options sounds, the variety can be extremely overwhelming.

The Don’s belief that there is one fate set for all of us gives me a lot anxiety that I’ll never find out what/who I’m supposed to be.  However, in the novel, the Don discovered his destiny when he was 25 unexpectedly.  So for now, I think his advice goes out to all of us teeth-brushing contemplators that we should just live our lives and let it all happen.  Because our destiny will meet us eventually.  And once that destiny is found, there will be no such questions, hesitations, or regrets.  There will only be confidence.  Every action will feel purposeful and productive.  Meaning in life will be better understood.

Maybe one, single destiny can be liberating!

Bad News, Soon News

“Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately.”

(Tom Hagen to Wolltz)

Why does he insist on hearing bad news immediately?  Isn’t ignorance bliss?  What are the benefits of being informed of disappointing news as quickly as possible?  Every action of Vito Corleone is deliberate.  There must be some wisdom in knowing upsetting information at moment’s notice.

Depending on the situation, I can see the primary advantage of hearing bad news early is time.  Time to react.  Time to sink in.  Time to strategize.  Time to response.

I went on a three week trip to Europe three summers ago.  One of the counselor leaders of the trip found out her mother died the first day of the trip.  She mustered the strength to stay on the trip to its entirety for her sense of responsibility to the trip and everyone involved.  She could have gone home and helped plan the funeral and the viewing of her blood and heart mother.  But she didn’t.  (No one knew her mother had died until she revealed the news to everyone at the end of the trip.  I only knew that her mom had died the day it had happened because I had accidentally overheard her talking to the other counselors in a room in a museum about it.)  She is the strongest woman I know!  No one could tell she was mourning or slightly bothered.  Her pleasant smile masked any possibility that a tragedy had just befallen her.  (Her joy was to the point where I questioned what I had heard the first day of the trip about her mother’s death.  I figured I had misheard the conversation between the counselors.)

Although she was able to hide her pain, I wonder how her grief molded her whole perspective of everything during the trip.  Would her the experiences have been much more enjoyable if she had not known this heartbreaking news until later?  Or would she have felt even more pain if her family had chosen to keep the news concealed until her return?

Personally, I think it was best that she knew right away.  A mom is a BIG deal – at least in some people’s lives (and I know it was in her’s because I saw her crying to the counselors about it.).  Having the decision to go home or not would have been robbed from her if she had not known until later.  If she had known later, she might have thought she would have wanted to go home given the choice (even though in reality she decided to stay.).

In short, I think the Don is right.  Knowing bad news immediately in critical situations is best!