Ok, so let me be open about this. Trump and I are alike. Well, not in every which way – I am short, dark and I don’t dye my hair. But what we share is a mad fascination for the Godfather written in 1969 by Mario Puzo and filmed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972. I learnt about this very recently and it led me to hastily examine how or why I could possibly like something that Trump likes too.
An inherited virus?
No, I am not a millionaire’s kid. My dad was a hard-working accountant in the government, just like Mario Puzo. You can’t get more ordinary than that. He was a distant father – but whose wasn’t in the last century? So, it has to be something deeper. The truth is, I love the absolute power a Godfather wields. The singular ability to shape anything and everything His way – or so He thinks.
Of course, there are limitations – like others trying to outgun you along the way. But those just serve as a backdrop to show up how ruthlessly efficient and top gun you are because you necessarily vanquish or vanish. It’s vintage “High Noon” and the cleverest and fastest draw wins.
Like Trump, I watch the Godfather film repeatedly and I listen to the theme song even more regularly. So, quite clearly, it has been a defining piece of celluloid for me.
Nuking the world – a proxy test of manhood
More strangely via our common fascination for Godfather, I often morph into being Trump during my REM sleep phase. What invariably startles me awake is the specter of pushing the N button to vaporize China, which in turn would vaporize India because it can’t hit back the US in its homeland. It’s not the thought of dying as miserable collateral damage, in someone else’s nuclear war, which scares me. It’s the fear of not being able to push the damn N button when and if required to do so.
I must say I am unlike Trump in that I take time to think through decisions. Instantaneous choices are a problem for me. I believe this is not the case with Trump who, held to the test, will probably push the button just like he used to fire employees on reality TV and more recently in the White House – things never change do they?
I could never do that. I prefer to shout and scream about the utter disregard shown by recalcitrant employees. But firing them takes a lot of recalcitrance along with multiple fluffed second and third chances. Clearly, I am not classic Godfather material, unlike Trump, who gives no second chances. So, it’s probably just an unfulfilled fantasy about being something I could never be, which drives me to the vicarious delights of the movie Godfather.
I guess soldiers also have this tenacity to pursue a single objective without prevarication. You probably need this single mindedness of purpose to not turn around and run away in the face of enemy fire. A kindly senior who took me under his charge, once wrote in my Annual Confidential Report that if I had spent as much time doing the things I was supposed to have done rather than merely worrying about doing them, my results would have been far better.
The ACR is an annual ritual, in which officers reaffirm their biased assessments about their junior’s capacity and performance and thereby make or mar their careers. But my superior was bang on. My performance results were never brilliant. His were always outstanding. But looking back I don’t know who is more at peace with the outcomes each achieved.
Modi tames Trump
But back to Trump. He is brilliantly focused in getting others to turn around and walk his way – a very God Fatherly thing to do – though he has met his match in Modi, who leads him by his hand. Fortunately, Trump has had less than five years to turn around a big ship like the US which has been crafted over two- and one-half centuries. But even in that short period of time he has diminished America to becoming like Sony – in the film God Father Brando’s intemperate son, full of testosterone and futile belligerence though – to be fair to Sony – he would never have turned his muscled back on Afghanistan.
Some of this is because China has been literally waving a red rag at the Bull in Trump. China – an “almost great power”, sadly in decline since 2010, even before it could peak – chose to act hastily and provoked mirror muscular responses through its adventurism in the South and East China Sea.
Xi a closet Godfather fan?
Possibly Xi is also an avid watcher of the Godfather series and chose to strike whilst the opposition was weak. In fact, it is Xi who most resembles Brando as Godfather. Beijing might have believed that “Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics” had peaked and the future is unlikely to be as glorious as the present – so why not make the most of a high point by throwing about sharp elbows for more space.
In this game of Russian Roulette, where the outcomes are limited and the stakes high, human behavior is unlikely to be guided by theories of international relations. It’s going to become up close, personal and overtly ugly. Psychology will likely prevail over political science and most certainly over the dismal science of economics if we consider the overweight power a few individuals have, across the globe, to shape events.
If you are a futurist oe an analyst, watch Godfather closely to beat the newsmakers at their own game
So, maybe security and global strategy analysts had better also start taking their cues from God Father if they are to keep pace with the changing tactics of the principals they track.
Treachery, love, violence and pathos Mario Puzo had it all. The good news is that contemporary History might soon be taught through the “Puzo lens” of human behavior and its frailties as illustrated by the repeated cycles of learning and unlearning. Much like a mouse running, frenetically to escape the tread-mill but never quite succeeding till the very end.
Also available at TOI Blogs Feb 29, 2020 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/opinion-india/trump-and-i-are-alike/