Friday, January 29, 2010

The favour

In 1950s New York, if one were to place a lot of faith in the works of Mario Puzo, a distressed family would now and then approach the local don. They would pay their respects and confide in the great man their earthly troubles. For even the great don could do little about their unearthly ones. The don would then proceed to nod his head sympathetically. He would then express his sincere desire to help them in these times of great distress. It was a sign of his friendship after all to help those close to his heart. A promise to do all that was in his power, here subtly insinuated to be vast and beyond compare, would soon follow. And as the family prepared themselves to leave the company of this august personality, the don would play the trump card, the card of humility. The don after all was a humble human, under the will of God. A day would come when the don too would fall under hard times, at this point a small prayer would escape his lips, and he would need the help of his dearest friends. Would he be any trouble for the family if he were to approach them, approach them he would only when faced with the greatest of distress his eyes seemed to convey, and asked for a small, nothing too big, help. The family, I believe, would be only too glad to oblige. Here was the great don himself with whom the politician ingratiated himself. And it was the decent thing to reciprocate, no matter how unlikely the prospect.

Time passed and the family was happy. One particularly pleasant evening, the don would call upon them for the favour that was owed. Usually the task at hand would be nothing outlandish. But once in a while the family would be screwed. And none too happy.

It had turned out the the don wanted the family to make good the loss he had to take in helping another of his dearest friends. The don was answerable to his family after all. If the amount was too great, the family could just approach the next bigger don and plead for their troubles. The bigger don would then do all in his power, here not-so-subtly insinuated to be ever more vast, to help the dearest of his friends. And so on.

During the final months of 2008 and for much of 2009 and big happy family of the "Masters of the Universe" approached the local don. They were in debt. And were still piling on losses. The money they had lent in good faith, their claim, was lost for ever never to be seen of again. The don waxed eloquent about the obligations of power and responsibility. The need to do the right thing even though nothing about it seemed right. And the need to be repaid for the timely help provided. With interest. The Masters grudgingly accepted. And it was not like they had a choice. And all their worst fears came to life one by one. The don proved to be excruciatingly overbearing, never missing an opportunity and creating several to tell all about the help he had offered in their time of need. Maybe the Masters missed the don's need to satisfy his family.

As the months passed, quite a few of the Masters had dug themselves enough out of the pit to repay the don. With interest. And glad were they to rid themselves that they forgot completely about the return favour. You see, the don had to help out the Big Car Man down the highway. And the Car Man couldn't pay back. The Masters were asked to cough up. Though they complained, there was not much they could do. For there was no bigger don. The banks had approached the ultimate don, the government.