In the postwar classic The Third Man, novelist Graham Greene’s protagonist, Holly Martins, confronts racketeer Harry Lime about his black-market sales of worthless, diluted penicillin. Atop a ferris wheel, he asks his old friend, “Have you ever seen any of your victims?” Lime’s response is telling:
“Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?
…Nobody thinks in terms of human beings. Governments don’t. Why should we? They talk about the people and the proletariat, I talk about the suckers and the mugs – it’s the same thing. They have their five-year plans, so have I …
… in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love. They had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
(Rabid cinéastes will point out Orson Welles added the lines about Italy and Switzerland himself.)
@ 2012 Jonathan Miller All Rights Reserved