The Last Castle is a movie about a contest of wills between a military prison warden, Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini), and his highest profile prisoner, General Irwin (Robert Redford). It’s a story of the human drama variety, as Winter slowly sees his influence and control ebb away when a real leader arrives on the scene, while Irwin doesn’t want to do anything other than complete his sentence and then go home to retirement.
Conversations with his fellow prisoners, along with witnessing multiple examples of Winter’s abuse of power, wear down Irwin’s resolve to stay aloof, and the balance of power tips in his favour. Winter, meanwhile, keeps making things worse. He laments Irwin having won his fellow prisoners’ “hearts and minds,” to his second-in-command, who replies …
He can have their hearts and minds, sir, long as we’ve got ’em by the balls.
And I thought that was such a spot-on description of how the powerful stay in power, it had to go in the quote book.
It’s like how youth will be all energetic and full of plans to save the world, but before they can effectively do so, they have to become a part of the system – go to school, get a job, start at the bottom and work their way up. Then the very system they worked so hard to enter saddles them with low wages and high debt, and proves to be structured against advancement.
Do some manage to get to where they planned? Sure. But for most, the world’s got ’em by the balls, and as they struggle for basics like food and shelter, the plans of their hearts and minds fall by the wayside.
And that’s how the powerful stay in power. Because they ensure there are few General Irwins in this world. And lots and lots of Colonel Winters.
To see previous posts in my Quotes series, click here.