Deciding to Freelance?

Spoilers for Battlefield Earth

I remember watching Battlefield Earth and seeing the part where John Travolta hatched a plan to figure out what the Earth people’s favorite food was. He starves Barry Pepper for like two days and then arranges for him to escape. He observes Barry Pepper as he, desperately hungry, kills and eats a rat, the first edible thing he encountered. He concludes that the favorite food of humans must be rat.

I remember thinking what a stupid idea it was for John Travolta’s character to think that way. And they were supposed to be these superior alien creatures. A race of beings that are better than humans in every way, except they employ this toddler logic to try to learn about Barry Pepper and the other humans. Aren’t these supposed to be conquerors? Isn’t this their whole bag? Shouldn’t they be really good by now, at subjugating the dominant life forms on the different planets? Of course, the story needs John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, and the rest of the aliens to make some errors, for our human heroes to exploit and win the day. That’s how this story is set up. But you would think, by this time in their space imperialism, they would have figured out how to solve the problems involved with resource extraction, including uprisings from your enslaved subjects. They would have a book. When people say that someone is by-the-book, they’re referring to bureaucratic structures, where every action is done because that’s what it says to do in the book. The inhabitants of this world have farmed out decision making to a book and have a hard time recognizing nuance that doesn’t conform to the narratives they’ve been indoctrinated with. But they’re not by the book, about such a basic thing as subjugating the subjects, no; John Travolta schemes, planning to hang his hat, career-wise, on getting the Earth mining operation under control. He styles himself a maverick in a way that we recognize as classic dumb-guy behavior, “Everyone else who’s spent years learning about this is wrong, my instincts are correct!” This, coming from the race of superior beings? It’s pretty close to a bedrock statement in any scientific or philosophic endeavor: data fucking owns instinct. As cool kid’s philosopher Ben Shapiro might say, facts don’t care about your feelings. I don’t think you get anywhere near being a superior race if this vain fallacious way of thinking is on the menu.

The Point is, I thought that was an incredibly ignorant set of premises and conclusion, reflecting a point of view that is not in touch.

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