Plumbers on the Death Star -- A Moral Inquiry Into Collateral Damage. (And A Cautionary Tale for Federal Contractors in a Time of Civil War.)
From Clerks, 1994.
Randal: So they build another Death Star, right?
Randal: Now the first one they built was completed and fully operational before the Rebels destroyed it.
Dante: Luke blew it up. Give credit where it's due.
Randal:And the second one was still being built when they blew it up.
Dante: Compliments of Lando Calrissian.
Randal: Something just never sat right with me the second time they destroyed it. I could never put my finger on it-something just wasn't right.
Dante: And you figured it out?
Randal: Well, the thing is, the first Death Star was manned by the Imperial army-storm troopers, dignitaries- the only people onboard were Imperials.
Randal: So when they blew it up, no prob. Evil is punished.
Dante: And the second time around...?
Randal: The second time around, it wasn't even finished yet. They were still under construction.
Randal: A construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I'll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.
Dante: Not just Imperials, is what you're getting at.
Randal: Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they'd hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average storm trooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.
Dante: All right, so even if independent contractors are working on the Death Star, why are you uneasy with its destruction?
Randal: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed- casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. (notices Dante's confusion) All right, look-you're a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia-this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn't ask for that. You have no personal politics. You're just trying to scrape out a living.
(The Blue-Collar Man (Thomas Burke) joins them.)
Blue-Collar Man: Excuse me. I don't mean to interrupt, but what were you talking about?
Randal: The ending of Return of the Jedi.
Dante: My friend is trying to convince me that any contractors working on the uncompleted Death Star were innocent victims when the space station was destroyed by the rebels.
Blue-Collar Man: Well, I'm a contractor myself. I'm a roofer... (digs into pocket and produces business card) Dunn and Reddy Home Improvements. And speaking as a roofer, I can say that a roofer's personal politics come heavily into play when choosing jobs.
Randal: Like when?
Blue-Collar Man: Three months ago I was offered a job up in the hills. A beautiful house with tons of property. It was a simple reshingling job, but I was told that if it was finished within a day, my price would be doubled. Then I realized whose house it was.
Dante: Whose house was it?
Blue-Collar Man: Dominick Bambino's.
Randal: "Babyface" Bambino? The gangster?
Blue-Collar Man: The same. The money was right, but the risk was too big. I knew who he was, and based on that, I passed the job on to a friend of mine.
Dante: Based on personal politics.
Blue-Collar Man: Right. And that week, the Foresci family put a hit on Babyface's house. My friend was shot and killed. He wasn't even finished shingling.
Randal: No way!
Blue-Collar Man: (paying for coffee) I'm alive because I knew there were risks involved taking on that particular client. My friend wasn't so lucky. (pauses to reflect) You know, any contractor willing to work on that Death Star knew the risks. If they were killed, it was their own fault. A roofer listens to this... (taps his heart) not his wallet.
"Buncha savages in this town."
Excellent reference, Mike. Clerks is truly one of the great irreverent comedies. (And Randal is everyone's hero. :-)
It's funnier with audio (Dante's laconic delivery works perfectly against Randal's needling) but that was a reminisce I needed today.
That, and it makes the point...perfectly. Keep on 'em, Mike.
And for all the Kerodin-clones who leaped on this comedic riff to allege philosophical hypocrisy on my part, do you see any wives and babies on the Death Star? No. Contractors at the point of contact provide material support to the Evil. Were the engineers of Organization Todt who built the crematoria legitimate targets of war? The railroad workers who ran the death trains? I would argue that they were. I would also argue that according to 4th Generation warfare concepts they were of tertiary importance at best. Better to target the politicians and the high-level bureaucratic Eichmanns who send them.
"The railroad workers who ran the death trains?"
The USAAAF and RAF spent a considerable amount of time destroying German infrastructure throughout occupied Europe, including strafing moving trains when they could find them. I do not recall ever hearing any agonizing about the fate of the civilian crews manning those trains.
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