A Candid Interview with Polystralia's Hutama

Hutama: The Cad's Alliance Interview

At 20 years old, a brash Hutama first grabbed the public’s imagination in his home nation of Polystralia. Within one year, he went from drinking “tinnies” with classmates to staging sit-ins – his longest being 200 days – while happily charming the press and savvy social media types. To the amused annoyance of entrenched politicos, this college student at the Universitas Sumatera Utara did the impossible. He led grass-roots campaigns against corruption and cronyism in reclamation projects only to become the dynamic face for a new generation of the Commonwealth.

Then, he graduated.

A little over a decade later, Hutama is at the center of a much bigger stage – and now with a much bigger stake in the future of humanity as we look to move beyond Earth. This is a big switch for the populist leader who famously tried debunking the Commission Report on the Inflection Point. He’s still trying in vain to convince his constituency (and his viewers) that he’s a horrible choice to lead a seeding expedition. Even now, he’s cracking jokes about it on his weekly Internet broadcast, “Question, Minister.” All while he’s putting in his training time with the rest of the Freeland offworld expedition.

Today’s meeting was originally planned for last summer. That day consisted of us sitting in the green room during his weekly talk show, punctuated with an “emergency meeting” with some celebrity that pulled him away. This time around, a much different man makes his way into the room. Still charming, just a little less cocksure since he had to reverse course on this whole view of the Inflection Point, carrying a little less political clout and looking at ratings that may or may not indicate an end to his broadcasting days.

But that’s not going to stop Hutama. His tone was still more playful than most politicians. His mood, peppered with equal parts sarcasm and sincerity. Before starting the interview, he insisted that we sit down for a minute and have a couple stubbies.

Hutama: The first and most moral responsibility of Freeland will be establishing a decent brewery on the new planet. Yeast should be going through the same vetting process as the colonists. Maybe a more rigorous one.

Cad’s: I can’t imagine that’s an opinion shared by the rest of Freeland team.

Hutama: I have the votes from the microbiology bloc and the hydroponics bloc, and I’m convinced health sciences will come onboard. Once we have completed a demonstration project, the benefits will be self-evident to the entire colony.

Cad’s: If this is part of your campaign to convince the Commonwealth to pick a new leader for the Freeland expedition, I don’t think you are succeeding. [Note: The beer was very cool and very good, and the day was hot.]

Hutama: (laughs) No, certainly not! I hired the oppo firm to do some polling in the hope they’d come up with a different picture, and they said: “As much as we hate to admit it, you’re a popular man.” I’m putting my time in at Melbourne in the hopes that a darkhorse candidate shows up and replaces me. I keep pinging Sumatera Utara and asking if they have any irritating Poli Sci majors who remind them of me at that age, who they’d like to nominate to Freeland, but the Uni doesn’t even hit me up for alum donations anymore. I’m pretty sure I’m a comms blacklist database entry.

Cad’s: Your campaign spokespeople have suggested you’re the ideal candidate, that you’d be the guy to make sure Freeland is run above-board and free from insider deals. But you keep waving your hands and yelling: ‘No no!’

Hutama: Let’s be clear, Freeland has to be the most transparent project the Commonwealth’s ever put together, because not everyone is benefitting from it equally. Some people are being given an amazing opportunity to go and develop a new planet, while the rest of the punters have to sit at home and muddle along. The common man and woman in Jakarta and Sydney must understand who’s going, and why they were chosen, and moreover they have to feel like the right decision has been made.

Too much of our history has been someone in power dictating the terms to the rest of the population. Too much power blinds you, which is what motivated me to get into politics and what keeps me staying in touch with the public voice. Because I want to know what Jane Jakarta and Sam Sydney are thinking and how they feel, because we all have a right to decide how we’re going to live our lives.

Cad’s: That may be, but you were stridently opposed to Seeding right up to the point where you switched opinions on it.

Hutama: I was the champion for those voices who weren’t being made part of the process. The Commission might have been right about the Inflection Point, but they were wrong about the way they handed down their report. It got my jimmies rustled. Was I wrong about Inflection? Yes. Was I wrong about questioning the entire Seeding initiative? No way. Too many assumptions, too little buy-in from the citizens, too much of the old guard saying: “thou shalt.”

Cad’s: So then what changed your mind?

Hutama: [pauses] It was the least-bad deal.

Cad’s: The least-bad deal?

Hutama: Look, the Inflection Point’s a thing, right? It’s going to happen. Or is happening. Whatever. In fifty or a hundred years, Freeland will not be a viable project. There are going to be a lot of people on this planet and some hard decisions are going to have to be made. But you have a chance, an outside chance, of taking a small number of those people – a number so small that taking them off this planet is a rounding error – and you can put those people on a new planet where they can do… I don’t know. Everything. Anything. Live like kings. Burn hydrocarbons. Smelt aluminum from ore. Eat beef three times a day. Just not suffer.

Cad’s: That seems to fly in the face of giving everyone a fair deal.

Hutama: But it’s not, don’t you see? On one hand you don’t send Freeland; five billion citizens of the Commonwealth suffer privation. On the other hand you send Freeland; four billion, nine hundred ninety-nine million, nine hundred ninety thousand citizens of the Commonwealth suffer privation. But ten thousand live free and well. Maybe those ten thousand figure out how to fix Earth. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they all decide to drink alien kava and play house music. It doesn’t matter.

As long as every citizen of the Commonwealth has a crack at one of those ten thousand seats, then this is the least-bad deal. If every citizen understands how those ten thousand are being allocated, then this is the least-bad deal. Anything else, I’m going to lead the citizens to the barricades myself.

Cad’s: How is it fair for ten thousand Freelanders to live better than the rest of humanity on Earth?

Hutama: I thought you were smart! I thought you kids at Cad’s were supposed to be the sharp ones! Living well is their only obligation! Living well is the meaning of life, right? Every philosophy boils down to that, and most religions too. You’ve got an entire planet in front of you. Sitting in a bubble dome and eating Spam and wearing a hairshirt makes no sense. That’s the worst kind of miserliness – to live meanly when you’re sitting on riches. No, Freeland’s first obligation is to live well. After that? Well, we’ll figure it out. Right now my planning just goes as far as getting a brewery up and running. Or getting out of leading the damn thing.