Sex, Militarism, and what Robert A. Heinlein saw.
When I was a kid, I read a lot of Robert A. Heinlein’s stories, recently I reread one, and I had to overlook some things in order to enjoy it.
The thing that I found distasteful in his writing was that in one respect he had a very conservative ideology espoused by many of his characters, which often were older men.
That was not such a huge problem, the issue I had was his attitude to sexuality, which seemed somehow connected with the 60’s free love ideology. It seemed to me that the only effect this ideology had in his writing was as a means to allow older men to screw young attractive women.
Now I’m not a prude, and even I can accept that some old but not over the hill dude’s might enjoy having sex with young but not under age women.
But I find it hard to get into a book that makes statements like: “A beautiful woman is more likely to attract males and is biologically superior to an unattractive woman.” That’s not an exact quote because I’m doing it from memory. Maybe it’s true in a perverse biological sense, but I felt it was more like a license to be an old pervert.
You could also argue that being a beautiful woman must mean by definition that you're more likely to attract males? Which is a good thing, especially if you happen to be one of those males?
Also, I suspect that by "biologically superior", he meant within the context of natural selection. Characters in ““I will fear no evil”(not he’s best work), “Time enough for love” and “Number of the Beast,” made this statement, in the context of explaining to a young woman why being attractive was a good thing.
Nevertheless, the term “biologically superior” has a lot of baggage connected to it, associated with the Nazis pseudo eugenics of the past.
Somehow, this mix of extreme right wing conservatism mixed with Bacchanalian hedonism didn’t ring true to me, and it’s a sample of an attitude that a lot of his work of the 1960s – 70s and 80s propounds.
In his science fiction stories, he has said that democracy is doomed to fail, and you would have to be a fool to believe in it anyway. Benevolent dictatorship is the only way to go, and it’s okay to screw anything on legs as long as it’s attractive. Or at lest, that’s how it came across to me.
Now “Starship Troopers,” was a good book and the movie version was just mad!
The insane fascism that Paul Verhoeven sends up so well in the movie is also seen in the book. Although in the book, I can’t be too sure if Heinlein is really serious or not.
He claims that a world Military Government is a good idea?
It would be kind of, like saying that North Korea with all its nukes, but added spaceships and ray guns is the ideal form of world government. Or he almost does.
Moreover, Remember “Starship Troopers,” was originally written for kids! So just saying: “Whoa Scary, its just a work of fiction!” Is a bit simplistic, kids don’t make such distinctions or do they?
Substitute “Starship Troopers” for “Storm Troopers” maybe, or am I just trying to scare the straights? Good that’s my job here.
Some people I’ve spoken to don’t understand why people think that the government in "Starship Troopers" was a dictatorship, fascist, etc.
The characters supposedly live in a democracy where you have to do public service (which can be military, but doesn't have to be) to get a vote.
The rights of non-voters seem to be protected and respected (they just don't get to vote or run for office).
But, the problem with this as a model of a society is that value is placed on military virtues as well as military mindset and public service is represented by civil or social service.
Therefore, you have a militarised, bureaucratic society that disenfranchises anyone who might have a balancing influence on it.
As for Heinlein’s "Starship Troopers" being fascist, I do not go, as far as to say that it was his personal belief. It is after all a work of fiction.
“Starship Troopers,” the movie unashamedly implies it (sends it up), and the book claims that military or civil service is the only way of gaining the right to vote.
These are quotes from "Starship Troopers" the book, can you see any holes in the reasoning regarding this fictional system of government from Chapter 12.
“"Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal -- else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy.
The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority ...other than through the tragic logic of history. The unique 'poll tax' that we must pay was unheard of. No attempt was made to determine whether, a voter was socially responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead --and responsibility was, then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundation-less temple.”
“Superficially, our system is only slightly different; we have democracy unlimited by race, colour, creed, birth wealth, sex, or conviction, and anyone may win sovereign power by a usually short and not too arduous term of service -- nothing more than a light workout to our cave-man ancestors. But that slight difference is one between a system that works, since it is constructed in match the facts, and one that is inherently unstable.
Since sovereign franchise is the ultimate in human authority, we insure that all who wield it accept the ultimate in social responsibility -- we require each person who wishes to exert control over the state to wager his own life -- and lose it, if need be -- to save the life of the state. The maximum responsibility a human can thus accept is thus equated to the ultimate authority a human can exert. Yin and yang, perfect and equal.
The Major added. "Can anyone define why there has never been a revolution against our system? Despite the fact that every government in history has had such? Despite the notorious fact that complaints are loud and unceasing?"
One of the older cadets took a crack at it "Sir, revolution is impossible."
"Yes. But why?"
"Because revolution -- armed uprising--requires not only dissatisfaction but aggressiveness. A revolutionist has to be willing to fight and die -- or he is just a parlour pink. If you separate out the aggressive ones and make them the sheep dogs, the sheep will never give you trouble.”
So, what do you think?
Also to his credit, Heinlein featured many different kinds of government in his books. “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,” was a total libertarian anarchy, which is about as far from a dictatorship as you can get.
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