-Z- (Z@Gundam.Com)
Wed, 26 Jan 2000 20:00:43 -0800


At 19:18 1/26/2000 -0500, you wrote:
>But it's interesting you say it's a "facist" version. I didn't sense
>anywhere in the book that Heinlein disapprove of this future. In fact, it
>seems to me that Heinlein was using the book to illustrate his idea of a
>practical utopia.

Why do you (and far too many others) assume that Heinlein shares the views
of his characters? Is it simply because he uses first-person and has his
viewpoint character believe in what he (the character) is saying?

It might be because you've read only one Heinlein book. If you read more
of his works, you'll see that he's a chameleon, changing viewpoint and tone
with each story, covering a broad spectrum, and seldom if ever repeating a
major theme. A minor theme that connects all of his works is the only
personal philosophy that he ever expresses: you are responsible for the
consequences of your actions.

Heinlein is something of a contrarian. He delighted in taking on the
conventional wisdom of the time, putting forth a proposition that was in
direct opposition to it and then making that contrary position seem to
work. STARHIP TROOPERS isn't about war or warfare at all. It's about how
to raise children to be responsible adults. At the time it was written,
there was both a popular psychology movement against physical discipline,
spearheaded by Doctor Benjamin Spock and the Freudian school of childhood
trauma, and a moral outcry against what was perceived at the time as a rise
in juvenile delinquency. Heinlein's answer was that it was lack of
discipline, not too much, that created juvenile criminals and he proposed a
Swiftian "modest proposal" to solve it: grant the privileges of
civilization only to those who have earned them through service to the
state. That service need not be military -- the book goes to great length
to show that there are civilian tracks -- but the service must involve
personal sacrifice and hardship to be meaningful.

STARSHIP TROOPERS isn't about war, it's about history and moral philosophy
and what it means to be a (hu)man. Heinlein provides an alternative view
only to illustrate how poor the conventional wisdom of the time was. The
entire thesis of the book is contained in a few paragraphs where Major
Dubois (retired) makes a comparison between how one raises a child and how
one trains a puppy.

>Actually the military and political atmosphere in MSG is pretty much
>opposite from that of ST. I am dying to read the interview(s) of Tomino
>(hopefully translated into Chinese or English) that shoul shed light on
>how Tomino think about Heinlein. Here is how I look upon it:
>
>Heinlein Tomino
>- Mobile Suit - Mobile Suit

Nope. "Powered armor" is the term Heinlein uses. "Mobile Infantry" are
the people who use the powered armor, which is worn like a suit.

>- aliens (bugs) - seperatists (Zeon)
The Klendathu are merely the threat of the moment. The aliens figure not
at all in any theme or thesis of the book, which is about growing up from a
sleek and pampered (read "spoiled") brat into a responsible citizen who
puts his kin (all of humanity) ahead of himself and everything else.

>- interstellar war - Earth sphere war
It's not about war. Johnny Rico's biggest battles are always against himself.

>- hero is a grunt - heroes are kids
Johnny Rico starts out as a recruit, becomes a grunt, evolves into a
officer and eventually becomes a true leader of men.

> who doesn't ask who ask too many
> questions questions
I beg your pardon? The entire book is nothing but questions. It's just
that Johnny's a bit dense and has to learn all the answers the hard way.

>- pro authority - anti-establishment
Not authority, responsibility. The authorities in ST got their authority
because they were responsible. It's a meritocracy and they got their
places the old fashioned way, by earning them. Every character in the book
who speaks with any authority also speaks from a position of terrifying
responsibility, which they invariably take very seriously.

>- there's a war - there's a war
> because aliens because the powerfuls
> are yucky and oppress the powerless
> they shot first
There's a war because humanity has finally met creatures just as smart and
tough as they are, but with a world view that is totally at odds with
ours. The Klendathu are a hive-mind with no concept of individuality -- a
reflection of the "ideal" communism, which Heinlein considered a threat to
individual freedom, the one thing he felt worth defending with blood. This
books was written in 1950, remember.

>- wars bring out - wars mess people up
> the best in MEN
"No greater love hath any man than this, that he lay down his life for his
friends." What better venue for sacrifice than war against the enemies of
all that humanity holds dear?

>- clear-cut - ambiguous
You must have skipped over the hundred or so pages where Johnny wonders
what the hell it's all about, what he's doing here, and so on.

>- bombs - Newtypes
Bombs are tools to achieve an end. The end is to make the enemy
capitulate. It's best if you never have to use the bombs, so much so that
thousands of MI troops are dropped on a planet that could've been
eliminated with a single bomb just to show the enemy that we can take it
from them and keep it until they agree to our terms.

>- genetic and - enhanced-types
> chemical are screwed up
> manipulation of
> soldiers is good
You must be thinking of another book. There's no genetic or chemical or
any other kind of manipulation, other than psychological and educational,
in ST.

>- soldiers make - soldiers make
> the best political the worst political
> decisions decisions
No, not soldiers, but those who've put themselves in harm's way for their
fellow men and survived to enjoy the rewards. And not the best decisions
-- Heinlein makes it clear that earning the right to vote doesn't
necessarily imbue you with the wherewithal to vote wisely. He merely
reserves the right to those who've earned it, arguing that that's better
than a popularity contest, an inheritance, extortion by force of arms or
any of the several other ways we've done it in the past.

>Anyway, don't take it too seriously or personally. Just want to hear what
>you folks think.
I think you need to go back and read the book again, preferably after
reading a sampling of newspaper and magazine article from the late 1940s
and early 1950s to give you the proper context. I also think that you need
to look at what the book is arguing against, rather than what it appears to
be arguing for.

By the way, there's nothing "fascist" about the government in ST. There's
no such thing as conscription, military service is actually discouraged and
any glorification comes from the fact that veterans get special
privileges. You have to volunteer and you have to go through a process
similar to a salmon going upstream to get in, then you have to survive a
vigorous culling process in boot camp to stay in. There are no parades
except the actual military type, which is simply a massing of formations to
take inventory and reinforce group identity and unit cohesion; there are no
public displays or grandstanding at all.

You take on a dirty job because someone's got to do it. Your reward for a
job well done is another job that's even tougher.

That's not fascism; that's life.

-Z-

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