Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Authoritarian Future"
I read Starship Troopers first when I was 12 years old and I loved it! It was action packed exciting and well written. Later I read about and from Heinlein his Anti-Communist views and a few things began to go together in my mind.

Firstly I did not even at twelve much care for the Human society Heinlein created; it struck me as rather rigid and doctrinaire.

Frankly the story is written from the point of view of a rather callow young man who is quite effectively made into an instrument of his society. In other words he is brainwashed. The Philosophical arguments for this new "Scientific" morality are pretty silly. It reminds me that both Communism and Nazism claimed a "Scientific" basis for their undemocratic rule. The stupidity about disputes being settled by force neglects the obvious rejoinder that what force proves is only that you are stronger than your opponent not that you are right.

It is interesting that Heinlein who was an Anti-Communist, and who had nothing but contempt for liberals for being weak on Communism, should have so fully embraced a Communist-Fascist system even in fiction. Like many ideologues of the cold-war Heinlein’s solution amounted to the destruction of American ideals and the victory of Communist-Fascistic ideals and practice. The society in the book is anti-democratic to the core, despite the lip service to Democratic ideals, no-one has rights by virtue of being human they must be earned. Democracy does not exist. Society is ruled by a caste of soldiers, like ancient Sparta. All other humans are less than fully human. They are civilians, without honor and not worthy of respect.

It seemed to me obvious that this "Democracy" was modeled after Ancient Sparta where a military caste ruled over a large subject population which they regarded with basic contempt. In Heinlein's society the ruling Military elite "votes" like the Spartans, after being suitably "indoctrinated", and therefore very unlikely to upset the status-quo and they are quite programmed to obey orders. That and their sense of "Class" solidarity with each other is hardly democratic. (I'm aware that Heinlein provides avenues for all sorts to enter the elite, but like Spartans promoting Helots it doesn't change the nature of the System).

The old Communist parties that ruled the Soviet Union and other states proclaimed that their unique "selflessness", "sense of duty", etc., entitled them to rule. I take the official propaganda of the State in this book about as seriously. Our hero swallows the whole thing indicating he isn't very bright.

In the book we are supposed to celebrate Rico’s acceptance of his “duty” and his incorporation of the life denying, death-worshiping ideals of his society into his tiny mind. Some celebrate this as Rico no longer being a “callow” young man. I see Rico as being similar to the “idealists” of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia, shallow, callow individuals who tortured, oppressed and slaughtered millions for reasons of “Scientific Morality” and cowardly notions of “Duty”.

The problem of how it is even possible to create a “Scientific Morality” is scarcely addressed by the book. Certainly the society in the book does not allow detailed, critical examinations of its “Scientific Morality”. In that respect it is like Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. Why Heinlein did not see or know that this idea is a centre-piece of both Communism and Fascism is beyond me. Certainly the refusal of Heinlein fans to see this is incredible. If the society in Starship Troopers is indeed based on “Scientific Morality”, I would chose to be “Immoral” and dedicate all my efforts to destroying it. Such a society is evil by definition regardless of whether it is “Scientifically Moral”. If this century has taught us anything it is that when someone talks about “Scientific Morality”, gas-chambers, forced labour, mass executions, terror, and numerous other horrors are waiting to be made real.

Regarding the books celebration of war, which despite denials is what the book does. I can only quote the following "A military man is in the only profession where he hopes not to use his skills". I just found it fascinating how an Anti-Communist replicated a Communist society in so many ways as somehow "ideal". When I was 12 I got the idea, that I still hold that the "icky" bugs were the good guys.

The glorification of violence is a feature of both Nazism and Stalinism both the most extreme and murderous forms of Fascism and Communism. So is the vision of only one true “Scientific morality”. The give and take of contemporary Democratic politics, the distrust of violence as a problem solver, the tolerance of dissent, the “liberal” belief that human freedom is a positive value is treated with contempt. Humans have value if they serve the state. I am amazed that Heinlein fans do not, or cannot see, that Heinlein’s “ideal” society is an abomination to anyone who believes in Liberty and Democracy.

All in all a wonderful read, especially the battle scenes, getting through boot camp, and the wonderfully conceived battle suits that allow the soldiers to devastate and occupy large areas single handed. Mankind’s Alien enemy is an Insect like species with that have a similar level of technology. Both humans and aliens are engaged in a genocidal war against each other. After all since mankind is fighting bugs. Let’s squash them!

Allegedly the society provides for freedom of speech and elections although given the nature of this society I don't take those comments seriously in the novel. Such a society does not allow for real dissent or freedom and the people involved in voting have been, if the book is any guide, quite effectively indoctrinated. I rather doubt that much difference of opinion exist among the various media from the military or that the "electors" are anything less than largely unified in their opinions. And certainly the classroom lectures give a picture of a unified, cohesive and authoritarian society.

Heinlein wrote Starship Trooper as a cautionary fable about how weak the west was, and unable to combat the superior strength of the Communist-Fascist enemy, which Heinlein, at least in this book, so clearly admires. Like so many he feared the west would succumb unless it abandoned its most basic ideals. We now know that the Communist-Fascist enemy was much weaker then us and the very things in the west that were supposed to weaken it, in the eyes of people like Heinlein, were in fact its strength. Heinlein as turned into a false prophet and his prescription, if carried out, would have been a fatal poison.

So do read it just don't take the society described seriously.

Pierre Cloutier

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