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Starship Troopers: Interpretation and Analysis

Eric the .5b

It's all so esoteric
Validated User
But I think in general its telling that Heinlein did the whole thing he did in ST once; none of his other SF governments look at all like it.
Hell, one of his other early stories inverted this setup and had a society where they had referendums on whether to go to war, and if the referendums passed, everyone who voted for the war was drafted.

But the book and the Mobile Infantry definitely attract more discussion today than say, the Space Patrol (from Heinlein’s novel Space Cadet), a military organization devoted solely to keeping the peace. Nobody talks about Patrol officer John Ezra Dahlquist, the protagonist of “The Long Watch”, who sacrificed his life to stop a military coup by his fellow officers.
Sometimes they mention The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but mainly to do the incoherent libertarians-are-secret-fascists business. They tend to miss that in that book, he literally has a force of power-armored troopers of the Earth government show up and massacre a lot of civilians, including someone in the protagonist's family. The man had themes, but he contained multitudes.

I mean, on one hand, it's a tempting thought isn't it? What if all the idiots and the assholes just couldn't vote? What if there were hoops you had to jump through- not like that, ones that actually tested your character this time- that would weed them out and only true patriots could get a say in the issues that affect us all. I've seen people across the political spectrum indulge in that fantasy.
Yup. Someone mentioned stories with voting tests from 80s Analog, and I remember how those were almost all, "Let's keep the ignorant, warlike conservatives from voting so they can't start a nuclear war!". I remember one* had a woman living in a lunar colony** trying to defend their literacy tests to an explicitly Republican congressman.







* I'm blanking on the writer, but it was in a series of stories about a future astronaut who became a nearly full-conversion cyborg after massive radiation dosage. Rather realistically done, with her basically being assembled out of off-the-shelf prosthetics and dealing with everyone having uncanny-valley reactions to her.
** It was weird because there were only a few young children as second-generation colonists, and the first-generation colonists were all astronauts and scientists. Why would anyone need testing, if you accepted some need?
 

DarkStarling

Brilliantly Crazed
Validated User
I think all this is very true. I remember the one government-running character that felt he had stopped doing a good job because no one was mad enough about anything to try and assassinate him recently. Heinlein built some weird ideas about governing into things.
That, at least, was the same idea as Vimes of Diskworld. If you’re doing your job right, you’re pissing off the kind of people who deal with inconveniences by murdering them.
 

Wolfwood2

Registered User
Validated User
Regarding how the service requirement would inevitably be used as a tool of racism, there's a bit of a big brain/galaxy brain thing going on.

Small Brain - Service equals citizenship as a world government sounds great.

Big Brain - And would inevitably be used as a tool to disenfranchise minorities.

Galaxy Brain - But that's thinking of it like an American government, which it's still so damn easy to do because of the voice Heinlein wrote everything in. The Federation is supposedly a World Government founded by combat veterans from multiple sides of a World War who decided they had more in common with their fellow veterans from the other side than the citizens of their former home! Have we even remotely begun to grapple with the implications of that?

I've never seen a discussion of Starship Troopers that really gets into the idea of a government founded by veterans from multiple sides a war. Like if after WWI, the combined French and German veterans had decided to launch a coup as a united organization and weld their former nations into one country. It's fucking crazy! But if it did happen, I frankly have no idea what sort of wild prejudices and unspoken rules would be built into such a government.
 

AliasiSudonomo

Trying to be a bird
Validated User
Regarding how the service requirement would inevitably be used as a tool of racism, there's a bit of a big brain/galaxy brain thing going on.

Small Brain - Service equals citizenship as a world government sounds great.

Big Brain - And would inevitably be used as a tool to disenfranchise minorities.

Galaxy Brain - But that's thinking of it like an American government, which it's still so damn easy to do because of the voice Heinlein wrote everything in. The Federation is supposedly a World Government founded by combat veterans from multiple sides of a World War who decided they had more in common with their fellow veterans from the other side than the citizens of their former home! Have we even remotely begun to grapple with the implications of that?

I've never seen a discussion of Starship Troopers that really gets into the idea of a government founded by veterans from multiple sides a war. Like if after WWI, the combined French and German veterans had decided to launch a coup as a united organization and weld their former nations into one country. It's fucking crazy! But if it did happen, I frankly have no idea what sort of wild prejudices and unspoken rules would be built into such a government.
That's a good point, and that's kind of why I still like to read Heinlein; he threw stuff at you. And I like to read people who do the same sort of uncomfortable questioning today, as opposed to aping the paintjob; of those aforementioned 'big three' Asimov is mostly remembered for his robots, Clarke mostly remembered as the guy who wrote stuff that became a trippy Stanley Kubrick movie, but you can start an argument on Heinlein anywhere.

Much like the 'if people are sending assassins, it means you're inconveniencing the people you ought to be' line of thought, the fact we can still debate the central issues of many of his works without a clear answer, even today, means RAH was onto something. Is incest - between consenting adults - a bad thing in a society that considers genetic screening mandatory? What if there was a society that only used the Golden Rule as the basis of all law? Hell, the whole World-as-Myth line of the later books is a fascinating idea that still gets some use from other creatives.
 

DarkStarling

Brilliantly Crazed
Validated User
Regarding how the service requirement would inevitably be used as a tool of racism, there's a bit of a big brain/galaxy brain thing going on.

Small Brain - Service equals citizenship as a world government sounds great.

Big Brain - And would inevitably be used as a tool to disenfranchise minorities.

Galaxy Brain - But that's thinking of it like an American government, which it's still so damn easy to do because of the voice Heinlein wrote everything in. The Federation is supposedly a World Government founded by combat veterans from multiple sides of a World War who decided they had more in common with their fellow veterans from the other side than the citizens of their former home! Have we even remotely begun to grapple with the implications of that?

I've never seen a discussion of Starship Troopers that really gets into the idea of a government founded by veterans from multiple sides a war. Like if after WWI, the combined French and German veterans had decided to launch a coup as a united organization and weld their former nations into one country. It's fucking crazy! But if it did happen, I frankly have no idea what sort of wild prejudices and unspoken rules would be built into such a government.
Another related thing that I've heard anecdotally (and if there's someone who knows more please correct me): veterans, whatever their politics or beliefs, tend to be far more tolerant of each other than you'd expect. The whole bond of being shot at together, and being stuck together so you *need* to find a way to live with each other. Which isn't to say entrenched prejudice isn't a problem on an organizational level, or that there are some people you'll just never get through to. But generally the idea that at a minimum you've all been through an intense common experience. And, in the case of voluntary service, that when it came down to 'put up or shut up' you chose the former.
 

taschoene

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I've never seen a discussion of Starship Troopers that really gets into the idea of a government founded by veterans from multiple sides a war. Like if after WWI, the combined French and German veterans had decided to launch a coup as a united organization and weld their former nations into one country. It's fucking crazy! But if it did happen, I frankly have no idea what sort of wild prejudices and unspoken rules would be built into such a government.
There is an interesting discussion about how the treaty that ended the last war and apparently led straight into the global social collapse basically ignored the idea of repatriating prisoners of war on either side. So you had large numbers of ex-soldiers lost in enemy territory and the only people they know or have any connection with are their former jailors, also ex-soldiers. That would clearly strengthen the bonds between soldiers on both sides, since many of them had been abandoned by their civilian masters. Ensuring that ex-soldiers would be in a position to prevent such an abandonment the next time around is plausible.
 

ranson

"Two Sheds"
RPGnet Member
Validated User
This is something like the twelfth major Heinlein/ST argument/discussion I've seen on this site, and that's something I don't think has ever really been discussed. It always makes me so happy to be here when something like that happens.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
As was said, it has a big footprint. Its notable you don't hear nearly the degree of discussion about Clarke's Childhood End. Or, far as that goes, even Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.
 

Blizzardborn

Hiding in a snowdrift
Validated User
There is an interesting discussion about how the treaty that ended the last war and apparently led straight into the global social collapse basically ignored the idea of repatriating prisoners of war on either side. So you had large numbers of ex-soldiers lost in enemy territory and the only people they know or have any connection with are their former jailors, also ex-soldiers. That would clearly strengthen the bonds between soldiers on both sides, since many of them had been abandoned by their civilian masters. Ensuring that ex-soldiers would be in a position to prevent such an abandonment the next time around is plausible.
That was drawn from what were still hot button topics at the end of the decade. Dulles abandoning the U.S.'s POWs in Korea, and many other countries following suit, the French abandoning many of their POWs in Indochina, the British in Malaya, etc. Add to that the fact that many of the different veterans* started meeting up at the 10th anniversary activities in the early-mid 50s and finding out how much they have in common (civilians never understand the gut punch hock of seeing a buddy cut down by a sniper right in front of you, frex) and you get the core of what set up the Terran Federation.

*If any of you haven't read Ambrose's Comrades, you might want to check out the chapter on John Howard (UK), Hans von Luck (3R) and Dick Winters (US).
 
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