Johnny’s not quite as passive as some people are making him out to be. The initial idea to serve a term was his own:I don't know Heinleins intentions, but I didn't walk away from "Starship Troopers" thinking: "Yeah, this is how we should organize our society". And my guess is that if Heinlein had thought it would be a good idea, he would have made his protagonist a little bit less passive and a little bit more sympathetic.
So Carl’s decision to join up and his telling Johnny, “Your old man won’t let you” just solidified Johnny’s own thinking.Oh, I had mentioned to my father, late in my senior year in high school, that I was thinking over the idea of volunteering for Federal Service. I suppose every kid does, when his eighteenth birthday heaves into sight - and mine was due the week I graduated. Of course most of them just think about it, toy with the idea a little, then go do something else - go to college, or get a job, or something. I suppose it would have been that way with me... if my best chum had not, with dead seriousness, planned to join up.
As for following expectations, well, the expectations for Johnny’s life were made very clear to him by his father:
(The fact that Johnny’s father is confident his son can get into Harvard with his transcript tells me that the institutions of the Starship Troopers universe are no more immune to the blandishments of money than ours are today. Clearly, the “gentleman’s C” for the 1% is still alive and well, citizen or not!)”When you graduate, you’re going to study business at Harvard; you know that. After that, you will go on to the Sorbonne and you’ll travel a bit along with it, meet some of our distributors, find out how business is done elsewhere. Then you’ll come home and go to work. You’ll start with the usual menial job, stock clerk or something, just for form’s sake - but you’ll be an executive before you can catch your breath, because I’m not getting any younger and the quicker you can pick up the load, the better. As soon as you’re able and willing, you’ll be boss. There! How does that strike you as a program? As compared with wasting two years of your life?”
Johnny did unwittingly fulfill the expectations of his History & Moral Philosophy Teacher, but those expectations weren’t directly expressed to him until after he’d already made his own decision.
It was Ace who initially put the idea of going career in Johnny’s head, but Johnny gave the decision some serious thought and by that point in the book had a decent handle on his own motivations:
Camaraderie is hardly an unusual motivation for a soldier. Author David Drake certainly understands it, even though he has almost nothing good to say about his own service in Vietnam:Go career? Quite aside from that noise about a commission, did I want to go career? Why, I had gone through all this to get my franchise, hadn’t I? - and if I went career, I was just as far away from the privilege of voting as if I had never enrolled... because as long as you were still in uniform you weren’t entitled to vote. Which was the way it should be, of course - why, if they let the Roughnecks vote the idiots might vote not to make a drop. Can’t have that.
Nevertheless I had signed up in order to win a vote. Or had I? Had I ever cared about voting? No, it was the prestige, the pride, the status... of being a citizen.
Or was it? I couldn’t to save my life remember why I had signed up.
Anyhow, it wasn’t the process of voting that made a citizen - the Lieutenant had been a citizen in the truest sense of the word, even though he had not lived long enough ever to cast a ballot. He had “voted” every time he made a drop.
And so had I!
I could hear Colonel Dubois in my mind: “Citizenship is an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part... and that the part should be humbly proud to sacrifice itself that the whole may live.”
I still didn’t know whether I yearned to place my one-and-only body “between my loved home and the war’s desolation” - I still got the shakes every drop and that “desolation” could be pretty desolate. But nevertheless I knew at last what Colonel Dubois had been talking about. The M.I. was mine and I was theirs. If that was what the M.I. did to break the monotony, then that was what I did. Patriotism was a bit esoteric for me, too large-scale to see. But the M.I. was my gang, I belonged. They were all the family I had left; they were the brothers I had never had, closer than Carl had ever been. If I left them, I’d be lost.
So why shouldn’t I go career?
The people I served with in 1970 (the enlisted men) were almost entirely draftees. At that time nobody I knew in-country:
But you know, I’m still proud of my unit and the men I served with. They weren’t exactly my brothers, but they were the folks who were alone with me. Given the remarkably high percentage of those eligible who’ve joined the association of war-service Blackhorse veterans, my feelings are normal for the 11th Cav. Nobody who missed the Vietnam War should regret the fact. It was a waste of blood and time and treasure. It did no good of which I’m aware, and did a great deal of evil of which I’m far too aware. But having said that...
- thought the war could be won;
- thought our government was even trying to win;
- thought the brutal, corrupt Saigon government was worth saving;
- thought our presence was doing the least bit of good to anybody, particularly ourselves.
I rode with the Blackhorse.