Saturday, November 12, 2005

Starship Troopers, part the third

Fascism, from, "A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism."

In the DVD commentary, Verhoeven explains that yes, the point of the film was to point out that "War makes fascists of us all." Looking at the above definition, that's really not what happened in Starship Troopers. The book jacket said it was one of Heinlein's most controversial, presumably because of fascism, but I really don't see it. There's no dictator, there's no indication of economic controls (social sure), the opposition in question was not within the human race, and they were fighting a war against aliens, so it's hard to begrudge them belligerence.

I think Verhoeven's definition of fascism would be more along the lines of using an enemy to distract the people to assume control of the country, a la Goering. Verhoeven likened the government of the story to America. The screenwriter seemed to disagree on that point, but, if I remember correctly, also agreed about the fascism.

As far as the book versus the movie go, I like the movie better. It's flashier, it's got better pacing, it's got better dialogue, it's got characters I like better. But, you really can't get as much out of it as you can the book.

Anyway, the third and final batch of notes:

heinlein brings up evolution on a planet exposed to less radiation than earth. apparently, it was a fear of scientists that colonists of a less-irradiated planet would evolve more slowly than the apparently much more irradiated planet earth. but this doesn't take into account a few things. one: i don't think physical traits are bound to be the dominant survival factor. maybe this is different in a survivalist period such as war. and while people who are physically inept or mentally inept people are passing on their genes all the time, maybe it's my mistake in thinking that this is more widespread than it actually is. two: even if people of earth and sanctuary (the other planet) evolved at the same rate, they are bound to have different evolutionary impetuses. That is, they're bound to be different. three: given a sufficiently diverse gene pool, mutations brought on by radiation might not even be necessary. of course, i am no geneticist, so i have no idea just how diverse is diverse. the book had sanctuary at around a million residents.

heinlein writes about the "revolt of the scientists", in which those who pursue knowledge attempted a coup, which failed. when i wrote up my proposed curriculum, i left off math and science subjects. this was intentional. while math and science have done much for mankind, and mathematical and scientific thought certainly can't hurt decision processes, i think the bare and essential subjects for governing have more to do with man than nature.

said by major reid, "i have never been able to see how a thirty-year-old moron can vote more wisely than a fifteen-year-old genius..." referring of course to governments with age limitations dictating voting rights. which is an interesting point. richard was arguing for voting rights for all, but clearly, even america has no such system. as heinlein lists, we have limitations regarding "age, birth, poll tax, criminal record, or other". (actually, I recall that recently, there was a proposal to remove granting citizenship to births in the US, referring to illegal immigration.) maybe what was meant by richard is that the bar should be set very, very low. is it enough just to be born in america, of the right age, and to have committed no significant crime? is it alright to be a moron but eighteen or older, but not okay to be a genius but seventeen or younger? i know my answer. major reid says, "never mind, they paid for their folly."

here's where there is breakdown, tho. in this very dense, very direct passage (chapter 12), heinlein outlines the basis for this government. it is revealed that it is not because the citizens are smarter, or more disciplined, or a smaller body aware of the consequences of franchise, that the government is successful, but because of voluntary and difficult service that demonstrates that the citizen places the group ahead of the self. well, it can't get more plain than that. i'd like to think that a person aware of history, ethics, and law would be able to recognize what is best for the group, but of course, there is no guarantee that that person would make that decision, even recognizing it. of course, in heinlein's system, i think it'd also be possible to get through without placing the group above the self, particularly in times of peace, but i'd have to admit, it'd be far less likely. and it's this lesson that seems to place service above even delineation from lethargy and apathy.

No comments: