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Monday, December 17, 2007

R.A. Heinlein on "This I Believe"

The cynic in me wants to call Robert Heinlein a sucker for Our Noble, Essential Decency, an essay written and recorded for This I Believe in the 1950s...but I know that Heinlein was no sucker. I'd like to believe in the decency of the majority of humankind. I don't, but I'd like to. Go read the essay or click play on the player below to listen to Heinlein read it.

Thanks for the heads-up, Andrew.


X said...

I think he's actually right. We're far from perfect, but if we were truly depraved we'd have killed ourselves off a long time ago.

We still have a long way to go as a species, but despite all the hand-wringing, I think that more people in the world are freer and more prosperous than ever before.

David said...

Hmm. There's still time to kill ourselves off, however.

I dunno'. When it comes to humanity as a species, I guess I feel like the jury is perpetually out.

r_b_bergstrom said...


Hard to picture Heinlein saying all this about essential decency, considering how fascist his politics are elsewhere. The political moral of Starship Troopers seems to be "only veterans deserve to be citizens", after all. So he hardly seems naive or liberal.

Sad to think then that perhaps he honestly lived in such a caring world - one where you really could knock on a random door and get food from strangers. If that's true, what did we lose, and how did it go?

How would I react today if a random stranger knocked on my door and asked for bread? Not so well as Heinlein did, I fear.

David said...

Rolfe, I have to emphatically disagree with your description of "only veterans deserve to be citizens" as the political moral of Starship Troopers.

Yes, the story involves a society where only veterans have voting rights. However, the story also features really cool exosuits. It can't, however, be said that the book advocates the building of military exosuits for waging war with aliens.

I remember reading that Heinlein said Starship Troopers started as an attempt to explain to people who had never been in the military why chain of command and unthinking obedience to orders in the chain of command was important, and why democracies need militaries.

I also object to your characterization of Heinlein as a fascist. I'd really be fascinated to know from where you draw this idea, given how incredibly libertarian Heinlein's stated political views appear to be.

I don't agree with all of Heinlein's views, but calling him a fascist is a pretty big stretch.

X said...

"When it comes to humanity as a species, I guess I feel like the jury is perpetually out."

I suppose that's why it's not called "This I Know."

David said...