First Response!

So here it is, my very first reading response for my very first lit class!

While I was reading Starship Troopers over the weekend, I found that I was rather surprised with the parallels between the Bugs and the people of the Terran Federation. There seemed to be this common need to put the needs of the group in general before the needs of the individual. This in turn, I found a bit strange because I was under the impression that Heinlein was opposed to communism which is almost what he was advocating. Anyway, there were two parallels in particular that caught my attention.

The first parallel has to do with citizenship. To earn it, a person has to put in their two or more years of federal service, in the military or otherwise, and only then are they entitled to vote. According to Colonel Dubois, "citizenship is…an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part" (163). Rather than the importance of the individual within society, it is the society, or at least a larger group than just the individual, that matters. This is, apparently, even mathematically provable according to Juan's History and Moral Philosophy class. "All correct… moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level -- as in a father who dies to save his children" he says (185). The greater good being more important than that of the individual seems to be true of the Bugs as well, although they don't ever question these actions. Certain castes are simply destined to carryout whatever actions they are delegated. They are, in essence, programmed to die so that their race can survive. Interestingly, in both instances the behavior stems from instinct despite the two races being quite different.

This also leads me to think about the instance in which Juan determines that it is worth going to war to save just one man. This seems to counter the previous belief as here a greater group is worth sacrificing just to save one man who "may not deserve it … [or] may die in the meantime" because "thousands of people get killed every day in accidents" (178). I suppose this has to do with the military belief that no man should be left behind, but the fact that it opposes what has been established as human instinct strikes me as rather interesting.

A second comparison between MIs and Bug society is to do with the hierarchy established by each. It almost seems at times that the ideal MIs structure is close to that of the Bugs. The people at the bottom have their orders and are expected to carry them out, if not, they run the chance of suffering the same fate as the Third Lieutenant who fought in the Napoleonic Wars, who "was tried for `deserting his post of duty as commanding officer in the presence of the enemy.' Convicted. Cashiered" even though he had been trying to save his commanding officer (194). The worker Bugs on the other hand are "hardly more than animate machinery" and cannot disobey and warriors are "are almost as stupid without a director as workers" (194). What the MIs strive for is what the Bugs are born with although both have an instinct to place the needs of many above the needs of few.

I think what Heinlein is doing is using the Bugs to demonstrate what he doesn't mean. Many writers promoting a philosophical outlook through a scifi or fantasy setting make their villains the antithesis of what they believe (Terry Goodkind & China Mieville being obvious examples on opposite ends of the political spectrum); Heinlein rather than doing this uses his villains... or antagonistic force to better clarify his position by presenting the extreme or failure of his position. The hive mind is used to demonstrate that while a military whole is important, the individual in that whole is what makes it work. He's using them to show what his militarism isn't (endless faceless nameless will-less units obeying the central direction of a hidden command force).

That said, did anyone else find the usage of "exoskeletons" by the Terran Federation ironic in the same way though? It's another way of becoming more "buglike" in a symbolic sense.

An engaging and thorough first response. Thanks!