Doherty talks about two of my favorit Heilein books, Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land, and how it is hard to imagine that the same mind would create those two books or how the books share a common central theme.
This one-two punch of curious, powerful novels seems to indicate two opposing strains of thought. But to Heinlein, these dueling visions-a world of sinister alien bugs fought off by powerfully disciplined soldiers, and a beatific Man from Mars teaching humanity how to love freely-had the same message, as he once wrote to his fellow S.F. writer Alfred Bester: "That a man, to be truly human, must be unhesitatingly willing at all times to lay down his life for his fellow man. Both [novels] are based on the twin concepts of love and duty-and how they are related to the survival of our race." (empahsis added)In many ways, I find myself in agreement with much of Heinlein's philosophy. Interestingly enough, I didn't pick up Heinlein until my own stint in the military. I read Starship Troopers at the suggestion of one of the officers in my unit who thought I might like the story. Turns out, while the story is fun and engaging on the surface as a coming of age story, the philosophy underlying the story intrigued me more.
My own thoughts on government, the military and society had been evolving more or less on their own and to a large extent, independently of my parents and friends. I did learn from my family I learned of the value of military service, not because of the intrinsic value of the personal discipline of the military or the team work aspects, but that the military is the bulwark against chaos that made life in America possible. Although my father and his family lived in a time of the draft (a truly anti-Heinlein principle), most volunteered for service--albeit reluctantly in my father's post-college-prank-gone-awry case. But a part of my also rebelled against the self-imposed constraints society placed on life outside of the military. The military has to be disciplined and controlled, but the rest of society, if truly free, has to also be free of governmental rules and of societal norms. In this respect, I had problems with my family and friends. I never understood how a free society can restrict itself so much.
I don't have, although I aspire to, Heinlein's flair for the written word. There are matters upon which Heinlein and I would no doubt disagree (economic matters for one), but there is one thing upon which I know we agree and I am happy that we do. It does not take a special person to realize that there are things more important than one's own self interest, whether it be family, friends, community, country or species. What makes a person special is the ability to place those other things before themselves. Whether it is Johnnie Rico and the Mobile Infantry of Starship Troopers fighting and dying to protect their home or Valentine Michael Smith of Stranger in a Strange Land sacrificing himself to help people understand love, we must accept a truth that love and duty are not two separate concpets, but opposite sides of the same coin.