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Heinlein Behaving Bizarrely: Quotes from Stranger in a Strange Land

Robert Heinlein belongs on the Mount Rushmore of science fiction writers. (For kicks, Asimov and Clarke join Heinlein--the huge Big Three--with vigorous debates about the fourth. Eric C says Gibson or Le Guin rounds out the quartet; I say Orson Scott Card.) But as far as quotes go, he’s a one trick pony. And that trick is Starship Troopers. In the last year, we have run quotes from both the book and the movie based on that book.

These quotes heavily influence conservative thinking on war. Unfortunately, his other masterpiece, Stranger in a Strange Land, doesn’t get quoted nearly so often. So for a little fun, I have chosen a handful of quotes from his influential masterpiece that show quite a different view of the world.

     “Secrecy begets tyranny.”

     “It would be a waste of breath to tell a man who believes in guns that you've got something better.”

      “A prude is a person who thinks that his own rules of propriety are natural laws.”

And now two scenes at the heart of the book:

      "’This poor ersatz Martian is saying that sex is a way to be happy. Sex should be a means of happiness. Ben, the worst thing about sex is that we use it to hurt each other. It ought never to hurt; it should bring happiness, or at least pleasure.
     "’The code says, 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.' The result? Reluctant chastity, bitterness, blows and sometimes murder, broken homes and twisted children — and furtive little passes degrading to woman and man. Is this Commandment ever obeyed? If a man swore on his own Bible that he refrained from coveting his neighbor's wife because the code forbade it, I would suspect either self-deception or subnormal sexuality. Any man virile enough to sire a child has coveted many women, whether he acts or not.
      "’Now comes Mike and says: 'There is no need to covet my wife... love her! There's no limit to her love, we have everything to gain — and nothing to lose but fear and guilt and hatred and jealousy.' The proposition is incredible. So far as I recall only pre-civilization Eskimos were this naive — and they were so isolated that they were almost 'Men from Mars' themselves. But we gave them our 'virtues' and now they have chastity and adultery just like the rest of us.’"

     "’Eskimos were invariably described as the happiest people on Earth. Any unhappiness they suffered was not through jealousy; they didn't have a word for it. They borrowed spouses for convenience and fun — it did not make them unhappy. So who's looney? Look at this glum world around you, then tell me: Did Mike's disciples seem happier, or unhappier, than other people?’
     "’I didn't talk to them all, Jubal. But — yes, they're happy. So happy they seem’slap-happy. There's a catch in it somewhere.’
     "’Maybe you were the catch.’"

Yeah, a lot of people take Heinlein at his novelistic word when it comes to a Machiavellian/real politic/”war is war” vision of violence. But hardly anyone ever mentions his crazy free-love-sex-for-all utopia.

A shame.