Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: A Discourse

One female (most were men, but women made up for it in silliness) had a long list she wanted made permanent laws -- about private matters. No more plural marriage of any sort. No divorces. No "fornication" -- had to look that one up. No drinks stronger than 4% beer. Church services only on Saturdays and all else to stop that day. (Air and temperature and pressure engineering, lady? Phones and capsules?) A long list of drugs to be prohibited and a shorter list dispensed only by licensed physicians...she even wanted to make gambling illegal...

Thing that got me was not her list of things she hated, since she was obviously crazy as a Cyborg, but fact that always somebody agreed with her prohibitions. Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws -- always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: "Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop." Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them "for their own good" -- not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.

Robert Heinlein, I frakking love you (except when I don't).

This -- this -- is honest. This, is Science Fiction making timeless social commentary. This paragraph is relevant today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

Unfortunately, it is also an example of Heinlein's sexism. Though there are strong female characters, they are often (but not always) exceptionalized in a condescending sort of way, silly or not as smart as someone else (usually a man), etc; I guess it's kind of a mixed message, but the silly adjectives happened often enough to be rather annoying.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is about the lunar colonies becoming independent from earth. There are some interesting characters (a sentient computer named Mike, for example) and some interesting ideas on political themes.

Which, really, was the only downside with the story as far as I could see -- sometimes it was heavily political (to the point that it didn't seem like the characters) and sometimes I lost interest (I know, I'm working on being less shallow, more deep when it comes to politics -- wip).

Despite that, though, there were some really interesting ideas about politics that I found fascinating:

[when a politician asked how the newly formed government was to pay for itself since involuntary taxation was out of the question] Goodness me, sir, that's your problem. I can think of several ways. Voluntary contributions just as churches support themselves...government-sponsored lotteries to which no one need subscribe...or perhaps you Congressmen should dig into your own pouches and pay for whatever is needed; that would be one way to keep government down in size to its indispensable functions whatever they may be. If indeed there are any. I would be satisfied to have the Golden Rule be the only law; I see no need for any other, nor for any method of enforcing it. But if you really believe that your neighbors must have laws for their own good, why shouldn't you pay for it? Comrades, I beg you -- do not resort to compulsory taxation. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."

Legislation for someone else's own good. Doesn't that sound familiar?

The sentiment is later emphasized when the narrator, Manuel, is arrested on earth because of the different marriage practices on the moon (polygamy, interracial -- not same-sex that I noticed but coming from Heinlein not surprising).

This raises another essence of Science Fiction which I have overlooked:

Science Fiction is very big on individuality. Some of the most common and dangerous enemies are those entities that take away a person's individuality whether it be shoulder humping parasites (The Puppet Masters by Heinlein and others), the Borg (Star Trek), or government (Moon is a Harsh Mistress).

Our individuality is the most precious thing we own. It should never be taken away.

Also, all quotes from Moon is a Harsh Mistress of course.

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