“We are Forerunners. Guardians of all that exists. The roots of the Galaxy have grown deep under our careful tending. Where there is life, the wisdom of our countless generations has saturated the soil. Our strength is a luminous sun, towards which all intelligence blossoms… And the impervious shelter, beneath which it has prospered.”

Didactic Mind, Ep 57: The Rods and the Ax

by | Nov 29, 2020 | Podcasts | 7 comments

This week’s podcast episode touches on many subjects, ranging from Robert A. Heinlein’s controversial classic military sci-fi novel, STARSHIP TROOPERS, to the Beer Bug, to the nature of rights and responsibilities. I discuss a lot of different points here:

And yes, I was originally right, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution gave women the right to vote.

I also wrote a few posts on this subject a few years ago that are worth reading. The most important one is about rights and responsibilities, written all the way back in 2013.

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    Another interesting Halo vid. He comes at it from more of a multiplayer perspective, but to me the most damning line is (paraphrasing) “Halo 4 demonstrated that 343 was far more interested in chasing trends than in setting them.”


  2. TechieDude

    After listening to this, I grabbed a copy of Starship Troopers. It’s a great read, and I’m about 10 chapters in.

    Chapter 8 dropped my jaw. The book was published in, what, 1959? and that chapter reads as if they were describing today.


    • Didact

      Ah, yes, the Dillinger execution scene, in which LTC Dubois is explaining the way that society broke down due to lack of order and discipline among the youth.

      Like I said in the podcast – it’s not a sci-fi novel alone. It is actually a 268-page civics lesson condensed into the greatest military sci-fi novel ever written. And that’s not an exaggeration.

      I first read that book when I was, I think, about 13. I didn’t understand it at the time. I read it again nearly 20 years later, and my jaw just hit the floor. It’s simply staggeringly good. I re-read it every 3-5 months because every time I do, I discover some new little nuance to enjoy. By this point I’m capable of quoting passages in it from memory – as I did in the podcast.

      • TechieDude

        I do the same with good books. This one was worth getting the dead tree version, as opposed to kindle. Oddly, they were the same price.

        Now I’m wishing I got hardcover.

        I’ll definitely be reading more of his stuff.

        Years ago, when I was still newly married, my wife busted my chops about buying Tom Clancy books in hard cover instead of paperback.

        I told her I generally read these 3-5 times. It’s worth the dough. And I’ll gladly pony up for authors I like.

        • Didact

          I’ll definitely be reading more of his stuff.

          If you order through Amazog, would you mind using my affiliate links above? They’re all in the post body. I’d appreciate it.

          As far as his other books go – the Juveniles are superb. His collection of short stories, The Green Hills of Earth still stays with me almost 20 years after I first read it. Stranger in a Strange Land is very good, but quite weird because of its strange Gnostic-influenced ideas. I haven’t read Time Enough for Love or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but I hear they are very good. I HAVE read Methuselah’s Children, and that one’s a bit odd as well.

          He was a legendary author, no question about that. He just had some exceptionally strange notions about free love and religion, especially when looked at from a Christian point of view.

  3. JohnC911

    Great Podcast. I actually brought the book to do a podcast on with my old partner and he dropped out.
    I should read the book and do it myself.

    Also the political system in the book sounds a lot like the earliest form of Athenian Democracy before they expanded the franchise to the lower class (at least they still had to fight in wars). Only those that owned a hoplite and property could vote. This is funny that people call his system Fascist when it relates more to the Greek and Roman systems. I guess in the 1950 and onwards in the West anything that treat people differently (class, race or sex) and limit voting to few is Fascist.

    From Wikipedia “Citizenship in Athens[edit]
    Only adult male Athenian citizens who had completed their military training as ephebes had the right to vote in Athens. The percentage of the population that actually participated in the government was 10% to 20% of the total number of inhabitants, but this varied from the fifth to the fourth century BC.[18]”

    Anyway have a good Christmas

    • Didact

      It’s well worth the time spent in reading. It’s only 268 pages long and extremely readable, yet it is deeper and more profound than almost any civics textbook you will ever use.

      The key idea behind it is that people should pay a price in order to vote. This used to be standard human thinking for centuries. As you point out, even the supposedly “unlimited” Athenian democracy was in fact absolutely nothing of the sort. Votes had to be EARNED, which meant that people were at least kind of sort of careful about what kind of stupid nonsense they voted for.

      Today we’ve forgotten that wisdom. Sooner or later we’ll have to go back to it. But we’re going to face some very harsh times before we do.


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