Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Quotation Of The Day

Mr Dubois never seemd to care whether he got through to us or not. He would just point at you with the stump of his left arm (he never bothered with names) and snap a question. Then the argument would start.
But on the last day he seemed to be trying to find out what we'd learned. One girl told him bluntly: "My mother says that violence never settles anything."
"So?" Mr Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that. Why doesn't you mother tell them that. Or why don't you?"
They had tangled before - since you couldn't flunk the course, it wasn't necessary to keep Mr Dubois buttered up. She said shrilly, "You're making fun of me! Everybody knows that Cathage was destroyed!"
"You seemed to be unaware of it," he said grimly. "Since you do know it, wouldn't you say that violence had settled their destinies rather thoroughly? However, I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea - a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue - and thoroughly immoral - doctrine that 'violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."

- Starship Troopers

8 Comments:

Blogger J. said...

hooah! What a great book. So what generated the need to post this great section? Surely you must have a point...

10:10 AM  
Blogger Anthony said...

Just felt a sudden urge to recreate the atmosphere of one of my Contemporary Security Issues seminars. ;)

10:43 AM  
Anonymous D.F.F. said...

I enjoyed the book, but I wonder why Carthage is so often invoked in these situations? Sure, the Carthaginians lost the Punic Wars and the city was destroyed in 146 B.C. But I suppose that you could use it as a poster child for the 'events are the foam floating on the tides of history' view. The site was ultimately too good to abandon, so eventually Carthage was rebuilt, to tempt Augustine with its "unholy loves." An annaliste might claim that to the local peasantry it didn't make a lot of difference in the long run that Carthage was temporarily destroyed. I suspect that the prominence of Carthage in these discussions stems from the idea that the Romans sowed its site with salt to prevent it from being reused. A nice story, but it's actually an 19th century invention--and totally untrue.
Also, the talk of 'breeds' has to make a person a bit nervous.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Anthony said...

It does and of course there has been much debate surrounding Heinlein's politics and whether or not Starship Troopers is to all intents and purpose some sort of curious fascist manifesto, though I believe it was actually intended to take a stand against the early anti-nuclear movement.

That said, dubious references to "breeds" aside, I consider the passage in question to be as elegant a statement of certain classical realist principles as one is likely to encounter.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous John Shepherd said...

Anthony,

Most of the ‘debate’ about Robert Heinlein’s politics has centered around a few passages in _Starship Troopers_, and has – for the most part – ignored the rest of his work (over 40 books and a large number of short stories). A consideration of the whole of his writing yields the impression of a man who believed strongly in individual responsibility and the power of concerted action by like-minded individuals. Far from being a “fascist”, Heinlein expressed a distrust of government in general (regardless of its form), and especially of governmental attempts to “do good” through programs not founded on an understanding of human nature.

For several commentaries on Heinlein’s work, see http://www.heinleinsociety.org/ . The Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein) has a good section on Heinlein’s politics.

8:37 AM  
Blogger aeoliano said...

"Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."

Hmmm, not true. I think Nature is still the force to be reckoned with.. even over violence rendered by men against men. As my first point of evidence I produce the effect of the ice ages. They succeeded in winnowing out many less hardy species and likely had some effect on producing civilization after the last occurrence. There are volcanic eruptions, earth quakes, floods (new evidence seems to show that the Black Sea was once a fresh water lake! Many different tribes and cultures lived on its shores and still do today in places like Georgia etc. ) and in the distant past, asteroid strikes which are now considered extinction level events.

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

7:44 AM  
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10:45 AM  

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