Book: Space Cadet by Robert A. Heinlein (1948)
After reading a handful of Heinlein novels, I’ve come to view him as a realist when it comes to human behavior. But his optimistic side is also quite apparent, not just with the idea that humans can make it into space and travel all over the solar system and galaxy, but also the way he organizes his future societies.
The “Interplanetary Patrol” in this book is a military organization that keeps the peace, partly with the threat of being the only organization that wields nuclear power (called atomic power by Heinlein). But the Patrol’s ultimate goal is to protect the inhabitants of the solar system (humans have colonized planets and aliens inhabit some of them also), and they take their jobs seriously. This is the oath they take:
“Of my own free will, without reservation –
I swear to uphold the peace of the solar system –
to protect the lawful liberties of its inhabitants –
to defend the constitution of the Solar Federation –
to carry out the duties of the position to which I am now appointed –
and to obey the lawful orders of my superior officers.
To these ends I subordinate all other loyalties and renounce utterly any that may conflict with them.”
Heinlein also describes how people who go into the “Patrol” have a higher purpose than marines or money-seeking individuals. Marines value loyalty and obedience, while the Patrol goes to great lengths to keep the peace, using negotiation over brute force and not sending troops until all else has been exhausted.
It’s nice to think that humans would not immediately send troops into a skirmish on Venus, that they would have rules to reign in their own violent tendencies, but it’s hard to fathom in light of all the violence in the world today. I’m all for Heinlein’s optimism though. Great fun read for young adults as well as for those who are not so young like me. 🙂