Friday, July 13, 2007

Level and square

Robert Heinlein: his world (in the Fifties).

Eschewing any religious or metaphysical affirmations, Heinlein laid out his social credo: “I believe in my neighbors... in my townspeople... in my fellow citizens.” He went on to write about his local priest, whose “goodness and charity and loving kindness shine in his daily actions. ... If I’m in trouble, I’ll go to him.” (Heinlein was an atheist, by the way.) Heinlein’s next-door neighbor, he tells us, was a veterinarian: “Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat — no fee, no prospect of a fee.”

Heinlein went on to praise the charity and conscientiousness of his fellow citizens: “For the one who says, ‘The heck with you, I've got mine,’ there are a hundred, a thousand, who will say, ‘Sure, pal, sit down.’ I know that despite all warnings against hitchhikers, I can step to the highway, thumb for a ride, and in a few minutes a car or a truck will stop and someone will say, ‘Climb in, Mack. How far you going?’ ... I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.”

Heinlein even had a good word for politicians: “I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman, there are hundreds of politicians — low paid or not paid at all — doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies.

That was more or less my world, too, growing up in 60-70s Australia. Has any of the thousand generations of erect apes had it better?

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