September 07, 2005

Generalists vs. Specialists Meme

JohnL over at TexasBestGrok tags me with a meme based on the writings of Robert Heinlein (who I've never read) to see if I am worthy of inclusion in the Human Race or whether, as several ex-girlfriends would argue, I am a mere insect. (I'm more familiar with the specialist/generalist distinction via the epigram of the hedgehog and the fox.)

First, the original Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Now the task - Bold the ones I've done:

- Change a diaper - Their name is Legion. And I never got used to it.
- Plan an invasion - Age of Empires II. British longbows rule, baybee!
- Butcher a hog - No, but I've field-dressed deer.
- Conn a ship - My dad insisted that I learn to drive the boat and navigate when I was a small kid so that, in the event something happened to him when we were out in Matagorda Bay fishing, I could get us back to port.
- Design a building - Never tried.
- Write a sonnet - A Brit-Lit major won't get you a cup of coffee, but it will impart this particular skill.
- Balance accounts - In the sense that a lumberjack balances on a rolling log floating in a river.
- Build a wall - I did some serious field-stone work at our old house. Not long ago, we noticed it was for sale again and that the ad boasted of the "professional landscaping". Heh.
- Set a bone - Never had to, thankfully.
- Comfort the dying - Never had to, thankfully.
-Take orders - I am married, after all.
-Give orders - Give? Sure. That's easy. The tricky part is seeing them executed.
- Act alone - Whenever I get the opportunity.
- Solve equations - If the nearest rest-stop is twenty miles away and you're travelling at 80 mph, will you be able to make it before your three year old pees in her undies?
- Analyze a new problem - But....HOW did your hair clip get in the toaster?
- Pitch manure - Res ipsa loquitur.
- Program a computer - When the machines rise up, I will be among the first of their victims simply because I'll waste time looking for the on/off switch.
- Cook a tasty meal
- Fight efficiently - Well, I've no military experience. But battles are fought in many more places than just battlefields.
- Die gallantly - I'd like to think that I would if ever put to it. On the whole, though, I'd prefer just to drift away quietly in my bed.

I won't tag anybody by name, but if you want to run with this one, feel free to do so. (And you know who you are.)

Posted by Robert at September 7, 2005 10:10 AM | TrackBack

Solve Equations:
You, sir, are a mathmatical wizzard (unless, of course, you experienced failure in your calculations).
Want to enter the big league? Try performing the same calculations during a traffic jam going through one of many construction sites on the Long Island expressway.
Super sekrit message: hope you have a cup or some suitable vessle on board...
Been there, done that.

Posted by: babs at September 7, 2005 02:39 PM

Mmmm....LIE construction.....Right there with you!

We always carry one of those little plastic mini-potties and there is almost invariably violent disagreement between self and the Missus over when it is time to accept the ultimate humiliation of pulling over and having the child use it, as thousands of cars stream by. My usual position is, "Never!" Hers is generally, "Would you please stop acting like such a baby?"

Posted by: Robbo the LB at September 7, 2005 04:11 PM

design a building. Does that include a doghouse? Not that I have, mind you, but that's not so difficult, such as designing the Empire State Building.
Solve equations. 1 + 1 = um, give me a minute here.

Posted by: rbj at September 7, 2005 04:30 PM

Did I read that correctly? Never read Heinlein? So I'm guessing not the late, posthumously recovered full version of Stranger in a Strange Land? I'll dig it out and loan it to you. Meanwhile, pick up Friday, one of the wittiest, most subtly pointed works on the human condition.* You'll even get the dates/passcodes joke.

Why Starship Troopers was made into a comic-novella film blanc, instead of Friday making the big screen, I will never know. Maybe Verhoeven never read it. But then I doubt he read Starship Troopers either.

Posted by: tee bee at September 9, 2005 09:23 AM

Did the original Starship Troopers carry the premis that only those who served in the military could be citizens? I've been mulling that idea in light of all the "chickenhawk" nonsense that's been being thrown around of late. Feel free to make of it what you will.

Posted by: Robbo the LB at September 9, 2005 10:36 AM

Yes, that was Starship Troopers, though I can't remember what the benefits were for citizenship. What benefits would you confer? Would you offer alternate service for those not fit (due to something beyond their control, i.e. colorblind or flat-footed)?

Posted by: tee bee at September 9, 2005 11:47 AM

PS You sidestepped the main question. Will you be picking up SIASL, or do you need to add a wish list? I'm sure Bill would send it in wrapping with pink hearts and black daggers.

Posted by: tee bee at September 9, 2005 11:51 AM

Oh, it's not me. I was just musing on the concept floating about the moonbat caves recently that only the opinions of those with military experience have any value in terms of praising or criticizing military policy.

If that is the case, then logically only those with such experience should be allowed to vote, either on such policies directly in referendum form or on the election of officials to determine such policy. Also under such reasoning, only those with military experience should be qualified to hold such policy-making power. In other words, citizenship should be defined as conveying the right to take part in the political process, and only those with military experience are qualified for citizenship.

I gather that this is the system Heinlein had in mind in Starship Troopers - it bears a striking relationship to the Ancient Greek concept of citizenship, by the way. But somehow I sense that the moonbats would shriek bloody murder if you suggested that this is what they're really arguing for.

What would Heinlein do with those who couldn't make the cut? Was he a Darwinist in this regard? Or would he expect the State to take care of such people even while limiting their right to participate in it? (You have to remember that the only things I remember from the movie were the communal shower and Doogie Howzer.)

Posted by: Robbo the LB at September 9, 2005 12:08 PM

I don't remember the exact political dichotomization from Starship Troopers, but Heinlein struck me as someone who enjoyed operating in the background, pulling strings where necessary, but enjoying the predictable flailing of the "average" person/politician. I think, if it were left solely up the RAH, he wouldn't change a thing. You won't see that explicated by any narrator in his books, though a number of his favored characters relied on this ploy.

Posted by: tee bee at September 9, 2005 03:52 PM
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