Betty political essays such as Lao-tzu’s The Tao-te
Betty nguyen December 2nd, 2009 The philosophy of “The Sirens of Titan” Although The Sirens of Titan is a non-fiction book, it points out several of philosophies about life.
The Sirens of Titan follows Malachi Constant, the richest and luckiest man in the 22nd century, whose bizarre and random journeys take him from Earth to Mars to Mercury, and finally to the Saturn moon of Titan, where he learns a painful and absurd truth about the history of humanity. In the book, Kurt Vonnegut employs characters’ lives to reflect his idea about a balance of humanism and existentialism that helps people create their own meaning of life.His book is a complex system of ideas and philosophies which relates to that in some political essays such as Lao-tzu’s The Tao-te Ching, Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Qualities of the Prince,” Jean-Jacques Rouseau’s “The Origin of Civil Society,” Thomas Jefferson’s “The Declaration of Independence,” and Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”. In The Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut has some points of view about war and leadership that are similar to Lao-tzu’s philosophy in The Tao-te Ching.
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In the work, Rumfoord is built as a symbol of a leadership.He is considered as the “mastermind” of the Martian war and his attention is that “Mars should lose the war” (176). He questions the reasons why the Martian soldiers should be beaten.
Vonnegut’s philosophy explains “ Any man who would change the world in a significant way must have showmanship, a genial willingness to shed other people’s blood, and a plausible new religion to introduce during the brief period of repentance and horror that usually follows bloodshed” (176). This philosophy is the similar to Lao-tzu’s. According to Lao-tzu, people must possess a morality even when they are in fight.He states, “ people enter a battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if they are attending a funeral” (27). However, the Martian army is a group of unconscious and heartless soldiers. Because the soldiers’ memories are wiped out, they have no memories, friends, and families. In other words, they have no conscience or emotion.
For example, when Unk passes out from the pain, the other soldiers seem “unsurprised, unsympathetic” (112). They consider that Unk deserves what he gets because he has done something “stupid and unsoldierly”.In “ Civil Disobedience,” Thoureau condemns this kind of army also because he insists that the conscience plays a prominent role in government as well as in life. Only conscience helps people decide whether it is right or not. In his essay, Thoureau says, “ The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies” (Thoureau, 179).
Accordingly, three great authors conclude that the government with that kind of army has to fail because that government is constituted by a group of heartless, unemotional, and unconscious people.The ending of Martian society is suitable to Rousseau’s and Jefferson’s philosophy. Rousseau states, “ As soon as a mob has become united into a body politic, any attack upon one of its members is an attack upon itself” (69).
The society exists if only the fundamental rights of the people are protected, and humanism and existentialism for a meaningful life are balanced. However, the Martians do not get that. Bee is sent to the hospital “after showing her supervisor her sonnet” (153). Unk gets “a tiny warning pain” when he “hesitate for just a second” (102) before he kills his best friend.
On Mars, emotion of human is destroyed; the people get into trouble because of their good behaviors. Consequently, the war between Martian and Earthling people fail; and the Martian society ends. The failure of the Martians is the spirit of Jefferson’s “The Declaration of Independence” also. The spirit is that if the law is not just no longer, the government must be overthrown. Jefferson states, “It is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government” (80).
The Martian Government wants to control a soldier’s memory so much.They consider their soldiers as tools to get their private purpose that is the victory of the war. They do not care about the rights of the soldiers. The Government lays his “Might” on the people; whereas, “Might does not create Right” (Rouseau, 62). Humanism and existentialism are not balanced, which leads to a failure of the Martian Government. The philosophy about “Luck” and “God” in The Sirens of Titan compares with that in Machiavelli’s “The Qualities of the Prince” and Lao-tzu’s The Tao-te Ching.
According to Vonnegut, luck is random, and therefore life is random.He says, “Luck” “ is not the hand of God,” it “is the way the wind swirls and the dust settles eons after God has passed by” (257). Rumfoord can see the past, the present, and the future, but he cannot read Salo’s message.
Rumfoord can lead other’s life, but he cannot even keep his friend Kazard beside him. Malachi is considered is a luckiest man in the world, but he cannot protect his family from Martian people. It is obvious that God does not exist, because if there is God, Rumfoord can protect himself from aliens. Rumfoord says, “he has been powerfully influenced by forces emanating from the planet Tralfamadore” (293).
Lao-tzu discusses this issue in “The Tao-te Ching” also. Lao-tzu agrees with Vonnegut that a man cannot have total control, that everything runs its course, and that “the universe is forever out of control” (26). However, Malachiavelli’s philosophy contrasts Vonnegut’s and Lao-tzu’s. He contends that people can have total control if they train themselves.
He does not believe in luck and contends that the prince can have total control if the prince has his own tactics such as training his mind for war, deciding to be loved or to be feared by soldiers, or avoiding being despised and hated by soldiers.Although Vonnegut considers that luck is not something that people can create, he insists that people can make their own meaning of life without luck. Boaz finally decides to live in Mercury for good because he finds his own meaning of life there with harmoniums.
Boaz says, “He finds him a place where he can do good without any harm, and he sees he is doing good, and them he is doing good for know he is doing it, and they love him, Unk, as best they can. He find a home” (Vonnegut, 217).Malachi and Beatrice are the same with Boaz, although they are exiled from their native Earth, in Titan, they finally discover that love is the “purpose” in life. Existentialism is a philosophy in which the individual struggles to create meaning through his free will in a meaningless and chaotic world. Humanism is the “purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved” (Vonnegut, 320).
That is all ideas and philosophies of The Siren of Titan.