Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Parenthood and Present

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.
Hiro used to feel this way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this was liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken. The crowning touch, the one thing that really puts true world-class badmotherfuckerdom totally out of reach, of course, is the hydrogen bomb. If it wasn't for the hydrogen bomb, a man could still aspire. Maybe find Raven's Achilles' heel. Sneak up, get a drop, slip a mickey, pull a fast one. But Raven's nuclear umbrella kind of puts the world title out of reach.
Which is okay. Sometimes it's all right just to be a little bad. To know your limitations. Make do with what you've got. (Chapter 36, page 271-272)

"Their arguing–the same argument we're having now–was their downfall. The Nipponese caught up with them on a road just outside of Nagasaki... He raised the sword up above my father's head."
"It made a high ringing sound in the air," Raven says, "that hurt my father's ears."
"But it never came down."
"My father saw your father's skeleton kneeling in front of him. That was the last thing he ever saw." (Chapter 66, page 447-448)

tags: America, adversaries, historical context, legacies of war, the nuclear deterrent, parallelism

Seth has addressed the concept around human cpu, and the relation between binary and language in a better way than I could. Instead I will focus on the interactions between Raven and Hiro based on their fathers' shared past as POWs in Japan during World War II and the story they share in their final confrontation in the Metaverse. In many ways Snow Crash is about the conflict between Hiroaki "Hiro Protagonist"  and Dimitri "Raven" Ravinoff. Hiro and Raven are sort of shadow counterparts. Their shared background of mistreatment is integral in understanding the conflict of Snow Crash and what it means to our present.

Hiro straddles the racial boundary for two groups of people who were historically mistreated by the White racial majority of the United States. His father was black, the people who were brought over as slaves and are still mistreated by the bigoted racial supremacist burbclave of New South Africa. His mother was "Korean by way of Nippon" and his choice to identify with his Asian heritage, specifically with the culture of Japan or Nippon, recalls the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. One racially insensitive individual asks him, "Are you a lazy shiftless watermelon-eating black-ass nigger, or a sneaky little v.d.-infected gook?" (301). Hiro is both and neither, he is cross-cultural yet fundamentally American. Even after the fall of the government and its marginalization into the so called Feds that Y.T.'s mom worked for, Hiro functions as a representative of the cultural melting pot that defined the nation that was and still exists in the novel in some form.

In defining Hiro as cross-cultural, Black-Asian, we are really determining what is truly American. The end of the white-dominated culture is looming on the horizon. In fact, according to a recent article from the NY Times the number of multiracial children in the United States grew to 4.2 million according to the U.S. census[1]. The destruction of the U.S. as a metaphysical entity does not impede this metaphor of Hiro as representing a new kind of U.S. citizen. We only have to look at Raven to see that the U.S. still persists in a sense beyond its decimation as a political entity. For Raven lives for getting revenge on America, which he extends to not only a political organization but an entity embodying a set of ideals still present in the fragmented society of burbclaves, franchulates, and Mafia-run pizzerias.

Raven still harbors a grudge for the United States after his father was nuked not once but twice by them. This shapes his self-described "life long ambition," for as he says it "I used to have this plan– I was going to nuke America" (378). And in some ways Hiro and his final confrontation surrounds an attempt to "nuke" the power elite of society– the hackers. He makes this explicit right before Hiro executes him in the Metaverse saying, "[I] Realized my lifelong ambition" (456). Through his attempt to decimate the minds of the elite members of their futuristic society Raven is effectively getting his revenge on all of the forces of oppression that hampered his father and himself. His position as an Aleut harpooner, puts him in the position of an ethnic group that was mistreated and marginalized by colonial desires including having the government text nuclear weapons on their lands. Raven therefore represents a force with a grudge, legitimate yet leading to dangerous ends, against the established power structure of society and utilizes this technology only in so far as to cause the downfall of the whole establishment.

Raven proves to be "the baddest motherfucker in the world" and represents an ideal that Hiro cannot hope to match (271). The physical nuke that Raven carries in his sidecar makes him a literal nuclear power, which proves the deciding factor in their difference, meaning Hiro cannot hope to touch him without activating a city-buster. So instead Hiro attempts to live within his limitations. In so doing he achieves a virtual victory over Raven, while simultaneously stopping him from destroying the new cultural aristocracy by way of a Snow Crash nuke in the Metaverse. Thus it is ironic that this nuke never comes into direct play and the "nuke" he uses on what constitutes America is not one in the real world but instead the Snow Crash bomb.

Though by no means a post-racial society, the fragmented state of the United States of America is by no means a dystopia that deserves ruining by forces such as L. Bob Rife and Raven using the Asherah virus and Snow Crash to decimate and control the population. Hiro defends the right for the remnants of America to do the "four things we do better than anyone else
  • music
  • movies
  • microcode (software)
  • high-speed pizza delivery" (2).


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