"We've got two kinds of language in our heads. The kind we're using now is acquired. It patterns our brains as we're learning it. But there's also a tongue that's based in the deep structures of the brain, that everyone shares." (56.5)
The way Hiro explains it, we've all got the same linguistic structures in our brains as the rest of humanity, like it or not. And this might not be so bad, except that our unconscious brain language can be used against us. Which is the premise of the book in a nutshell. Whoopee.
Just ask the businessmen in the Nipponese quadrant…They more or less ignore what is being said—a lot gets lost in translation, after all. They pay attention to the facial expressions and body language of the people they are talking to. (8.4)
Communication is more than just words—it encompasses body language, facial expressions, and all that good stuff. Words may lie, but bodies have a harder time of it. That's the premise, anyway, behind Juanita's facial expression software. Which makes a ton of money, so it must be good.
"Anyway, you're saying that when God got angry and came down on them, the tower itself wasn't affected. But they had to stop building the tower because of an informational disaster—they couldn't talk to each other." (13.50)
The Biblical fall of the tower of Babel turns out to be more complex than most people think. The real issue wasn't knocking down a tower; it was taking away people's ability to communicate while building it.
"You can't even rez what Y.T. says," Y.T. says. (6.21)
It's true, the MetaCops Y.T. is talking to are too meat-headed to keep up with her verbal acrobatics, let alone catch all her slang. Speaking like a street punk doesn't automatically make you stupid.
"The belief in the magical power of language is not unusual, both in mystical and academic literature. The Kabbalists—Jewish mystics of Spain and Palestine—believed that super-normal insight and power could be derived from properly combining the letters of the Divine Name." (36.21)
If language is believed to have magical power, we shouldn't be too surprised that both glossolalia and programming languages are ways to hack people's brains in this book. Want to study stuff like this in college? A rhetoric degree just might be the thing for you.
"Babel led to an explosion in the number of languages. That was part of Enki's plan. Monocultures, like a field of corn, are susceptible to infections, but genetically diverse cultures, like a prairie, are extremely robust." (56.36)
According to Hiro's interpretation of history, Babel was an event planned by Enki (not God, as the Bible has it) in order to make humans more resistant to linguistic viruses. If the current linguistic diversity of the world is any indication, mission accomplished. Except that Snow Crash was manufactured to have a physical vector of transmission, too. Er. Not so good.
"If one's native tongue influences the physical structure of the developing brain, then it is fair to say that the Sumerians—who spoke a language radically different from anything in existence today—had fundamentally different brains from yours. Lagos believed that for this reason, Sumerian was a language ideally suited to the creation and propagation of viruses." (36.66)
It's starting to look more and more like Babel, or Enki's nam-shub, or whatever caused people to speak different languages, was a good thing for the human race. Unless you, like Rife, want a population that is easily infected and controlled. It's just like a monoculture in terms of crops, though: If all your plants are exactly the same, and a virus comes through and decimates them, you'll starve. Check out the Irish Potato Famine if you don't trust us.
"The Sumerian word for 'mind,' or 'wisdom,' is identical to the word for 'ear.' That's all these people were: ears with bodies attached. Passive receivers of information." (56.23)
Ancient Sumerian culture sounds just swell, doesn't it? No free will, just the ability to pass on information and carry out orders. Isn't is great that Rife wants to return contemporary culture to that state of existence?
Can't understand a fucking word. You could buy tapes, learn-while-you-drive, and learn to speak Taxilinga… They said it was based on English, but not one word in a hundred was recognizable. (2.2)
Linguists are always whining about languages dying out. Well, Snow Crash is here to deliver the great news: there are new languages evolving in the future. Including Taxilinga, the language of taxi-drivers. Too bad it's so hard for non-speakers to grasp.
"The Church was willing to accept a little xenoglossia if it helped convert heathens, as in the case of St. Louis Bertrand who converted thousands of Indians in the sixteenth century, spreading glossolalia across the continent faster than smallpox. But as soon as they were converted, those Indians were supposed to shut up and speak Latin like everyone else." (56.43)
Language can be dangerous when it gets out of control. The Church tried to utilize glossolalia to gain converts, but they wanted to rein it back in when that goal was accomplished. But as we saw throughout the book, sometimes you can't control language or ideas once they've been unleashed. And that's a pretty scary thought.
Abkhazia had been part of the Soviet fucking Union. A new immigrant from Abkhazia trying to operate a microwave was like a deep-sea tube worm doing brain surgery. Where did they get these guys? Weren't there any Americans who could bake a fucking pizza? (1.42)
This is a typical American strategy: delegating the grunt work to the lowest man on the totem pole, typically immigrants. Here we see that it doesn't always work so well, since one of the Abkhazians started a microwave fire that caused Hiro to receive the Delayed Pizza of Doom.
"I wasn't really happy when I was a hacker. I never thought about the important things. God. Heaven. The things of the spirit. It's hard to think about those things in America. You just put them aside. But those are the really important things—not programming computers or making money." (34.50)
So sayeth the brain-dead hacker chick Y.T. interviews in the Falabala camp of Griffith Park. She's got a point, that life in America encourages materialistic pursuits and thoughts—but how seriously should we take her obsession with her new religion, given that they had to burn out her brain to convert her?
And the Feds are real serious about duty. Duty, loyalty, responsibility. The collagen that binds us into the United States of America. (37.3)
This makes it sound like a lot of fun to work for the Feds. Are Americans really so dull when it comes down to it?
It's young Studley, the teenaged boy, who like every other boy in this Burbclave has been taking intravenous shots of horse testosterone in the high school locker room since he was fourteen years old. Now he's bulky, stupid, thoroughly predictable. (4.15)
If you think America's got a drug problem now, just wait until you see future America. The drugs of the future will be more pervasive and scarier than anything we can dream up now. Start 'em young and you'll have 'em hooked for life.
Getting into Fedland is a drag…She has to sign a ten-page document—and they actually make her read it…Basically, it just certifies that Y.T. is not a terrorist, Communist (whatever that is), homosexual, national-symbol desecrator, pornography merchant, welfare parasite, racially insensitive, carrier of any infectious disease, or advocate of any ideology tending to impugn traditional family values. (41.26-30)
Good job, America—you're on your way to bureaucratizing yourself out of existence. Plus, if you don't deal with undesirables like racially insensitive folks, guess what? They're going to start their own enclaves and continue to be racially insensitive. Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good if you're going to be realistic about your interactions with the world.
"No surprises" is the motto of the franchise ghetto […]
The people of America, who live in the world's most surprising and terrible country, take comfort in that motto. Follow the loglo outward, to where the growth is enfolded into valleys and canyons, and you find the land of the refugees. They have fled from the true America, the America of atomic bombs, scalpings, hip-hop, chaos theory, cement overshoes, snake handlers, spree killers, space walks, buffalo jumps, drive-bys, cruise missiles, Sherman's March, gridlock, motorcycle gangs, and bungee jumping. (24.73-74)
So basically, most Americans checked out from reality and enclosed themselves in reliably mediocre franchises in order to escape from the horrible weirdness that America has become. The suburbs have become a refuge from both the past (because America's history is checkered with atrocities that no one really wants to think about) and the present (same deal).
For a fee, you can drive into a Snooze 'n' Cruise franchise and umbilical your bago. The magic words are "We Have Pull-Thrus," which means you can enter the franchise, hook up, sleep, unhook, and drive out without ever having to shift your land zeppelin into reverse. (39.5)
This, friends, is truly the American way: total mobility, the freedom to range throughout this entire glorious country… and never having to put your trailer into reverse. Can we get fries with that?
Hiro is bulletproof up to his neck, but that just means the New South Africans will be going for a head shot. And they pride themselves on marksmanship. It is a fetish with them. (40.11)
The racist whites of America now mostly belong to franchises like New South Africa, where they can glory in their guns and their whiteness. What better place to set up a cult of the marksmanship fetish?
But there are worse places to live. There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It […] slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s when Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets. (3.2)
We must be living pretty sweet lives in real-time America if we're using storage units for their intended purposes rather than for housing. Lucky us.
"Well, the function of the Raft is to bring more biomass. To renew America. Most countries are static, all they need to do is keep having babies. But America's like this big old clanking, smoking machine that just lumbers across the landscape scooping up and eating everything in sight. Leaves behind a trail of garbage a mile wide. Always needs more fuel." (14.61)
To hear Rife talking about his idea of America, well, it's no wonder he came up with a plan to dominate the human race. He makes America sound like a mobile trash-compactor, with humans as the trash.
Hiro picks up the goggles. As he brings them up toward his eyes, he sees the image: a wall of black-and-white static. Da5id's computer has snow-crashed.
He closes his eyes and drops the goggles. You can't get hurt by looking at a bitmap. Or can you? (24.67-68)
The technology used to create—to write software, to code the Metaverse—can also be used to harm. Much like a sword, it seems that technology is always double-edged. Also, stuff you thought was safe? Totally isn't. We sure don't have anything that falls in that category today (cell phones, airport scanners, cars).
"You're a dead man," Rife shouts. "You're stuck on the Raft, asshole. I got a million Myrmidons here. You gonna kill 'em all?"
"Swords don't run out of ammo," Hiro shouts. (60.59-60)
If technology simply means a man-made tool, Hiro's sword definitely counts. It may not have lasers or bullets, but it gets the job done, and until the edge dulls, it's not going to stop working.
Most hacker types don't go in for garish avatars, because they know that it takes a lot more sophistication to render a realistic human face than a talking penis. (5.4)
Ah, technological elitism. Those hackers with their knowledge of how to render things in virtual reality, ruining the idea of talking genitals for us plebians.
"Think again. Glass knife. He had one on board the submarine. Either smuggled it on board with him, or else found a chunk of glass on the submarine and chipped it out himself." (39.78)
Raven and his deadly glass knives are a great example of why fancy technology will only get you so far: All the metal-detectors in the world can't tell whether you're letting a cold-blooded killer onto your sub armed with deadly but low-tech knives.
That's why the damn place is so overdeveloped. Put in a sign or a building on the Street and the hundred million richest, hippest, best-connected people on earth will see it every day of their lives. (3.39)
The Metaverse is a great example of how technological access skews toward the richest people in a given population. There surely aren't any examples of this phenomenon in the real world…
She stops […] and steps off her plank. The spokes, noting her departure, even themselves out, plant themselves on top of the driveway, refusing to roll backward. (4.27)
Self-parking skateboard wheels are yet another cool feature that Y.T. has as part of her Kourier gear. We figure you need all the help you can get to navigate the treacherous Southern California roads, especially with drivers like the Deliverator out there.
Ng Security Industries Semi-Autonomous Guard Unit #A-367 lives in a pleasant black-and-white Metaverse where porterhouse steaks grow on trees, dangling at head level from low branches, and blood-drenched Frisbees fly through the crisp, cool air for no reason at all, until you catch them. (12.1)
This is what heaven looks like, if you happen to be a dog jacked into virtual reality. It makes perfect sense that in the high-tech future, humans aren't the only ones who get increasingly hooked into technology.
"Take off your headset," Uncle Enzo says. "And turn off that walkie-talkie. You need your ears." (69.48)
This is how Uncle Enzo survived Vietnam and rose to the top of the Mafia food chain: He doesn't use technology when plain old common sense and situational awareness will serve him better.
"No piece of software is ever bug free," Ng says. Uncle Enzo says, "I guess there's a little bit of Asherah in all of us." (57.39)
Technology, like its human makers, is not infallible. Which is a kind of scary thought, given how much we all rely on it, right?
Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse. It beats the shit out of the U-Stor-It. (3.26)
That's the thing about technology: It can you build a better life elsewhere, even if it's not technically real. How long until the Metaverse perfectly mirrors reality, though? What will we think of people who choose to live there full-time?
"Many Pentecostal Christians believe that the gift of tongues was given to them so that they could spread their religion to other peoples without having to actually learn their language." (27.43)
Language and religion are super intertwined in Snow Crash, since both are means of accessing people's brains and beliefs. Both can mess you up. Fun times, yeah?
The Reverend Wayne's Pearly Gates #1106 is a pretty big one. Its low serial number implies great age. (25.10)
Yep, even religions operate as franchises in the America of Snow Crash. It kind of says a lot about how people view religion, if they're willing to treat its outlets like fast food restaurants.
"Wait a minute, Juanita. Make up your mind. This Snow Crash thing—is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?" Juanita shrugs. "What's the difference?" (26.46)
So if a virus can be the same thing as a drug, which can be the same thing as a religion…yeah, this is complex stuff. But if you think of all three as things that can affect the human brain and change our behavior, it starts to make sense.
"The expulsion from Eden to the bitter lands of the east is a parable for the massive deployment of Israelites to Assyria following Sargon II's victory." (30.70)
The story of Eden from the Bible may not be about good and evil; it may be a recasting of actual historical events. A political parable, even. Chew on that one for a while.
"Ninety-nine percent of everything that goes on in most Christian churches has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual religion. Intelligent people all notice this sooner or later, and they conclude that the entire one hundred percent is bullshit, which is why atheism is connected with being intelligent in people's minds." (8.63)
You go, Juanita—tell those atheists not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Even smart people can fall victim to that mentality.
For example, when one of his programmers and her husband engaged in oral sex in their own bedroom one night, the next morning she was called into Rife's office, where he called her a slut and a sodomite and told her to clean out her desk. (14.39)
And here we see one of the downsides of religion: It can make you into a judgmental jerk like Rife. Okay, so Rife probably would've been a jerk no matter what, but having rigid religious beliefs made it easier for him to condemn others' behavior.
"So you might say that the nam-shub of Enki was the beginnings of human consciousness—when we first had to think for ourselves. It was the beginning of rational religion, too, the first time that people began to think about abstract issues like God and Good and Evil." (56.27)
If you think about how much religion is used to control people in these books, it's kind of ironic that religion as we know it emerged only after Enki forced everyone to have free will and creative thought.
"I wonder if viruses have always been with us […] Maybe there was a period of history when they were nonexistent or at least unusual. And at a certain point, when the metavirus showed up, the number of different viruses exploded, and people started getting sick a whole lot. That would explain the fact that all cultures seem to have a myth about Paradise, and the Fall from Paradise." (30.53)
World religions do tend to have a lot in common. Some kind of ancient flood, for instance, also appears in a lot of mythology. Maybe there is some historical basis for this, or maybe not. Most creation myths are bizarrely imaginative when you get down to it.
The Reverend Dale T. Thorpe holds the vial up to his left nostril. When the LED counter gets to zero, it hisses […] At the same time, he inhales deeply, sucking it all into his lungs. Then he shoots the vial expertly into his wastebasket. (25.47)
Religious officials purchasing illegal drugs and doing them in their offices—that sounds just dandy. No hypocrisy here, move along folks.
"But according to what you quoted me, the Torah is like a virus. It uses the human brain as a host. The host—the human—makes copies of it. And more humans come to synagogue and read it." (30.21)
And that, dear Shmoopers, is one of the main points of the book: Religion is like a virus.
The Deliverator had to borrow some money to pay for it. Had to borrow it from the Mafia, in fact […] it was like being in a family. A really scary, twisted, abusive family. (1.22)
That's…cheery. Each family comes with its own set of problems, though. Why should the Mafia be any different?
Uncle Enzo laughs […]."Tell me, what does your mother think of your career?"
[…] "She's not totally aware of it—or doesn't want to know."
"You're probably wrong," Uncle Enzo says. He says it cheerfully enough, not trying to cut her down or anything. "You might be shocked at how well-informed she is. This is my experience, anyway." (21.45-47)
Y.T. knows that she's deceiving her mom every time she goes out on a dangerous Kourier mission. The question is, how much is Y.T. actually getting away with? According to Uncle Enzo, parents usually know more than they let on.
"Then I remembered my grandmother and realized, my God, the human mind can absorb and process an incredible amount of information—if it comes in the right format." (7.26)
Juanita's respect for her grandmother seems to stem from this incident, when her grandmother intuitively grasped an entire situation just by looking at Juanita's face. Sounds like a good reason for Juanita to idolize her grandmother and put a picture of her in her office at The Black Sun.
"I just saved your fucking life, Mom," Y.T. says. "You could at least offer me an Oreo." (35.96)
The rift in the mother-daughter relationship is pretty wide at this point. Y.T. thinks she's saving her mom's life by destroying her ability to look at a computer screen that might be carrying a virus; Y.T.'s mom knows none of this and is angry at her crystal-award-slinging daughter.
"But this time, Ninhursag manages to obtain a sample of Enki's semen from Uttu's thighs."
"My God. Talk about your mother-in-law from hell." (33.68-69)
Yep, even the gods have family issues. Like incest. And… just ick.
The only ones left in the city are street people […] immigrants […] Young smart people like Da5id and Hiro, who can take the risk of living in the city because they like stimulation and they know they can handle it. (24.75)
Don't have a family to take care of? Great. You're eligible to live by yourself and take more risks, which will either pay off or kill you. You can thank us later.
Raven says, "Amchitka, 1972. My father got nuked twice by you bastards."
"I understand the depth of your feelings," Hiro says. "But don't you think you've had enough revenge?"
"There's no such thing as enough," Raven says. (66.33-35)
So Raven's psycho-quest to nuke America stems from his family history. Does that mean we should give him some kind of Son of the Year award?
But in her heart, she's already feeling the pangs of conscience. She knows that she cannot kiss and tell on the Mafia. Not because she's afraid of them. Because they trust her. They were nice to her. (22.42)
Families are built on trust. That's one more way the Mafia is like a family (also, few people know how to manipulate you better than your family does). If you can't trust your family, who can you trust? Or, perhaps, family is whomever it is you can trust.
"I spent years and years finding ways to piss him off. Dated black girls. Grew my hair long. Smoked marijuana. But the capstone, my ultimate achievement—even better than having my ear pierced—was volunteering for service in Vietnam." (21.76)
Even Uncle Enzo, patriarch of the Mafia, spent his youth trying to tick off his father. Rebelling against one's parents must be universal.
Hiro would have chalked it all up to class differences, except that her parents lived in a house in Mexicali with a dirt floor, and his father made more money than many college professors. But the class idea still held sway in his mind, because class is more than income—it has to do with knowing where you stand in a web of social relationships. (7.31)
Social class and family are closely related, with factors like income and location affecting how many kids a family might have, how they educate them, and so on. Hiro may feel baffled by his family's lack of defined identity (thanks, Army), but then again, not having a fixed family identity gave Hiro the freedom to become whoever he wanted to be. In this case, a master hacker and rockin' swordsman.
Hiro's heart and lungs are well developed, and he has been blessed with unusually quick reflexes, but he is not intrinsically strong, the way his father was. (24.2)
Our sword-fighting protagonist may not be the strongest guy on the block, but his training keeps him on his toes, and makes sure he gets out of bad situations alive.
As the Crip comes in range, Raven's hand lets go of the throttle for a moment, snaps back as if he is throwing away a piece of litter. His fist strikes the middle of the Crip's face like a frozen ham shot out of a cannon. The Crip's head snaps back, his feet are lifted off the ground, he does most of a backflip and strikes the pavement (19.108).
We're just going to come out and say it: Raven is ridiculously strong. He is such a big dude, there's no way he could be anything but strong. Add in his skill with a glass blade, and he's downright deadly.
"We gave you a priority job this morning. It was real easy. All you had to do was read the fucking job sheet. But you didn't read it. You just took it upon yourself to make the fuckin' delivery on your own. Which the job sheet explicitly tells you not to do." (18.29)
Oh, Jason Breckinridge, you poor idiot—you messed things up big-time by not reading and following the very simple instructions for you. We would think that a skill like "can read and follow directions" would've been acquired by now.
Pooning a bimbo box takes more skill than a ped would ever imagine, because of their very road-unworthiness, their congenital lack of steel or other ferrous matter for the MagnaPoon to bite down on. (4.13)
Hitching a ride on a soccer-mom-van is the mark of an accomplished skateboarder. As you might guess, this is a piece of cake for Y.T.
"Take the example of the bread-baking me. Once that me got into society, it was a self-sustaining piece of information: people who know how to bake bread will live better and be more apt to reproduce people who don't know how." (56.22)
All our fancy skills that we acquire in civilized life? Yeah, they're all just viruses, or memes, or whatever you wanna call them. It's kind of sobering to realize that no matter how awesome you are at doing something, you might just be acting as a host for that particular piece of information.
But if life were a mellow elementary school run by well-meaning education Ph.D.s, the Deliverator's report card would say: "Hiro is so bright and creative but needs to work harder on his cooperation skills." (1.11)
All the intelligence in the world won't help you if you can't play well with others in certain situations that demand it. Hiro's intelligence is a major strength—but it can't come into play if he's always going to be antisocial.
It's better to be conservative and take what you can get than take a big gamble and blow it, so Enzo reaches in, even as Raven is looking down at him, and severs Raven's left Achilles tendon. (70.9)
Uncle Enzo's forethought and experience in the battlefield allow him to disable Raven—something no one else in the book has been able to do. Raven reacts quickly enough to strike a critical blow to Enzo, though, leading to the eternal question: Would you bet on experience and wisdom or youth and homicidal precision?
These guys are converging from all sides, there's an incredible number of them, she just keeps holding that button down, pointed straight ahead, digging at the floor with her foot, building up speed. The Liquid Knuckles acts like a chemical flying wedge, she's skating out of there on a carpet of bodies. (41.67)
That's right: Y.T. beats down every Fed who tries to prevent her from leaving the building. The fact that a fifteen-year-old girl is equipped to take on an entire building of federal agents is kind of amazing. It demonstrates that what you lack in sheer physical strength or numbers can be made up with cunning and good gear.
"People like L. Bob Rife can't do anything without us hackers. And even if he could convert us, he wouldn't be able to use us, because what we do is creative in nature and can't be duplicated by people running me." (57.18)
According to this interpretation, skills that require creativity and other higher thinking functions make people (like hackers) harder to control, which is why Rife is targeting them with the Snow Crash binary brain-ruining virus. Probably no one who majored in computer science thought to themselves, "Gee, this is a skill that will make me a lot of money someday, but possibly also put me at risk of brain-death."
The Metaverse has now become a place where you can get killed. […]
A few hacks can make a lot of difference in this situation. A freelance hacker could get a lot of shit done, years before the giant software factories bestir themselves to deal with the problem. (48.28-30)
And there we have it: Hiro's rugged individualism that accompanies his unique hacker skill set is what lets him save the day. No corporate tool could've pulled off what he did in whipping up a way to protect both the brain and the computer from Snow Crash in time to defeat Rife's plan.
You can't just materialize anywhere in the Metaverse, like Captain Kirk beaming down from on high. This would be confusing and irritating to the people around you. (5.5)
There are rules in the Metaverse governing how virtual reality works. Sometimes you can bend them (especially if you're a hacker), but other rules are like gravity, which means they're pretty darn hard to work around.
Feds don't smoke. Feds generally don't overeat. The health plan is very specific, contains major incentives, get too heavy or wheezy and, no one says anything about it—which would be rude—but you feel a definite pressure, a sense of not fitting in, as you walk across the sea of desks, eyes glance up to follow you, estimating the mass of your saddlebags (37.4)
The worst kinds of rules are the ones we internalize: social pressure and shame, two powerful tactics, which the Feds utilize to keep everyone healthy enough for health insurance purposes.
"L. Bob Rife has taken xenoglossia and perfected it, turned it into a science. He can control these people by grafting radio receivers into their skulls, broadcasting instructions—me—directly into their brainstems." (57.6-7)
The ultimate in control: being able to transmit orders and directions straight into people's heads. No wonder Rife is such a scary villain.
MetaCops aren't allowed to lean against their Unit—makes them look lazy and weak. (6.8)
It seems like rules are intended to help keep up appearances a lot of the time. It'd be nice if the MetaCops had more rules that governed, oh, say, the safety of their charges.
"They adhered to a strong legalistic version of the religion; to them, the Law was everything. Clearly, Jesus was a threat to them because he was proposing, in effect, to do away with the Law." (27.52)
The Librarian's explanations of the Pharisees (a group of Jews from the time of Christ) emphasizes how rules-oriented they were. In order to make sure your religion survives, a strong focus on rules isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just make sure they're good rules, you know?
She pauses to admire her work for a few seconds while Mom just flames off all kinds of weird emotion. What are you doing in that uniform? Didn't I tell you not to ride your skateboard on a real street? You're not supposed to throw things in the house. (34.93)
Rules don't seem to have much of an effect on Y.T. Seeing how orderly her mom is (working for the Feds and all that), it's no surprise that conflict arises between the two of them. Some family therapist is going to make bank someday trying to repair their relationship.
When Hiro learned how to do this, way back fifteen years ago, a hacker could sit down and write an entire piece of software by himself. Now, that's no longer possible. Software comes out of factories, and hackers are, to a greater or lesser extent, assembly-line workers. (5.17)
To an independent thinker like Hiro, writing software for The Man is the basically the worst thing ever. You have to wear a suit to work, show up on time, and follow all sorts of stupid rules. No wonder Hiro is—shall we say it politely?—underemployed.
"You know that funny-looking sidecar that Raven has on his Harley? Well, it's a hydrogen bomb, man […] If Raven dies, the bomb goes off. So when Raven comes into town, we do everything in our power to make the man feel welcome." (20.46)
Don't like the rules? Write your own. If you're sufficiently powerful or intimidating, that shouldn't be a problem. Don't ask us where to find your own nuke, though.
"Look," he says, "I'm sorry for reminding you of this, but if we still had laws, the Mafia would be a criminal organization." (33.16)
This is cheery: There's no way to tell who's a criminal or not, because there aren't nation-wide laws to break anymore.
As part of Mr. Lee's good neighbor policy, all Rat Things are programmed never to break the sound barrier in a populated area. But Fido's in too much of a hurry to worry about the good neighbor policy. Jack the sound barrier. Bring the noise. (65.48)
Fido runs to Y.T.'s rescue, totally breaking his programming in the process. That's a neat message, if you think about it: Rules are not match for loyalty and love.
It was, of course, nothing more than sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists. (7.10)
There you have it: No amount of being smart will save you from the unconscious draw of stereotypes. It's even worse when your smarty-pants self image prevents you from accepting that yep, you might be narrow-minded in your own way too.
"Are you saying these guys are homos?" Fisheye says, his face shriveling up. (49.28)
Nice to know that even in the dystopian future that has virtual reality as an everyday thing, homophobia's still alive and well.
"How did you come to be in possession of such important family heirlooms from Nippon?" the businessman says.
Hiro knows the subtext here: What do you use these swords for, boy, slicing watermelon? (11.13-14)
Apparently an uptight Japanese guy looks at Hiro, sees his dark skin, and assumes the worst: He stole the swords. Because clearly a black guy couldn't honorably possess anything important. Ugh. Racism thrives in the world of Snow Crash.
"Where you from?" Y.T. asks.
"Tadzhikistan," he says.
A jeek. She should have known. (6.96-98)
We're big Y.T. fans, but this is a pretty obvious display of prejudice on her part. Is there a "dislike" button we can hit?
Young men blasted out of their minds on natural and artificial male hormones must have some place to do their idiotic coming-of-age rituals. (31.5)
We bet this one slipped by you. Obvious displays of prejudice (like making fun of immigrants) are easy to spot, but the intellectual elitism that leads the smart characters to look down in stupid people? It's subtler…and perhaps more insidious.
One thing's for sure—this is not a delivery to be entrusted to any Kourier, any punk on a skateboard. Jason is going to trundle his Oldsmobile into Compton personally to drop this stuff off. (17.55)
Do we detect a hint of class prejudice here? Wouldn't surprise us, coming from a Mafia goon like Jason.
NO WAY, JOSÉ! Uncle Enzo holding up one hand to stop an Uzi-toting Hispanic scumbag; behind him stands a pan-ethnic phalanx of kids and grannies, resolutely gripping baseball bats and frying pans. (18.8)
One of the smarter ways to deal with prejudice is to acknowledge that it exists, and then use it in your marketing strategies, the way Uncle Enzo does. Create images of your group—which is so awesome that it transcends racial barriers—uniting to fight an outside threat.
"Your mistake," Ng says, "is that you think all mechanically assisted organisms—like me—are pathetic cripples. In fact, we are better than we were before." (32.70)
There's a name for this: ableism. It's pretty common in the real world, too. Unfortunately.
It is the Kourier talking to him. The Kourier is not a man, it is a young woman. A fucking teenaged girl. (2.48)
Good job, Hiro. Normally you come across as pretty egalitarian, but here you assumed that a Kourier hardcore enough to keep up with you was a dude.
She knows that the people in the Street are giving her dirty looks because she's just coming in from a shitty public terminal. She's a trashy black-and-white person. (29.5)
The uneven distribution of technology according to wealth sure does make for some nasty prejudices. We know how awesome Y.T. is, but no one in the Metaverse would give her the time of day if she showed up with a cheap, crummy avatar. Sadly, snap judgments seem to be just a part of the way the world works.