“None of them would ever volunteer to go get his legs shot off in the jungle, just to piss off his old man. They lack a certain fiber. They are lifeless and beaten down.”
Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash (p. 170).
To me, strangely, this quote goes hand in hand with the “Into the Wild” quote from the other day. Sure, that one was an actual quote, from an actual person (who was a little crazy), with some serious actual followthrough, and this one comes from a fictional mobster to a teenage girl in a post apocalyptic, virtual reality obsessed wasteland – but they share something important.
There’s something beautiful about reckless defiance mixed with conviction. For McCandless, it was about rebelling against society and social mores. For Uncle Enzo (who is speaking in this quote), it was about rebelling against his father. Both took risks that were likely pointless, and incredibly dangerous. But the value wasn’t in the specific rebellious act – Uncle Enzo didn’t make a significant difference in (fictional) Vietnam, and we all still measure our self worth in new cars in spite of the fact that McCandless died for his choices – the value was in their willingness to rebel, their willingness to accept hardship (or death) for something they cared about regardless of what the thing they cared about was.
I’ve tried several times, unsuccessfully, to write a conclusion to that – to wrap this up in what it means to me, what this class of person is. Should they be looked up to? Scorned? Ignored? I don’t know. Having convictions and being willing to make real sacrifices for those convictions – regardless of what they are, or if they’re broadly considered valuable or foolhardy – there’s something to that. As uncle Enzo says, it “gives a person a certain fiber”. I like the sound of that.
I’m sure I’ll write more about this topic, I don’t seem to be able to stay away from it.