Sunday, January 27, 2013

R.I.P. Aaron Swartz

R.I.P. Aaron Swartz

A vibrant, talented young man is dead. A troubled society needs to do more than merely mourn this insensible loss.

Aaron cared deeply about life. He acted on behalf of us all. Like the early leaders of his country, Aaron Swartz championed for free speech and basic rights. Today, however, instead of respect and support, he found harsh intimidation, for his efforts. 

Our criminal justice system wanted to "make an example" of him, charging him--as if he were a dangerous criminal--for downloading articles without permission. Imagine being 26 years old, and facing 35 years in prison with millions of dollars in fines. Such harsh, cruel, insensitive action by a corrupt system has consequences. 

The insensitive over-reaction of a country that fails to value the principles he embodied is inexcusable. My heart aches at the tragic results of such skewed priorities. False accusation and unjust imprisonment of innocent people is unacceptable. Aaron's courage and bright spirit encountered the stone wall of corporate greed and societal indifference, instead of an appreciation for truth.  

His determination to uphold free speech was no match for the practice of monopoly and power in our complicit society. This is a very sad statement of what our system values. What a horrific message it sends to our young people. Aaron's spirit inspires me. I want to support the fine example of his life-work. 

Our world was robbed of a bright light. His family, friends, and colleagues will not feel his amazing smile again. Aaron Swartz will not wake up. His died in his room: an apparent suicide. For Aaron it is too late. Will we wake up before it's too late for others?  
In Aaron's own words:

     "The problem is that the topics, which are most painful also tend to be the topics that are most important for us: they’re the projects we most want to do, the relationships we care most about, the decisions that have the biggest consequences for our future, the most dangerous risks that we run. We’re scared of them because we know the stakes are so high. But if we never think about them, then we can never do anything about them. 

    Yes it’s painful, but the trick is to make that mental shift. To realize that the pain isn’t something awful to be postponed and avoided, but a signal that you’re getting stronger — something to savor and enjoy. It’s what makes you better

    Pretty soon, when you start noticing something that causes you psychic pain, you’ll get excited about it, not afraid. Ooh, another chance to get stronger. You’ll seek out things you’re scared of and intentionally confront them . . . The trick is: when you start feeling that psychological pain coming on, don’t draw back from it and cower — lean into it. Lean into the pain." 

~  ~

From what Aaron says here, it is obvious that he grasped the value of facing pain and fear, whenever Life provokes us. And yet, Life is a continuum. There is a wide range between the extreme edges of polarized perspective. Generally we hang out somewhere in the middle of this continuum. Like for all of us, Aaron's own wisdom and insight had limits--he was unable to make this particular "mental shift". 

When innocent impulse is treated as a crime; when genuine trust is stretched beyond any comfort zone of rational understanding; when we live in an atmosphere that fails to consider the consequence of its actions upon the individual human spirit; when the threat to personal wellbeing overshadows trust, innocence, and the beautiful zest of true vision: OUR SOCIETY IS IN BIG TROUBLE.