Image by peretzp via Flickr
Shocked at first, and then denial , but reading further today’s newspaper was of those days when a person wakes to one such an everyday sombre public story, yet so personal.
Aaron Swartz, is no stranger to those following technology. Things he did are the heroics a modern-day super hero do – solve a problem of increasing content by co-authoring RSS specifications; open source millions of federal court documents buried down under; unleash even more mass of scientific material by publishing closed access JSTOR archive papers defying authorities; raising public action successfully campaigning against SOPA; founding Reddit, where millions converge every day.
So, it was shocking to see his death not by somebody else, but coming from his own self at the age of 26.
There seems to be a significant under current in those people I really admire. Starting from David Foster Wallace to Tony Scott – whose Spy Game is a movie I am very fond of – now to Aaron, it seems I prefer to like people going through very powerful emotional turmoil and at the end give up life committing suicides. I know that there is a hindsight bias here, but there are more people alive in the world I like whom I don’t want to see fizzing out like the ones above. I hope people don’t take it seriously what Kurt Cobain wrote in his suicide note decades back the following words before he shot himself : “It is better to burn out than to fade away.”
Suicide, is another topic which should be given more prominence but is hardly given considering the fact it is mostly unnoticed as it happens in “mind” and there aren’t visible clues available unless carefully noticed. Suicide kills more young adults only next to maternity related deaths for women and accident related deaths for men in India. Definitely, suicide is another topic to be added to the roster of “significant issues” in lieu of wasteful political debates and scintillating Bollywood/celebrities coverage bombarding the Indian television screens.
The Guardian quoted the statement given by Aaron’s family, “Aaron’s death in not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”
As Aaron said, ” Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” It is really painful to see someone brilliant – in fact, an enfant terrible going by what Aaron had done in a span of handful years – heeding to Plato’s injunction, “The punishment suffered by the wise who refuse to take part in Government, is to suffer under the Government of bad men”, ” making an attempt to change the modern powerful structures, go down.
P.S : One of the talks by Swartz How to Get A Job Like Mine, basically his personal story, bookmarked in my folder some time back, is a real classic with “just the facts.”