Monday, January 14, 2013

RIP Aaron

Like millions around the globe we will miss Aaron Swartz. After all, he helped give us Reddit which, if anything, occupies as much of our collective time as we can afford. His death is already creating ripples, raising questions. But it would have been so much better not to lose him at all.

Two of our favourite wise people, Lawrence Lessig and Dave Winer, have spoken good words -- helpful words -- in the wake of the tragedy of Aaron's death. Lessig has said that the current US administration should have to answer for why Aaron had to be identified as a felon. Indeed!!

Winer posted well and appropriately over at his admirable Scripting News. In the context of talking more generally about grief and doing grieving, Winer asks:
What good can come from his death? I think we have to set more reasonable expectations for our brilliant young people. It's true that Aaron was smart, and had a great capacity to learn. But he was just 26. And for many of the years we knew him, he was much younger. He was very much his age, emotionally, even if he had knowledge beyond his years. To expect so much of such a young person probably puts too big a weight on shoulders that aren't prepared for it. I feel that there's a connection between Aaron's suicide and the suicide of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the founders of Diaspora, and Gene Kan, who was one of the developers of Gnutella. 
I've had to deal with my share of death in my life, and one message I get from every one of them, approached from any direction, is that the dead are dead. Expressing love for their memory, support for the person, doesn't have much value, because they are not here to receive it. If you want to do something to honor a loved one's memory, be loving and kind to people who are still alive. That's the best thing you can do, always, every day.

We do well also to recognise that this current US administration leaves a lot to be desired. It takes its image from the top, from its commander in chief. That is to say, what you see is not what you get; what you get is not what you see. This is an administration that is distinctly hawkish in soft gloves. It creates all manner of foreign policy mischief and suffering in other lands under cover of secrecy and deceit. And it follows a brutal and bullying internet policy -- as anyone familiar with the Kim Dotcom case knows.

Needless to say, I had no time for the previous president, but at least what you saw was what you got. You knew what you were opposed to and why. This current guy has a much more subtle and undercover way of pleasing those who must be pleased. He's in there as much as MIT are when it comes to having some accounting to do. How ironic, you might think, that his team turned to Reddit when it was time to try and pull in some votes.

But, really, would *you* have expected anything else?

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