And we have lost our way.
Our criminal system is broken. Our only way of reacting to any infraction is to treat the person as if they are OBVIOUSLY A DANGEROUS TERRORIST. Aaron Swartz was, by all accounts, about the opposite of that. America has, sadly and dangerously, become a jailer state. Proportionality is gone.
Our mental health is broken. So many among us face depression, anxiety, and stress without the tools or support we need to cope. Instead of treating this as a health problem (it’s probably about as common as getting a cold), we marginalize it, we criminalize it, we minimize it, we ignore it.
Our commons is dying. I cannot know what made Aaron take his final, foolish action. But we can all see what drove him in his life. We have slowly strangled our commons by locking away the creative output that we have paid for with our taxes and donations and creation. Slowly, painfully, we are recreating a commons from scratch, but while we receive with that hand, privatization and effectively infinite take from our other.
Now, we have lost Aaron. The actions that resulted in his incarceration were somewhere between a juvenile prank and justifiable civil disobedience. Yet it remains that he spent the past two years hounded by the government that I work for and vote for. I suppose he is a martyr to these causes, but we needed him more as a prophet.
I and others like me feel his death so keenly in part because we aspire to be the misfit, the wunderkind, the maker that he was.