The Internet’s Own Boy

Aaron is dead.

Wanderers in this crazy world,
we have lost a mentor, a wise elder.

Hackers for right, we are one down,
we have lost one of our own.

Nurtures, careers, listeners, feeders,
parents all,
we have lost a child.

Let us all weep.

Tim Berners-Lee

Although Aaron Swartz: The Internet’s Own Boy has been available for viewing at Archive.org since June 2014 it has taken me months to come around to watching it.  I knew this documentary would profoundly upset me.  Now that I have settled down I can articulate why.

I was very familiar with Aaron’s story and his genius,  social justice, and technical creativity going into the documentary.  I was also all too familiar with the gross injustice of his prosecution.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the sense of aching loss and grief coming from my sense of fatherhood.

“Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? ~ Thoreau

The footage of Aaron growing up were all too vivid for me – mirroring my own footage of my son and daughter laughing, playing, sharing, growing older.

I want to believe that my children will grow into a world where they feel empowered to stand by their ideals, have no fear of resisting powers they feel are unjust, and feel free to organize and take action to bring about change where they feel it is needed.

“Our society should be selecting for the Aaron Swartz’s of this world. Instead, generous and ethical behavior, especially when combined with technical brilliance, turns out to be maladaptive, indeed lethal. If Swartz had been Wall Street’s youngest investment banker, he would be alive today.” Rick Perlstein

I came out the other side of this documentary emotionally exhausted and with a capsized optimism.  I hope to somehow upend my optimism by learning more about the global community dedicated to honoring Aaron’s legacy and setting the record straight.

The question is: Can we do something, given what’s happened to make the world a better place, and how can we further that legacy? That’s the only question one could ask. ~ Robert Swartz (Aaron’s father)

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2 Comments

  1. I just got around to watching it last night and, like you, came away feeling exhausted and angry. Looking at it thru a parents eyes adds another level of resonance. I only hope that my children grow up with the same sense of global morality and social justice to take action like Aaron did.

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