I did not want to start my Icarus Lessons on a tragic note, but the untimely death of Aaron Swartz stroke a cord in me. And below is the first post of this series.
An Unequal Combat
I did not know him before the announcement of his death, on a post left on one of the wordpress blogs, but he touched me deeply with his David and Goliath battle.
Unfortunately he was not victorious or will he be with his death? SAD and a bit too romantic for our overly pragmatic times.
I’ve read some ungenerous souls, all the while benefiting from what he achieved, paint him as stupid or a provocateur that knew what he was up against: he played and he lost. Yes, he probably knew that he was faced with prison sentence for his hackts, but not the exaggerated one not even reserved to murderers.
For the little I have gathered about him, he was an idealist not a publicity hound. A publicity hound does not commit suicide: when hounded he caves. By the amount of testimonials of people shocked by his suicide, it is clear that he was much appreciated as an innovator and loved as a human being. Aaron Swartz was an idealist in the pursuit of a noble cause. With all due respect to some academic institutions, he was a reformer, a freedom fighter against the privatization of knowledge.
He may have been misguided. I believe he was blinded by his passion (too much passion), too caught up in his crusade and, maybe, the loyalty he felt toward all those who loved him, that he forgot to take into account the possible consequences of his hackts, which ultimately led to his pharmakos: a purification ritual, a form of societal catharsis.
Three (last) lines of my poem ‘Icarus Pharmakos’ (still in progress) in Icaresques are dedicated to this noble young man, Aaron Swartz:
Nature hates extremes
Save our picaresque souls
RIP Aaron Swartz