I knew Aaron Swartz. Aaron was an internet personality and free-speech disciple who helped classify the worldwide transformation to keep the internet free from censorship and corporate control. Now some-more than ever, we should listen to his story and what he fought for. Aaron committed self-murder at the immature age of 26 after downloading JSTOR articles but JSTOR’s permission. He was foul confronting many years in prison. As we proceed the five-year anniversary of his death, we wish you review my remarks at his commemorative service, and learn a bit some-more about the man who “rocked the boat.” Here is what we said:
Aaron worked in my bureau as an intern. He had a peculiarity that we found unnerving. He could come up with better things for him to do than we could come up with for him to do. Time and time again, we would give him something to do, and he’d say, “Is it fine if we also work on this other thing?” And “this other thing” incited out to be much some-more critical than anything that we could come up with.
I schooled to live with that. we schooled to live with that shortcoming, which we took to be a accountability of my own, not one of his.
The other unnerving peculiarity that we found in him was the fact that when he would conjure these assignments, they actually came to delight — an surprising materialisation here on Capitol Hill. He’d give himself something to do, we would commend that it was very worthwhile, we let him do it, and it got done! He was a conspicuous human being.
Another thing that we found unnerving — but also very endearing — about Aaron was that Aaron wanted to stone the boat. Now, we all hear from a very, very immature age, “Don’t stone the boat.” we would venture to contend that of the 2000 languages oral on this planet, substantially every singular one of them has an jargon in that denunciation for that term: “Don’t stone the boat.” And nonetheless Aaron wanted to stone the boat. Not just for the consequence of boat-rocking, but for the consequence of improving the lives of typical people. And that’s a beautiful, a smashing quality.
We’re articulate about somebody here who helped to create Reddit, an critical world-wide service, at the age of nineteen. Honestly, somebody who substantially could have spent the rest of his life in bed, grouping pizzas, and left it at that. And nonetheless he didn’t. He continued to essay to do good — good as he saw it. And that’s a singular peculiarity in people. Many of us, we just have to do the best to get by the day. That’s the way it is. Many of us onslaught to do just that. Very few of us actually can consider big thoughts, and make them happen. But Aaron was one of those singular people.
And he was peaceful to take the feverishness for rocking the boat. Now, you know, infrequently when you stone the boat, the vessel tries to stone you. That is accurately what he encountered, right up until the end.
And it’s a unhappy thing, that that’s the cost you have to pay. For some of us who stone the boat, we finish up losing the property. For some of us who stone the boat, we finish up losing the freedom. For some of us who stone the boat, we finish up losing the families. And in Aaron’s case, his life.
And yet, he was peaceful to face the facts, and to let that happen. To keep striving, to keep struggling, to keep trying to shake things up.
Aaron’s life reminded me about a conflicting life that came to the same end. It’s the life of Alan Turing, a shining mathematician. He lived in England, and was innate one hundred years ago. Alan Turing was the biggest mathematician of the 20th Century. He not only invented the Turing Machine, which is the basement for all complicated computing, but Alan Turing also pennyless the Nazi codes during World War II, and allowed the English and the Americans to better the Nazis.
You would consider that someone like that would be cherished. Someone like that who, if he had managed to have a full life, competence have won one, or two, or even three, Nobel Prizes. But in fact he was vilified, since he was a homosexual, which, at that indicate in England, in those days, was illegal. And I’m certain that at that indicate in England, in those days, there were people who said, “Well, the law is the law. And if you pass the law, then you should go to prison.” Because of that, since his boyfriend incited him in, Alan Turing was convicted of perversity, and condemned to prison.
Given the choice between spending tough time — years and years of his life — instead of doing the arithmetic that he loved, or alternatively, to accept estrogen injections, well, Turing took the estrogen injection choice. And that pennyless not only his body, but his mind. He found that he could not do the thing he desired the most, mathematics, any longer. So after two years of this, Alan Turing committed suicide.
And who lost, out of that? Well, Alan Turing lost. But so did all of we. We lost as well. All of us who would have benefitted from that first, and second, and the third Nobel Prizes that Alan Turing had in him. And that Aaron Swartz had in him.
We’re the ones who lose.
If we let the prejudices, the desires to curb those with creativity — if we let that lead us to the indicate where that creativity is restrained, then going back all the way to the time of Socrates, what we rivet in is human sacrifice. We scapegoat their lives, out of the misled clarity that we need to strengthen ourselves from them, when in fact it’s the opposite.
Our lives have meaning, the lives have larger meaning, from the things that they create. So we’re here currently to remember Aaron — and also to try to learn from the experience. To know that charge should not be persecution.
This morning we reached into the closet, incidentally took out this tie [showing necktie], and wore it. And we have a clarity that sometimes, things are connected in ways that are not accurately obvious. It happens that this tie is a portrayal of “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh, someone else whose life finished all too soon.
In a Don McLean strain about Vincent Van Gogh, it ends this way: “They would not listen. They’re not listening still. Perhaps they never will.”
It’s time to listen.
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“And when no wish was left in sight,
On that starry, starry night,
You took your life, as lovers mostly do.
But we could have told you, Vincent,
This universe was never meant for one
As pleasing as you.”
-Don McLean, “Starry, Starry Night” (1971).
Alan Mark Grayson is an American politician who was the United States Representative for Florida’s 9th congressional district and a member of the Democratic Party. Wikipedia