Monday, February 11, 2013

A thoughtful graf about Aaron Swartz

François de La Rochefoucauld once observed that it’s not enough to have great virtues; one must use them with economy. As I listened to the tributes to Aaron Swartz in Highland Park and New York and online, this aphorism came to mind. Swartz had skipped out on the lessons taught by the American high school—the lessons in cynical acquiescence, conformity, and obedience to the powers that be. He was right to think these lessons injure people’s innate sense of curiosity and morality and inure them to mediocrity. He was right to credit his “arrogance” for the excellence of the life he lived. But if nothing else, these lessons prepare people for a world that can often be met in no other way; a world whose irrational power must sometimes simply be endured. This was a lesson that he contrived never to learn, which was part of what made him so extraordinary. It was Swartz’s misfortune, and ours, that he learned it too late, from too unyielding a teacher. It cannot serve society’s purpose to make a felon and an inmate out of so gifted and well-meaning a person as Aaron Swartz, and thus he was a victim of a grave injustice. But it bears remembering that the greater injustice was done to Aaron Swartz by the man who killed him. Yang

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Blogger jonhusband said...


I wish I had been more like him. I think I was somewhat like that until the age of 21 or 22 (but not nearly as gifted) but then believed I had to get on with my adult life, and get a job. Or at a minimum be able to pay my rent.

Then all of a sudden 20 - 25 years went by. A couple of big 'explosions' along the way as I realized the monstrous dynamics with which I was colluding and/or that I was helping to enable.

Then,15 or so years ago I went to the margins, and have stayed put.

But minor and (very) inconsequential compared to AS's purity of focus and purpose. he is, and should be seen to be, an American (and why not global?) hero in the deepest sense of the word.

2/14/2013 8:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Thanks Jon - it's remarkable; the intensity of the felt loss that just seems to radiate in all directions. It makes me wonder if he is not a kind of new everyman, or, a new kind, one who is part heart, part brain, and part technical wizard - a man of the web, not perhaps entirely like the man of, yet apart from, the Parisian scene whom Baudelaire called the flâneur.

2/14/2013 9:23 PM  
Blogger jonhusband said...

I think so, Tom.

Heh .. as I think you may know, I am doing my best, in my stilted fashion, to be a 'flaneur' with a positive / constructive orientation.

Baudelaire has inspired me much, and often.

2/15/2013 11:17 AM  
Blogger jonhusband said...

wonder if he is not a kind of new everyman,

I think he instantiated, in public, what is addressed by L. Cohen's lyrics in the song/poem "Everybody Knows".

It's increasingly in the air.

2/15/2013 11:19 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Yeah. At the same time, his end is such an enigma that it's pretty clear "nobody knows."

2/16/2013 1:04 AM  
Blogger jonhusband said...

"nobody knows."

I think that's it, really.

2/16/2013 9:46 AM  

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