12 January 2013

on Aaron Swartz

I've lived through my fair share of internet lore in the last 15 years. Since 2001, Aaron's name kept popping up here and there; he belonged to that special pantheon of people whose genius is so clear, it makes other people despair that they will never, ever measure up to it. When I found out he was A FUCKING KID, well, it wasn't an easy day for my ego. His code was always, invariably fantastic; at a time when people were saying "Python will never match Java for raw performance", he (re)built Reddit to sustain inordinate amounts of traffic, and gave away the code for good measure. He kept contributing his flawless logic to umpteen projects, from Markdown to Django, helping them succeed with grace and selflessness. And then he started going really political, and damn, was he fighting all the good fights. A lot of people claim to be "talented" or be "good", but you could see he was the real deal. He was the sort of person I wanted to be if I only I could rewind my life 20 years and start again.

Back in the '90s, we used to think there was such a thing as "internet culture". We used to think the online world was free, the 'net community would have been immune to the evils of offline corruption, information wanted to be free, "they" couldn't fight disruption, progress was inevitable. 

Lies, all of them. 

We are losing this social revolution like our fathers lost in the '60s and '70s. Established players have made clear, over and over, that they will crush our lofty ideals as soon as we hit their wallets. They will ruin our lives, bankrupt us, force us into exile. Aaron is the last casualty of this counter-revolution. Sooner or later there will be a Vienna Congress moment, indeed it almost happened last month

Aaron was the best we could be, and even him couldn't bear the pain of living while fighting the good fight in this corrupt world. How are we supposed to cope? The small ones with simple jobs, normal families, little talent, broken dreams, and our own baggage of bad life choices and mediocrity -- how are we supposed to still believe?

Ah fuck. What a sad day.

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