Discovering Swartz: A personal tribute


I live in Nigeria, but Aaron Swartz’s death holds a deep meaning for me. His short life. His suicide. Being a commons man. Being a programmer by profession and an activist by calling. There are many of us around the world who won’t understand why taking his life was a permanent alternative to decades in jail and $1m in fines.

I like how Lessig begins his tribute – “This is the time when every mixed emotion needs to find voice.”

Let me emphasize why Swartz’s life-cause means a lot to me. He knew that legal frameworks were not moral frameworks, that at a certain point in life we have to choose between being obedient and being ambitious. He was not afraid of sacrifices.

Swatz must have wanted to live longer than 26. But when the time came to choose between living bound and dying free…

He struggled with depression, wrote about it, did not overcome it.

As I turned the web over for any news I could find about him, all the details about his life and calling, his networks, everything Swatz, I chanced upon a manifesto – Guerilla Open Access Manifesto – he’d written.

In my country, too, there are those who want to keep public information to themselves. What do we do about them? How do we fight them? How do I access all the resolutions from the upper and lower legislative houses, for instance?

These are questions I hope to ask – and answer – in the coming weeks. I don’t want to be a false hero (one who is a hero because it is fashionable). I want to try to live what I profess. About publishing, for instance. This I will do because “without the animation of futurity, much of what we do and try to build can seem utterly meaningless.”

Swartz was animated about a future he might not have expected to see. I am, too.


(Photo credit: ragesoss via Flickr)