The intrinsic barrier we humans have of abstracting people can be breached if we start treating others as people on the most fundamental level
Carlos Celdran and Aaron Swartz have many similarities. Both believed in a cause that would help millions gain access to what they strongly felt should be given away free – RH for the former, academic research for the latter.
Both were courageous/foolhardy enough to walk the talk and singlehandedly fight an established power in what seemed like a David-Goliath encounter. Having been punished for their acts, both have readily been made martyrs by their admirers.
One stark difference, of course, is that Aaron committed suicide and Carlos, thankfully enough, hasn’t; and it is unlikely to the nth degree that he will do so.
I cannot tell you more about Carlos because I have loved him, my best friend’s nephew, both ideologically and emotionally from when he was a toddler to the present time.
But perhaps I can share with you, alas in clinical and not poetic terms, how Aaron Swartz’s family, friends and admirers must have felt when they heard about his death. Or better yet, let them share this with you in their own words and their own actions:
Swartz’s former lawyer, Andrew Good said, “I told federal prosecutors that my client was a suicide risk. Their response was ‘Put him in jail, he'll be safe there’.”
His girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said, “Prosecutors were hell-bent on ruining Aaron’s life – he just couldn’t take it another day,”
His father, Robert Swartz was quoted as saying, “Aaron did not commit suicide – he was killed by the government. And [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] betrayed all its basic principles in helping the feds…Aaron did something that wasn’t illegal and was destroyed by it.”
25,000+ people (the number required to prompt an official response from the White House) signed a petition to remove the US attorney in charge of the prosecution of Internet activist Aaron Swartz a mere 4 days after his death.
Clearly many who loved/admired Swartz blamed the US prosecutors for his suicide. But there are clearer heads that think otherwise: Prof Orin spent many hours with Swartz and liked him tremendously.
Orin is a lawyer whose expertise includes legal issues surrounding the Internet. He has appeared both for the defense and the prosecution in many trials. Orin’s words: “The evidence suggests…that Swartz was acting very deliberately…he was intentionally breaking the law in the short run to achieve a long-run goal of nullifying the protections of a set of democratically-enacted laws that he opposed…And Swartz knew that the means he used…were unauthorized.…he knew that he was doing something illegal and he was trying not to get caught…Swartz’s conduct had real costs to others, ranging from costs to MIT in dealing with responding to his conduct to lost access to JSTOR for a few days for the entire campus…I don’t think it would have been right to just let Swartz go ahead with his plan to intentionally violate the law…without the law responding at least in some way. The great tradition of civil disobedience is to intentionally violate the law and proudly bear the consequences in order to change public opinion and eventually change the law, not to violate the law in secret and try to render the law you oppose unenforceable while avoiding punishment. So I think some kind of criminal punishment is appropriate.”
Comments posted in various blogs include:
Lissack Michael: “The government, MIT, and Carmen Ortiz have done NOTHING WRONG here. The tragedy is Aaron’s. The loss is of Aaron. And the blame game needs to stop. Aaron did this to himself.”
@okaythenxq: “This guy publicly talked about his depression for many years, claiming it was for no reason and had no cure, basically saying his depression was a disease. So when a guy like that finally gets the courage to do it, you don’t blame whoever else was in his life at the time. Many activists manage to not kill themselves over far more serious battles. Made his life hell? Oh please, go talk to Chinese dissidents about having your life made hell. Did you forget he broke into private property? He could have avoided the attention by not breaking the law, he could have made his point another way. Very sad that his suicide is being used as a weapon.”
Perhaps, most poignant of all is what his mother, Susan Swartz, posted on a hacker section of the Ycombinator Web site, “Aaron has been depressed …But we had no idea what he was going through was this painful.”
This piece is for anyone, including myself, who has loved someone who committed suicide. Most people like us feel conflicting emotions that ricochet in our brain: devastation, guilt and rage. Others oversimplify these as “survivor guilt,” and/or unending “if only” self-recrimination, but it cuts far deeper and more painfully than that.
As Dr Kay Jamison, author of “Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide” (2000) says, “When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain…When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace.”
How can anyone stay angry with someone they loved who felt this way and thus saw suicide as the only way out? And how can anyone blame one single event or one single person for having “made” the person do it?
If anyone reading this lives under circumstances that lead to suicidal thoughts, please go to at least two people: a professional and someone whom you trust and you know loves you. You do not have to be alone. – Rappler.com