I weep for Aaron Swartz. Today on Democracy Now Lawrence Lessig gave us insight into this brilliant man who died--hounded to death in the most literal sense of the term 'to hound'--to torment. When asked about Aaron Swartz's depression Lessig said this:
LAWRENCE LESSIG: "Yeah, Aaron was depressed. He was rationally depressed. You know, he was losing everything, because his government was overreaching in the most ridiculous way to persecute him. . . . Of course he was depressed. He wasn’t depressed because he had no loving parents—he did have loving parents who did everything they could for him—or because he didn’t have loving friends. Every time you saw Aaron, he was surrounded by five or 10 different people who loved and respected and worked with him. He was depressed because he was increasingly recognizing that the idealism he brought to this fight maybe wasn’t enough. When he saw all of his wealth gone, and he recognized his parents were going to have to mortgage their house so he could afford a lawyer to fight a government that treated him as if he were a 9/11 terrorist, as if what he was doing was threatening the infrastructure of the United States, when he saw that and he recognized how—how incredibly difficult that fight was going to be, of course he was depressed." (my bold)Aaron Swartz was not just looking at his own ruin, but the ruin of his parents. How could he possibly have accepted that? What was the only way out, for either him or his parents? He saw only one way.
In this country many face a similar devil's bargain. The person who elects not to be treated because of the debt that treatment will incur, to herself and her family. In those cases the individual's death is a macabre benefit to those who would bear the expense of treating it. What is certain to these victims is that if they stay alive their families will reap a diminished future; maybe they will be homeless. We all try to believe we would chin up and have the bake sales or the appeals to the church or community and we could eke it out. But really can you wager your family will be ruined because of the perverse circumstance that makes your death a benefit to those you love? Would you wish to survive to witness your family's impoverishment? I can't say that I could.
Aaron Swartz was a victim. His indictment inflicted a punishment before he was ever found guilty of anything.