"The Revolution Will Be A/B Tested"

Reflections on Aaron Swartz's life and death, how to change the world, and making ourselves the people we want to be.

Thank you

To those who have contacted me with condolences:

To those who are fighting for accountability for MIT and the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office, for Aaron’s Law, for academic knowledge to be freed, for criminal justice reform that reins in prosecutors and, and for all the causes Aaron cared about:

To those who envisioned, evangelized for, and contributed to the Taren Fund:

To those who have organized, spoken at, attended, or watched Aaron’s funeral or memorial services:

To my beautiful staff, advisors, board, and funders who have stepped up to run and support my startup, SumOfUs, while I take time to heal:

To Aaron’s family and friends, many of whom I knew in passing or not at all before Aaron died, who have wholeheartedly welcomed me into their lives under these worst of circumstances:

To those who took time off of work or away from other obligations to cherish and protect me; who have held me in the middle of the night:

To those who have read, watched, and shared my speeches and blog posts about Aaron’s death:

To those who have hugged me and Aaron’s family; who cannot make sense of what has happened; who have cried for Aaron; who have thrown things at the wall in anger at his decision; who have examined your lives wholesale in light of his life and death:

Thank you.

I have not been able to respond to all of you personally, and I may never be able to. But I have read your emails, seen your tears and your anger. I have felt your love. It’s what is keeping me going.

Just a few examples of the generosity that has enveloped me: It was three weeks after Aaron died before I was physically by myself for more than a few minutes. Deepa, Sam, Paul, Ben, Ben, Alec, Peter and many others have taken valuable time from their own projects and organizations — each of them with world-changing missions — to care for me and give me freedom to travel without having to be alone. Dozens helped organize beautiful memorial services that thousands attended. Trevor Fitzgibbon and his team at Fitzgibbon Media donated their time to manage the overwhelming media interest in the hours, days, and weeks after Aaron died. Tate, Kaytee, Keith, Anthony, Marguerite, Rob, Claiborne, Emma, Angus, Richard, and many others have stepped up to keep SumOfUs running like clockwork in my unexpected absence — quite a testament to the community that’s building around an organization only 14 months old. And around the world, people who I will never meet are tenaciously fighting to salvage possible good from the tragedy of Aaron’s death, organizing to try to stop the kind of abuse of the criminal justice system that killed him from happening again, to liberate academic knowledge, and to fight in Aaron’s name to make the world a better place.

And more: With the help of many of you, Judith Freeman has managed to mobilize $30,000 for the “Taren Fund,” allowing me to take unpaid leave from work and sort out the logistical ruins of my life without worrying about money. This one in particular has made me cry almost every time I think about it — I suspect because of the faith it represents in me personally. I will do my best to live up to it.

I’m being very careful not to generalize from this grieving experience. Someday other people close to me will die. It will not be like this. But this once, it can be and is like this, and I am grateful.

Along with all the multitudes of lessons to draw from Aaron’s life and death, I hope one can be an ongoing commitment to unconditional support for each other in times of great personal crisis.

The truth is, Aaron was very bad at asking for support. He didn’t want to be a burden on others. He believed he ought to be able to make it on his own. He demanded independence from those who loved him. He was eager to help anyone else, but to ask for help for himself was terrifying. That made his 2-year ordeal much harder in many ways.

I’ve learned what I believe are the right lessons from this, and I hope you all will as well. The world is often — though not always — naked and cold. Confronting it on our own is sometimes merely difficult, sometimes downright impossible. We have a responsibility to help each other through the hard times, and an equal responsibility to ask for help from each other.

You have all already helped me infinitely* in this very hard time, and you’ve done so with my barely needing to ask. I am immensely grateful for that.

But we’re not done. I will be asking even more from you in the coming months. I will be asking you for more help along my long road to healing. I will also be asking you to do more for the world. I’ll be asking you in Aaron’s name to leave your comfort zone, to examine freely and openly your own motivations and mistakes, to reach higher and farther than you thought possible. Not only that, I’ll be asking you to push each other as well.

In exchange, I pledge to do the same.

You should follow me on Twitter here.



*As a math major, I do not use that word lightly.

  1. photinini reblogged this from tarensk
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    A huge thank you for a huge response
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