TarenSK

"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.

Aaron Swartz, Deepa Gupta, me, Jhatkaa.org

Today is the 6 month anniversary of Aaron’s death. But instead of lingering on death, I want to take today to write about something being born. I want to write about something Aaron would have been so excited to see launch this week: Jhatkaa, a new democratic movement in India.

I first met my friend Deepa Gupta in 2009 at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, when I was working for Avaaz.org on their climate campaigning in the lead-up to Copenhagen. I remember being immediately impressed with her. She was clearly one of the informal leaders of the 100-strong global youth posse there, and had already pulled off the impressive feat of founding the vibrant Indian Youth Climate Network, equivalent to the Energy Action Coalition here in the US.

We crossed paths multiple times that year, from Barcelona to Copenhagen, and after Copenhagen I made a conscious decision that Deepa was one of a handful of the thousands of campaigners who’d flocked from all over the world who I was going to try to stay in close touch with, even though we lived oceans apart. Despite more than a year without seeing each other in person, Deepa quickly became one of my closest friends. Thank god for Skype!

When my partner Aaron Swartz and I were living in New York last year, we were lucky enough that Deepa had occasion to visit several times for things like the Echoing Green fellowship interview process. She and Aaron hit it off immediately. I remember the first time the three of us had dinner together, in Koreatown, they quickly found a brotherly-sisterly comraderie — partially teasing each other, but most of all combining forces to make deep, hilarious fun of me. The two of them had in some ways diametrically opposite approaches to life and social change — Deepa flips a coin to make important life decisions, Aaron anything but — but they quickly built enormous respect for each other.

When Aaron died six months ago today, Deepa dropped everything — which is not a trivial decision to make when you’re in the process of launching a start-up — and flew back from India to be my shadow for two full weeks. She flew with me from memorial service to memorial service, she made sure that I ate and exercised and slept. I’m not sure how I would have made it through those weeks without her. I drew enormous strength from her. I still do.
I believe that Deepa is one of the most dedicated, talented, and humble social change agents I’ve ever met. I also believe that as quite possibly the Indian in the world who is most expert in online campaigning techniques, she happens to be positioned to do unimaginable good.

Frankly, India’s future is probably far more important to the future of humanity than America’s future. It’s the biggest experiment in democracy in the history of the world. It has 4 times our population and it’s growing far faster than we are in every sense. And most exciting, in the last few years, internet access has become sufficiently widespread that the country is more than ripe for a new model of organizing — one that empowers ordinary Indians, fights for equality and justice, and builds a strong democracy for the future. If you think that online campaigning has transformed American politics, imagine what it could do in a country like India — a country so large and diverse that the costs of organizing a resilient, long-lasting, national-scale grassroots progressive movement under old models would be prohibitively expensive, maybe impossible.

And I believe there’s no one better suited to catalyze that revolution than Deepa. If Jhatkaa (which, roughly translated, means “shake up”) succeeds it might, quite literally, have more potential to change the course of human history than the work of all my American activist friends combined. That’s why I’m so thrilled to see years of Deepa’s hard work come to fruition with Jhatkaa’s launch. Aaron would have been too.
 
Earlier this week, I pledged $200 to help launch the crowdfunding campaign. But in honor of the 6-month anniversary of Aaron’s death today, I’m upping it to $1000. That’s the largest financial contribution I’ve ever given to any organization, by an order of magnitude.
 
I invite you to join me in investing in Jhatkaa right now, at this critical moment in its potential. Early money is like yeast. And think of it this way: What kind of India do you want your children and grandchildren’s world to have?
 
Click here to pledge your donation to Jhatkaa.org now: http://startsomegood.com/Venture/jhatkaa/Campaigns/Show/building_a_progressive_indian_democracy
 
With much love and gratitude,
Taren
 
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    Good work Taren.
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