In six days, on January 18th, it’s the one year anniversary of the blackout of Wikipedia, and some have discussed celebrating it as Internet Freedom Day. Maybe we should call this Aaron Swartz Day, in honor of this heroic figure. While what happened that day was technically about the internet, it should be remembered, and Aaron should be remembered, in the context of social justice. That day was about a call for a different world, not just protecting our ability to access web sites. And we should remember these underlying values. It would help people understand that justice can be extremely costly, and that we risk much when we allow those who do the right thing to be punished. Somehow, we need to rebuild a culture that respects people like Aaron and turns away from the greed and rent-extraction that he hated. There’s a cycle in American history, of religious “Great Awakenings”, where new cultural systems emerge in the form of religion, often sweeping through communities of young people dissatisfied with the society they see around them. Perhaps that is what we see in the Slow Food movement, or gay rights movement, or the spread of walkable communities and decline of vehicle miles, or maker movement, or the increasing acceptance of meditation and therapy, or any number of other cultural changes in our society. I don’t know. I’m sure many of these can be subverted. What I do know is that if we are to honor Aaron’s life, we will recognize him as a broad social justice activist who cared about transforming our society, and acted to do so. And we will take up his fight as our own.
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