Aaron Swartz is dead.
While one will never be able to know the actual reasons for the suicide, his family has attributed it to the U.S. Attorney’s case against him.
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.
As a male in Singapore, I had to spend 2.5 years of my life doing my National Service. Women in Singapore generally are either indifferent towards the complains from the males about it or worse they mock us for not being man enough to suck it up and just do it. Empathy and Sympathy are two things you can never get from Singaporean women when it comes to National Service.
Most of us Singaporean males, taking into account most practical considerations, have no choice in this matter.
Reflecting on my time doing National Service and its impact made me realize how much power the State has over us and how little say we have at the start of our lives, lives we didn’t even choose to start. At the point of birth, we are entered into a social contract with a society and government based on the decisions of our parents.
There was a period of time I contemplated suicide as the only way to escape this contract, a contract that, unsurprisingly, increasingly seems to be in existence for the benefits of only those with power and wealth.
I’ve since had reasons not to have suicide as the number one option, and decided that in consideration of existing parameters the resulting trade-off from optimising personal utility with suicide against the diminished utility of others is a price I will not pay.
Yet, reading about Aaron’s death, his past writings, and the circumstances surrounding the death, I’m reminded again about the sometimes apparent hopelessness and meaninglessness of our existence.