Internet’s Own Boy

I finally managed to see the movie “Internet’s Own Boy”. It is a movie about a wonderful person. I mean one of such special people you only get to witness every now and then.

I’d put him, and his struggle, around the likes of Mandela, MLK, Ghandi and many others that took it upon themselves the burden of making the world a better place. I always feel in awe by the courage that these people had to organize/join movements and question the status quo in order to bring positive change. I find this incredible when the standard is apathy or just fear. Sad and unfortunate things are happening all over the world, and though we are not OK with it, most of the times I guess we are just afraid to stand up and do something about it, and it is remarkable that sometimes along the way there is somebody that shines a light and guides us through this fear – Aaron Swartz was surely one of these people.

I think Tim Berners Lee made some spot on remarks about who he was and what he represented:

Aaron was a huge, magnificent person. I suppose when people talk of a
meteoric career you can think of a meteor as something amazing and
bright. Also, alas, as something short. A spark, that in Aaron’s case
is out – but what an incredible spark he was! Blazing across the dark
sky of ordinary people, broken systems, a shining force for good, a
maker of great things.

And we’ve lost a fighter. We’ve lost somebody who put huge energy into
righting wrongs. There are people around the world who take it on
themselves to just try to fix the world but very few of them do it
24/7 like Aaron. Very few of them are as dedicated. So of the people
who are fighting for right, and what he was doing up to the end was
fighting for right, we have lost one of our own.

But I remember feeling a little bit of a sinking in my stomach when he
said that actually he’d become disillusioned. He’d decided open data
wasn’t going solve all the worlds problems. It wasn’t enough. Aaron
began to be aware of the complexity of the social systems which he
needed to change and the political systems around him. He started to
understand how, to get change, you could change the world with
software but that you could also use your code to make social change.
And you could use that social change, you could create structures and
further social changes which would then lead to political change. And
he realized that unless you made huge political changes then you
wouldn’t be able to solve the problems.

So nurturers of the world, everyone who tried to make a place safe to
work or a home safe to live, anyone who listens to another, looks
after another or feeds another, all parents everywhere – we’ve lost a
child. And there’s nothing worse than that.

The movie opens with a quote of Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”

Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we
endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or
shall we transgress them at once?

I read that book a while ago and I just did not get it – I mean the book did not sink in fully with me. Probably I was just not ready to understand it then. After seeing this movie, as well as Citizenfour and doing some thinking about the social landscape, now I get it! It is funny how you only fully assimilate certain things in hindsight – like most important things I learned from my mother.

After watching Citizenfour and now “Internet’s Own Boy” I got reminded of the role of this medium – and art in a broader sense – to document and immortalise key events and personalities in our history so that we learn from them and move forward without stepping back – as in “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, George Santayana (i.e. stuff they told me at History class and am only appreciating now). It also reminded me of their role in helping us see other perspectives, ask questions and reexamine the way we live.

I have a friend that told me that he saw the movie like three times. Now I know why, and I hope to do the same every now and then.