Lamentations and Remorse
A lot of people — including those close to Aaron who knew him well — were variously shocked, surprised, angered, grieved, and perplexed by his decision to take his own life.
By his own admission, Aaron Swartz was on a “crazy roller coaster” in the wake of his indictment by the US Attorney.
One of the features of being on a “crazy roller coaster” is that one’s emotions rapidly oscillate between both familiar and unfamiliar extremes. At times, one has high hopes. The next moment, one has high anxiety that plunges into despair.
Aaron was known for his mood swings. He could be enthused one day and lethargic the next.
His life story reads like his own idiosyncratic version of a passion play. He could be passionate about a cause and then undertake a systematic campaign that calls for sustained effort and dispassionate problem-solving.
If I had to guess what Aaron Swartz was thinking and feeling the day he took his life, my best guess is that he was feeling scapegoated, and perhaps thinking that he was hopelessly ensnared in a long-term, nightmare, no-win, dispiriting drama with the US Attorney.
When one is ensnared in a lunatic scapegoat drama, there is likely to be a crucial phase where the protagonist feels forsaken. That’s the phase that is most likely to immediately precede a fatal moment of irreversible despair.
Justice is supposed to be a dispassionate process. But in Aaron’s case it clearly was not. The prosecution has been characterized as over-zealous and vindictive. To an idealistic person on the receiving end of such relentless persecution, the whole system comes off as being arbitrary, capricious, and beyond redemption.
There are reports that Carmen Ortiz has been shaken by the turn of events associated with Aaron’s suicide and its aftermath. Perhaps now she is also feeling scapegoated, too. That’s the odd thing about passion plays. The extreme emotions of the protagonist become unexpectedly transferred to the antagonist.
In the end, all that’s left to feel is remorse.