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[liberationtech] Tragic News: Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Shava Nerad shava23 at
Sun Jan 13 11:52:40 PST 2013

It is part of the principles of formal nonviolence theory that you must not
hold the passive evil as irredeemable and non-negotiable.  This is what the
truth and reconciliation process is about.

Without that possibility, there is no movement forward.

I believe in that process as an article of faith; I've seen it work in
phenomenally bad situations.  This is, I hope, not that bad.

You can not negotiate across a table without having an understanding and
some empathy or at least openness to the needs of the person across from
you.  My father, a pacifist, taught his children to study military history,
strategy and tactics, economics, diplomacy, history, and politics.  In the
sixties, when so many hippie children were disparaging everything having to
do with The Establishment, I was studying the deep roots of the conflict in
southeast Asia in the interest to find the magic button on the puzzle box
to undo the entire unsolvable morass and make it resolve (Walter Cronkite
seemed to beat me to it, in a way).

So please do not consider me naive when I say she does not seem evil.  What
I am saying is this:  She seems like a rational actor in most of her
recorded works.  That means I can likely approach her in negotiation.  She
is likely not psychotic.  She is likely to play by some reasonable subset
of the Rules of the Game, and not "disappear" me, or act out of psychosis
or completely outside the rule of law.

It's risk management, do you see?

I have come against people who I believe to be what I would call truly evil
-- who believed internally that they acted as agents of the forces of evil
in the world. And/or who were socio- or psychopathic in various ways
clinically and were not safe to be around.  Some of those people had enough
power or authority to be dangerous.  And/or who thought that people like me
or people I was advocating for did not qualify as truly or fully human and
therefore were not worth accounting for in their priorities and decision
making, which in my value system makes them evil because I believe that
people are equal.  Various things.

Even some of those people, but only some of them can be reached in this
lifetime.  Some of them can not.  It is a liberal myth that you can
persuade all people to your side through verbal means.  You can't.  Some
you can only reach through emotions or symbolic means.  Others, you will
never reach in this lifetime once they are imprinted, I'm convinced.

So much of the change we try to effect is generational; we need to be
patient, and that's very hard, especially for the young people.

So yes, I am a warrior, but in my way a very "yin" warrior.  I expose
myself to the "enemy," learn their needs, favor compromise, and evolve into
the Beloved Community with them.  Resistance is futile.  Assimilation is

At least, that's more or less the hope.

It's amazing how often one finds out they have the same values and were
pressured into a bad compromise.  And of course, you don't compromise past
your own ethics.  But it's rarely a comfortable path.  It involves building
trust with people you probably don't like, paying dues, being tested,
suffering fools gladly, exercising power to show that you can play the same
games, and all the traditional crap that the old system uses.

Until you've sent all the protocol signals that clear you for entry to real

This is how I got to be Chair of Budget and Finance of Multnomah County
Oregon for the Democrats in one year and then Democrat State Committee the
next with no previous office in the Democratic Party.  It's social

This is how I ended up VP of Marketing and BizDev of a tiny fannish company
in PDX and taking them to 285 on the Inc1000 in three years in 2003 (after
the dotcom bubble busted, note...) on the basis of the contracts I
negotiated for them, coming from a background in nonprofit administration.

You just walk in and do it.  It's a LARP.  It's performance art and improv.
 But it's not in the least naive.

If you avoid negotiating with people because they might be evil, work with
evil, have done evil things, you can't change the world.  Those are the
exact people who are acting with power now.  Am I right?

No fear.


On Sun, Jan 13, 2013 at 1:17 PM, Case Black <caseblack at> wrote:

> "Federal Prosecutor Ortiz does not seem like a monster in general...
> The more significant issue is that evil does not come at us with teeth
> bared and the smell of sulfur in the air. It comes at us in a well tailored
> suit and a welcoming smile; with slavish attention to following all the
> correct procedures so that no one can ever say the letter of the law was
> not scrupulously honored.
> This was clearly a case of malicious prosecution not to redress a harm
> done to society, but to silence a voice willing to challenge power. The
> fact that it was done by friendly smiling attorneys in the antiseptic
> confines of a Federal Courtroom and not by rude thugs in the center of
> Tahrir Square in no way lessens the evil of unconstrained use of state
> power to silence voices of dissent...
> The "Banality of Evil" quote applies well giant organizations,
> be they government, corporate or church, do unspeakable harm through the
> blandest of bureaucrats, the most pious of bishops and the most reasonable
> of prosecutors. We would do well when looking at the likes of Ortiz to
> always hold separate intent from presentation...
> Case
> On Sun, Jan 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM, Case Black <caseblack at> wrote:
>> "Federal Prosecutor Ortiz does not seem like a monster in general"...of
>> course not, neither did Adolf Eichmann.
>> This is the face of the Banality of Evil for the modern era!
>> On Sun, Jan 13, 2013 at 10:23 AM, Shava Nerad <shava23 at> wrote:
>>> Federal Prosecutor Ortiz
> --
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Shava Nerad
shava23 at
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