Elon Musk is destroying my faith in humanity
So there’s really no way to be both rich and a decent human being?
The correlation between virtue and riches is the most pressing question of any faith: are we going to be awarded for our good behavior? in this life or after? those people — do they deserve what they have? and if there is no life beyond this one, why don’t we just take what we like from the other guys? Throughout the millennia, each new religion would either justify or condemn wealth — from Roman pantheons to Franciscans order, from the sensual capitalism of Ayn Rand to the somber dogmas of Marxism-Leninism.
I bet each of those time periods saw their own messiahs and the struggles of those who fell out of faith — I can only speak for my own. I, a Millenial in the XXI century, can only speak about the crisis of the Church of Entrepreneurship, ordained by the higher power of the motivational Instagram feed.
I, a Millenial in the XXI century, can only speak about the crisis of the Church of Entrepreneurship, ordained by the higher power of the motivational Instagram feed.
According to the Church of Entrepreneurship, not only wealth and power don’t corrupt, — they are a sure sign of a virtuous person. Contrary to the faulty orders of the past, the Church says, the perfect meritocracy of lawful capitalism creates heroes that make a fortune with the strength of their own personality: by being courageous, creative, and ambitious while striving to make people’s lives better. And as the Church teaches, a truly virtuous person is awarded in this very life, with wealth perfectly proportionate to their merit.
Every faith needs its missionaries and saints — so ladies and gentlemen, welcome Elon Musk.
I mean, for sure, there are other rich people living in the world — it’s just so hard to somebody worth believing in. In Russia, where I was born and raised, after 1917 wealth and decency could only meet by chance. There, most of the modern-day 1% have acquired their wealth through brute force and exquisite sneakiness during the criminal period of 90s. In Italy, where I live now, the most famous billionaire is Silvio Berlusconi: a comically intense combination of all the sins a human can harbor.
Not the heroes I’m searching for.
It was always the Land of the Free to provide examples of people who achieved success through their own merit, by the strength of their own personality, guided by their own vision. We, the humble followers, cheered for them as they rose, we put them in our study books, and we kept their quotes close to heart.
The holy images of most of those billionaires didn’t age well. Mark Zuckerberg went from a nerdy, awkward genius to a merciless, inhuman entity. Jeff Bezos turned the respect and polite indifference we had for him to straight-up hate. But Elon Musk, instead, always stayed on his own wavelength. And I’d think of him in times when I’d lose hope.
The holy images of most of those billionaires didn’t age well. Mark Zuckerberg went from a nerdy, awkward genius to a merciless, inhuman entity. Jeff Bezos turned the respect and polite indifference we had for him to straight-up hate. Elon Musk, instead, stayed on his own wavelength, and I’d think of him in times when I would lose hope.
His dreams of the space; his excitement about progress and science; his adorable awkwardness and nerdiness during the public events; his energy, honesty, and determination. He seemed so taken by the celestial matters that the human vices would hardly get to him, defined by super-human productivity and unprecedented liberty of self-expression (ah, that Twitter account) — and yet so miraculously relatable.
In the darkest times, I would refer to his image to justify the effort I put, the struggles I face, and my search for my own way. He kept my faith alive.
Well, not anymore.
Railing against the protective measurements with unscientific claims. Breaking the laws and disregarding public health for profit. Attention-whoring. And things just keep adding up.
In my book, these aren’t the signs of dignity. This is not what a decent, wealthy, influential person is supposed to do in the face of the global crisis. This is not what I want to aspire to.
Is this mountain worth climbing?
I always tried to resist all these “the poor inherit the Earth” and “money corrupts” tropes, so popular on the territory of the ex-Soviet Union. Antagonize the wealthy and attribute all of your defeats to your extreme decency, kindness, and honor — it’s just way too easy. It’s way too easy to be hypothetically generous when you have nothing to give, too easy to be righteous when you have no means to practice what you preach.
Powerless virtue comes cheap.
It was the virtue of the powerful — of the people who came into their full bloom, expanded their limits, overcame all the external rules, heeding only to the guide of their internal moral compass — it was them who I saw as the true depictions of real, unrestricted human nature. It was the mercenaries, the inventors, the benefactors I would base my faith in humanity upon.
But as these tense times force the last heroes I had to show their real face, my faith starts to crumble. What if those old adages were actually true? What if the “success” we’re all chasing is just death and the subsequent slow, gold-plated decomposition of everything human we ever had? What if the Church of Entrepreneurship only wants us as nameless gears that sacrifice their dreams, time, and energy for the benefit of the few self-proclaimed messiahs?
What if there is no Progress, just Chaos, and the jungle laws of the survival in which your bright dreams have no meaning whatsoever?
I don’t have an answer to any of those questions, and no Band-Aid for my shattered faith. I only know that now I’m going to finish this article and make me some hot chocolate; that I will try to laugh and love a little more, stress and beat myself up a little less. I don’t know where this road leads or where is everyone heading; if it does make sense to walk it, run it, climb it, or just sit on the side of that road admiring the sunset.
And I’m sure the new messiahs, new orders, and new churches will come up if we just sit here in the dark for a little.
Take care — and please, please, please don’t call your present or future kids any weird elfish names. Who knows how high your efforts will bring you, and these existential crises are no fun at all.