“Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
There Are Two Kinds Of Friends
One kind will follow you anywhere, and always tell you what you want to hear. No matter what you do, they support you. This kind of friend cheers you on when you’re binge drinking, buys you drugs even when they’re destroying your life, and never says anything negative about your behavior. We call this kind of friend the enabler, and they’re not much better than an enemy. In some ways, they might be worse.
A true friend, on the other hand, will support and defend you, but will make you mad sometimes. When you’re making a mistake, they warn you. When you’re in a bad relationship, they caution you to get out. They’re the kind of friend who will fight for you to the gates of hell, but won’t let you walk through the gate and go to hell. This friend is the opposite of an enemy, and is willing to interrupt you when you’re making a mistake.
I’m a big fan of Elon Musk. By getting Tesla to where it is today, the whole automotive industry got a kick in the pants. They likely wouldn’t be moving toward electrification at all if it weren’t for pressure from Tesla. The growth of solar was already happening, but by pushing the industry to do more battery storage, that solar growth will be far more impactful. Solar cells that blend into roofs is also likely to help spur even more adoption. SpaceX gave the space industry its own much needed kick in the pants, and making humanity a multiplanetary species helps prevent our extinction in the future. Neuralink also seeks to guard against a possible existential threat from artificial intelligence.
These are all important initiatives, and they deserve our support. As real friends of Elon Musk, we need to always show up to defend him when he’s right. We also need to be there when he’s unfairly attacked by entrenched interests. It’s also important to do our part to make his good initiatives a success and push the rest of the industry to do good things.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Hurt Marginalized People
As good friends, though, we must also be there to offer unwanted advice when he’s making a mistake. I hope our readers, and if he’s reading this, Elon Musk, see what I’m about to say in that light. I want to be a true friend here and not an enabler.
Attacking marginalized people is never cool or funny. Attacking the people who support them is also uncool. Elon Musk’s recent tweet did both of these things, regardless of whether he meant to do that. He shared a meme that said “When you put he/him in ur bio” above an image of a soldier with blood on his hands and a hat that says “I love to oppress.” with the dead and dying in the background.
I do get that this might be aimed at the overbearing left-wing activists who actually want to use government to suppress freedom of speech on this issue. I’m not cool with that, either. I don’t approve of mean-spirited behavior, but nobody should be jailed or fined for calling a transwoman “sir.” It may also be aimed at “cancel culture,” where people attempt to destroy your livelihood or career for saying mean things online. Again, I’m not cool with someone getting “canceled” unless they do something truly heinous.
The problem is that most people who put pronouns in their Twitter bios aren’t trying to oppress anyone. They’re trying to signal to transgender people that they matter. For most of us, it’s pretty obvious what pronouns apply, and it may seem silly to indicate the pronouns, but the goal isn’t to state the obvious. The reason cisgender people sometimes put “he/him” or “she/her” in their bios is to normalize the practice of sharing one’s pronouns. That way, when a non-binary transgender person or a binary trans person who doesn’t “pass” well wants to share their preferred pronouns, it’s not unusual.
Putting a tweet out that attacks all who put pronouns in their bios signals that transgender people don’t deserve our support, and that people who support them are to be looked down on. Again, this might not be the intent behind the tweet, but it was taken that way by many people just as Elon Musk’s previous “Pronouns suck” tweet (later deleted) was seen this way by his girlfriend.
Why This Even Matters
I don’t put pronouns in my Twitter bio personally, but I do endeavor to show my support in other ways (at present, it’s a rainbow of hearts). Keep in mind that I’m not a left-wing activist, either. I’m an independent, and I’m big on gun rights and other issues that aren’t often supported among Democrats.
I think this is important because marginalized groups need our help, not signals that they and those who support them are bad. Our support can save lives, especially when you consider the high suicide rates among transgender people. Those suicide rates aren’t caused by them being defective people; they’re caused by a feeling that they don’t matter. Studies have shown that the greater a transgender person is included and validated, the lower the suicide rates are.
Transgender people who are included, treated as their preferred gender, and accepted by family don’t have suicide rates any higher than the rest of the population.
Given that our support and encouragement actually saves lives, it’s the right thing to do.
I don’t think anyone should be forced to do this, though, especially by government. People have a right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and other rights that apply here. We all need to respect those rights, while also using our right to speak up when we see other people using those rights irresponsibly.
When someone has over 40 million Twitter followers, their voice matters a lot.
This Affects The Future Of Clean Energy
While it’s dangerous to have too many eggs in one basket, that’s how the clean energy industry is right now. When people think of electric cars, they think of Tesla and Elon Musk.
The truth is, we need as much public support as we can get, and much of that public support comes from left-leaning people right now. We need political support to not only keep the government from favoring fossil fuels over cleaner alternatives, but to help tip the balance a bit in favor of clean technologies. That public support is also needed to protect people like Elon Musk from unfair attacks when government is corrupt. Outside of government, we need people to invest in clean technology and to purchase products made by clean technology companies.
Doing controversial things, especially things that affect marginalized people negatively, pushes people away. It saps public support, and could cost us later when we need either help from government or for them to leave us alone. It chases away investors. It chases away customers.
The future of our planet is too important to chase support away like this. As true friends and allies, we need to ask Elon Musk to be less self-destructive.