freelance tech writer, artist and community builder
The cult of personality is designed to stunt your growth and I’m about to show you how. The cult of personality is best personified by none other than Elon Musk. I never thought I’d be writing this kind of article because I may be one of the biggest fans of Elon Musk. In fact, three years ago, when I came across one of his videos by accident, it was much like being struck by lightning. My mind went on fire. Last year, I even sent Musk a custom-designed portfolio that contained a proposal for Uber drivers to be paired with Teslas.
I have a long tradition of sending things to people I greatly admire and respect. I’ve been doing this since I was a child, and I never quite outgrew the habit. I often feel overcome by feelings of intense gratitude and in Elon’s case, I felt immense gratitude for the work he was carrying out.
Two years prior to discovering Elon Musk’s work, I had been studying the environmental destruction that is currently taking place on land, in the sea and in our skies. I gorged on information, learning about microplastics, overfishing, destructive energy companies, Monsanto, the list is endless. I consumed so much information in those two years that I almost became ill. I tried for years to understand what I could do to help the earth. I learned about the organic farming movement and the many groups that were all trying to save the earth. I even wrote a children’s book, titled, Solargirl Stella, that came to me in a vision (this is another story). I was drawn to radical groups like Deep Green Resistance and people who are intent on re-wilding our planet.
But I could never quite dive into those groups because I felt that these underground movements went against my basic nature: I don’t like the prospect of being arrested. I also became aware of the many flaws contained within the groups. I always felt they lacked an intelligent, all-encompassing design. At this precise moment, I came across the Elon Musk video.
From the moment I ran across that video, I set about learning everything I could about Musk: PayPal, Tesla Motors and to a lesser degree SpaceX and SolarCity. In all my life, I couldn’t remember a time that I was exposed to a CEO whom I considered to be truly brilliant. Before learning about Musk, I had very rigid and preconceived notions about what defined a CEO. I thought they were all money-devouring, greedy, spineless psychopaths who only lived for one purpose: to make more and more money. I certainly had no respect for such low-lying beasts.
My heroes tended to be artists, writers, visionaries, scientists, inventors, trailblazing people who defied categorization, had visions and altered the course of history, smashing outmoded thought along the way. Joan of Arc, Nikola Tesla, Theo Janssen and Frida Kahlo are all on my list. Arthur Rimbaud is another. It’s ten years later and I’m still trying to decipher the full meaning of one of Rimbaud’s quotes,
“I have researched the magic shapes of the happiness no one escapes.”
Isn’t that a fucking brilliant sentence? What does it mean?
Mr. Musk smashed my preconceived notion of a “CEO” to bits and I loved every second of its demise. After the formal research of Musk had waned, I found myself wanting to learn even more about this curious man. I tend to want to research a topic of my interest until there is no more information left. I then discovered the not so glittery sides of Elon through the writings of his ex-wife, Justine Musk and Ashlee Vance’s book, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. The story of what happened to Elon’s personal assistant, Mary Beth Brown, is brutal and illustrates how cruel he can be to people who have shown absurd amounts of loyalty to him. From Quora, Justine Musk writes:
“Mary Beth Brown started working for Elon soon after we moved to LA twelve or thirteen years ago (Elon and I were still married then). MB was an exceptional and devoted employee of Elon’s and lovely to deal with on a personal level. She gave her life to the job — and to our family — and the news of her departure was a shock to me. Apparently (according, I believe, to Ashlee Vance, who wrote the book on Elon), MB asked for a raise. E told her that if she was truly critical to SpaceX, it should not be able to operate in her absence (or something to that effect). He suggested a 3-week experiment to test this hypothesis/her worth. This reminds me of something similar he once said to me, many years ago, after I came back from a week’s visit with my family in Canada — that his life had operated quite smoothly in my absence. He was letting me know that I was an incompetent house manager.”
Of course I do not personally know the details, but I did read Ashlee Vance’s book and this is where the cult of personality plays out. We tend to look the other way when we learn about Elon Musk’s personality flaws and the fact that he tends to treat some individual people horribly. We tend to say to ourselves, “Well, he’s running two (or three) companies and is changing the course of history.” But let me point out another intriguing genius, Nikola Tesla, who also changed the course of history. I just finished his autobiography and he did not exhibit such cruel treatment of other human beings, as far as I can tell. Elon Musk is a person with an exceptional amount of engineering intelligence, business acumen, drive and passion for altering the course of technological and space history. He is also exceptionally good at taking advantage of opportunities. But he is a mortal and has flaws. He possesses some qualities that are not worthy of being emulated. These last two sentences are always left out of media headlines because the cult of personality wants you to believe that you could never reach the same level as Elon Musk.
It is true that you may not possess the perfect balance of characteristics, talents and skills necessary to make another Elon Musk. But the truth is, you are capable of doing great things, greater than your wildest dreams. The article that made me aware of these thoughts was written by Andrei Draganescu, someone you’ve probably never heard of. Here’s his thought-shattering explanation of the cult of personality:
“You are not special. Elon Musk is. This system glorifies the ones who somehow break the funnel. These rogues then spill out large amounts of change into our environment. To contain this, we devised a system of investing humans with special abilities. Of course we don’t have them, only they do.
The personality cult pattern is the foundation of the culture of heroes. From ancient demigods to modern day pop stars and fame flooded CEOs. It is all about how they are simply better than everyone else.
No one is better than everyone else. We’re all sweaty and smelly at times and mean and stupid at other times. Some of us exploit opportunities, that’s it. Opportunities are cracks produced by environment into the walls of the funnel of change.”
Speaking of mean and stupid…….have you read what Justine Musk’s life was like? My God! Her life with him sounded dreadful! More like a nightmare than anything else. Elon’s psychology seems full of barbs.
Elon admitted in an article that his definition of spending time with his children sometimes amounted to multi-tasking sending emails while being with them. Hmmmm……This brings to mind something worth thinking about: what are you willing to give up in order to make your dreams come true?
I’m beginning to understand the true cost of bending the world to make your vision of the future a reality. But wait a second. Perhaps, just perhaps I, too, am suffering from a dizzying spell of the cult of personality? You see, the cult of personality is so engrained, so much a part of the fabric of our minds that we cannot even perceive its existence.
We don’t see Elon Musk as a real person, only a cult figure that exists in our imaginations. He represents the person we are too lazy to become. He personifies the crazy ideals that we abandoned in our own childhoods. He symbolizes the collective potential energy of a trillion adults, who, for one reason or another, vacated their dreams of becoming a super heroic figure and instead settled inside the vapid walls of some mediocre, fluorescent-lit cubicle.
We feel weak and ashamed when we are confronted by yet another story of him in Forbes. Forbes knows this. Forbes knows that we feel like abject losers when our photos are placed next to Musk’s.
The media uses the cult of personality to make you feel inferior, less than, diminished and vulnerable. Media is not designed to prop you up and feed you information to enrich your life, to climb out of your self-designed cages. No, the purpose of the media machine is to attack your most vulnerable personality traits and get you hooked, much like the drug dealer wants to get you hooked on heroin.
Nikola Tesla chose not to marry because it seemed for him, that being involved in a relationship would have decreased the amount of time he invested in his inventions. He chose inventions over relationships. He also tended to work in isolation and was not in charge of running companies. He had many friends, like Mark Twain, but it seems that his day to day existence did not revolve around people. The cult of personality surrounds Nikola Tesla as well. But Tesla is perhaps more of a freakish curiosity than Musk because Tesla forsake women altogether. Musk appears to treat them badly whereas Tesla didn’t get involved with women at all.
What do I have to do with any of this?
Well, it’s simple. I want to reach my potential. I want to dispel myths and help destroy the status quo. I want to bring to light brilliant people who also lie in the shadows. I want humanity to move forward. I am tired of brilliance being hidden. I’d like to change a lot of things.
I’ve spent my entire life in the shadows, it seems………………
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