Once your children reach third or fourth grade, it’s evident how stupid (and how old) they believe everyone their age is. What I’m implying is that one’s jokes quickly become Dad jokes. When children reach the ages of ten, eleven, and twelve, they offer adults a constant mix of eye-rolling and cockeyed shrugs. To them, everything we do is absurd. (I’m not even convinced they’re completely incorrect.
Elon Musk is 50 years old — he’ll be 51 in June —which should make him a lamestain old fart like the rest of us. But what about children? Musk is Iron Man in the eyes of children. He’s the wealthiest person they know, but he’s not elderly and crotchety like conventional old wealthy people like Bill Gates or, for that matter, Donald Trump. Musk, whether because he works in technology, perhaps because he is affiliated with something fascinating like outer space, perhaps because he is continuously dating young people, or because he Tweets frequently, feels younger to young people. As a result, he does not appear to them to be some soulless libertarian nightmare. He appears to be the ideal comical persona of a wealthy individual.
Their heroes are seldom old people like us. They are children, or as near to children as they can get. Eilish, Billie Holland, Tom. Zendaya. Justin Bieber, in some ways, remains. (For the record, Justin Bieber is now older than Kurt Cobain was when he died.) When kids my son’s age start chatting about famous individuals they respect — or just think are wonderful — it’s always a bit unnerving how frequently one guy’s name comes up: Elon Musk.
The ultra-wealthy have long served as North Stars in American culture. We despise them, aspire to be them, aspire to be like them, aspire to be like them, aspire to be like them, aspire to be like them, aspire to be like them, aspire to be like them But it strikes me as a very terrible indicator that our children see them as more than role models: they see them as our saviors. They are the only ones who can do anything. But why wouldn’t children believe this? They see how bad everything is and how inept the rest of us are at dealing with it. They might be able to assist. Perhaps Elon Musk can assist.
The bad news is that the billionaires will be no assistance to us – in many respects, they are the issue. In addition, Elon Musk in many ways, the problem. And Elon Musk, in particular, is no Tony Stark. They may need him to be, though, at least emotionally. They can sense our unease. Our unease will someday become theirs. No need to show them the real Elon, and the real Any Of Us, until we have to. Let them enjoy being kids, and having the fantasy of someone looking out for them. They’ll find out the truth soon enough.
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