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Brownsville, We Have a Problem

By James Moore

I have never bought into the hype and general BS of Elon Musk. His visions for his businesses and the future of humanity and technology, while often engaging, strike me as without basis in reality. There is, in fact, a bit of language that reveals much about Musk and his various endeavors, as if he is letting us in on the multi-billion dollar jokes he is cracking. Whenever one of his SpaceX rockets explodes, he has convinced the public and engineers to refer to it as “a rapid unscheduled disassembly.” Hell, maybe he’s serious.

His semantic talents, though, do nothing to offset his hypocrisies and wanton disregard for concerns that exist outside his spheres of economic interest. Only on Planet Musk does the explosion of history’s largest rocket get billed as a “successful launch,” which happened just days before the Thanksgiving holiday. The Super Heavy rocket, billed as the booster for mankind’s vehicle to take the first trip to Mars, was supposed to fly for 90 minutes but lasted only eight before exploding, uh, sorry, “rapidly disassembling,” 24 miles up. In case you were unaware, this makes for great success, according to SpaceX Quality Engineering Manager Kate Tice.

“Honestly, it’s such an incredibly successful day, even though we did have a rapid unscheduled disassembly of both the Super Heavy booster and the Ship,” she said. “We got so much data, and that will all help us to improve for our next flight.”

SpaceX and Musk appear to have become quite capable at ignoring data that does not comport with their vision. When his launch pad project was pitched to Brownsville residents and the state of Texas, which was to seek approval of millions in tax credits, crowds of 20-30,000 visitors were predicted to provide a huge economic impact in one of America’s most disadvantaged communities. Instead, campgrounds and restaurants get increased customer traffic from self-described “space nerds” by the dozens while endangered species habitats are leveled, and nearby homes and businesses are put at risk by the attendant sound and fury of rocket blasts.

 

A Typical Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly

 

Prior to the initial rapid unscheduled disassembly, various organizations were trying to stop what they knew were to be the negative results. Twenty-eight community activist groups went on record to oppose continued development of the Boca Chica Beach launch site and any further rocket launches. Carrizo Comecrudo Tribal Chairman, Juan B. Mancias, was incensed his people were not consulted about Musk’s use of sacred lands along the South Texas coast.

“Whenever Elon Musk and his accomplices, the Cameron County Commissioners and Texas General Land Office, close Boca Chica beach for his pet project SpaceX, they destroy our native life ways,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “We, the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, oppose SpaceX operations destroying our sacred lands. The Tribe was never consulted by any of these companies or electeds (sic) about rockets, like County Judge Treviño, who never responded to our request for a meeting.”

The majority of Brownsville’s community leaders clearly have fallen for Musk’s notion that their poor little border town can be transformed by the economic engines of SpaceX. Originally, they even believed the first humans to reach Mars might leave the Earth from a sandy strip of beach on the north side of their town, an outcome as unlikely as Brownsville turning into a borderland Las Vegas. Whatever the current economic impact, Musk is not likely to use his space port on the Gulf Coast as more than a test site. Any manned mission will almost certainly originate from Cape Canaveral, and if the “rapid unscheduled disassemblies” continue apace, chimpanzees, used in the early NASA launches, might even decline the Musk Mars assignment.

Let’s stipulate, though, that space travel is a worthy endeavor. A drive to explore is in our human DNA. The mechanics and biology of getting to Mars, though, are much further into the future than Musk envisions. If he ever gets his booster rocket to escape velocity without exploding, there are still the issues of sustaining human life for the long flight to the red planet. At an initial speed of just under 25,000 mph, the flight to Mars will be seven months in duration. Can the spacecraft carry enough compressed oxygen for a crew of four? What will be habitation on the planet’s surface? Perhaps robots are sent in advance to build a module for living with a method for creating water and oxygen? How much food and water can be transported?

The bigger question, though, is whether we are supposed to trust a private entrepreneur with controversial beliefs and a distrust of the government with which he is doing business? Musk slapped a label of “government funded media” on National Public Radio’s Tweet stream, even though it gets less than one percent of its $390 million dollars from federal funding.

NPR subsequently abandoned his platform. No mention has ever been made by the rocket man that SpaceX has been the recipient of more than $15 billion dollars from the federal government in the past twenty years. Tesla has also thrived with tax money, which, according to the Tesla Subsidy Tracker, amounts to a total of $466 million state and federal dollars, and about $64 million of that amount comes from Texas taxpayers. While he complains of bureaucracy and permits slowing down his rocket launches and his driverless car approvals, Musk holds out his hand for an endless flow of taxpayer money.

His problems of the terrestrial variety are many and manifest, especially in Brownsville. The second launch of the Starship heavy lifter also prompted a news release from an association of activist groups that said the blast off from Boca Chica Beach rained down debris on their low-income community, destroyed 60 acres of a protected wildlife refuge, cut off fishing and beach access to locals, and threatened lands viewed as sacred by original peoples to region. The central issue of complaints against SpaceX and Musk has been the government’s failure to fully consider the environmental impacts of the launch program of his leviathan rocket ship.

“Musk and his pet vanity project continue to pollute and destroy our beautiful beach, coastline, and wildlife,” said Christopher Basaldú with South Texas Environmental Justice Network. “SpaceX, an unnecessary, private money grab that only serves the wealthy, refuses to follow safety regulations, environmental regulations, and the wishes of local communities and the original people of the land.”

 

Boca Chica Launch Site

 

A number of environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, sued SpaceX after its first disastrous launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in April. The suit asked for the company’s five-year license from the FAA to be revoked. The agency was investigating the first crash at the time the legal action was taken, and is presently investigating the latest sky fall while Musk makes plans for another hurried launch. He needs, of course, more data. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the first launch caused large concrete chunks, stainless steel sheets, metal and other objects to be hurled thousands of feet from the pad and that a plume of pulverized concrete sent material up to 6.4 miles northwest of the Boca Chica Beach space port. Is that useful data?

Skepticism also continues to grow around the environmental logic of electric cars. As sales slow down for the Tesla, and other models, discussion increases about the ecological damage caused by mining rare earth materials like lithium to create batteries. As more and more EVs plug into the grid, a greater demand is also placed on generative capacities of power plants, which tend to rely on fossil fuels of coal and natural gas. Instead of reducing reliance on oil and gas, there exists a likelihood of increased demand unless alternative and renewable sources proliferate accordingly, and increase output. Ford Motor Company is also an example of faltering markets for EVs. The company is postponing a $12 billion dollar investment in electric vehicles after losing $3 billion in production during the first quarter of this year. The Lightning F-150 electric pickups were losing $32,000 per unit for the company.

Musk has other issues more confounding than just market demand for EVs. Rabidly anti-union, his Tesla is confronting a strike in Sweden that has not just shut down its nine repair facilities, but has made it impossible to even get license plates. A union for 300,000 auto workers has forced a halt in operations because Musk has ordered the plant’s management to not sign a collective bargaining agreement. Sympathy strikes by postal workers have also made it impossible for Teslas to get their plates while longshoreman’s unions are also refusing to handle shipments of the vehicles into the country. The strike against Tesla repair shops involves only 130 workers but threatens to spread throughout Scandinavia. On his platform X, Musk posted a simple statement, “This is insane.”

Insanity, he has proved, has multiple forms. One might be using your multi-billion-dollar social media platform to enable anti-semitic sentiments. According to an analysis by Media Matters, the X algorithm has positioned top American business brands adjacent to anti-semitic postings, which has led to numerous big name companies cancelling or pausing advertising on the platform. (An example below.)

 

 

Musk denied the reporting and filed a lawsuit against the media watchdog organization, which was immediately and widely panned as meritless under provisions of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, any arguments he might have had that neither he nor his platform expressed prejudices was lost when he endorsed a poster’s insistence of the existence of a Jewish scheme to replace Whites with minorities by allowing open borders and easy immigration. Musk responded with, “You have said the actual truth.”

 

 

His behavior as owner and CEO of X has driven its value down from a purchase price of $44 billion to $19 billion, and losing a bunch of major advertisers because of a public admission of prejudices is not going to increase his product’s value. Musk might be the richest man on the planet, but there are often days where he appears to have more idiosyncrasies and problems than he does dollars.

This article was originally published in Texas to the World.

James Moore is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,” three other books on Bush and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as two novels, and a biography entitled, “Give Back the Light,” on a famed eye surgeon and inventor. His newest book will be released mid- 2023. Mr. Moore has been honored with an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his documentary work and is a former TV news correspondent who has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.

He has been a retained on-air political analyst for MSNBC and has appeared on Morning Edition on National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, CBS Evening News, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Hardball with Chris Matthews, among numerous other programs. Mr. Moore’s written political and media analyses have been published at CNN, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Guardian of London, Sunday Independent of London, Salon, Financial Times of London, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also appeared as an expert on presidential politics in the highest-grossing documentary film of all time, Fahrenheit 911, (not related to the film’s producer Michael Moore).

His other honors include the Dartmouth College National Media Award for Economic Understanding, the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors’ Association, the Individual Broadcast Achievement Award from the Texas Headliners Foundation, and a Gold Medal for Script Writing from the Houston International Film Festival. He was frequently named best reporter in Texas by the AP, UPI, and the Houston Press Club. The film produced from his book “Bush’s Brain” premiered at The Cannes Film Festival prior to a successful 30-city theater run in the U.S.

Mr. Moore has reported on the major stories and historical events of our time, which have ranged from Iran-Contra to the Waco standoff, the Oklahoma City bombing, the border immigration crisis, and other headlining events. His journalism has put him in Cuba, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe, interviewing figures as diverse as Fidel Castro and Willie Nelson. He has been writing about Texas politics, culture, and history since 1975, and continues with political opinion pieces for CNN and regularly at his Substack newsletter: “Texas to the World.”

 

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22 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    Enlarge a photo of a castoff diseased foreskin, on a screen as large as Namibia, and just as arid and remote, and call it a Musk….

  2. andyfiftysix

    Musk is a classic case of living either side of genius.

    Now i dont think he is that smart but smart enough to surround himself with smarter people. Tesla is a company that will do great things for humanity and maybe the genius is in setting it up. He aint no messiah but he has come along at the right time to wean us off fossil fuels.

    “Skepticism also continues to grow around the environmental logic of electric cars. As sales slow down for the Tesla, and other models, discussion increases about the ecological damage caused by mining rare earth materials like lithium to create batteries. As more and more EVs plug into the grid, a greater demand is also placed on generative capacities of power plants, which tend to rely on fossil fuels of coal and natural gas. Instead of reducing reliance on oil and gas, there exists a likelihood of increased demand unless alternative and renewable sources proliferate accordingly, and increase output. .”

    This is pure unsophisticated clap trap. Are you a mouth piece for toyota by any chance. Nothing in this paragraph shows any nuance of whats actually going on in the EV world. For example, tesla closed its factories for a couple of weeks to UPDATE the cars and assembly line. Their sales are increasing exponentially year on year and this year will be no exception. So what with the fake facts and statistics that are meaningless? You cheapen the rest of the article with one paragraph of unresearched nonsense.

    As a human, well thats yet to be shown in its full glory. I too dont beleive all the hype around him but a few things are observable. He is acting like every other rich billionaire and starting to beleive his own BS…….X marks the spot. His rabid response to unions is a concern but then he is by all intents and purposes an american with all the baggage that comes from living in that country. No doubt its a reflex that most people with money have……..they are adverse to parting with it.

  3. Phil Pryor

    I should not have said my outburst out loud and apologise for it if anyone is offended. Musk is repulsively egofocussed, but then what of Bezos or Zuckerberg, and the political garbage in public life. There’s little hope of improvement. Yesterday, we were at a public park, national reserve, vessels being launched, big expensive ones, family ones only, and water scooter hoon things, big double cab vehicles everywhere, fumes, noise, “happiness” and modern life well away. No sign of restraint, awareness, sacrifice, reduction, change, from that lower version of egofixation. The world is doomed if we do not face what is known, but.., no-one yesterday seemed to want to fall behind, reduce, limit or control. It was all money, fumes, excessive consumption, conspicuous show, Muskery.

  4. Michael Taylor

    I certainly wasn’t offended, Phil.

  5. New England Cocky

    @ Phil Pryor: When have you ever offended people with your perceptive view of events, especially political events & characters.

  6. New England Cocky

    @ James Moore: I question ”that space travel is a worthy endeavor”, especially in the American context.

    Add up all the handouts from all levels of government that you have noted and now tell me why the USA (United States of Apartheid) has some of the most expensive health & medical services, least effective locally funded education services and increasing number of ”poor working class persons”.

    about $15.5 BILLION government contributions to Musk aspirations ….. at HUGE COST TO ALL OTHER AMERICAN CITIZENS!!

  7. Canguro

    NEC, annual spend on US military in the order of 880 billion USD. Musk’s 15.5 billion around 1.8% of that. Not to diminish the salience of your observation, but the development of EVs (and excising his space programs in the context of them being a rich man’s folly designed to enrich him further) is arguably worthy of government support, as opposed to the obscene spend on weapons of war for profit for the American arms industries…. at huge cost to the citizenry per low to no spend on health, education, housing, infrastructure etc.

  8. leefe

    andy:
    Musk has never invented anything. His “genius” lies in inheriting a shit-tonne of money from the family’s emerald mines and investing it in tech-related companies that interest him. He’s been forcibly removed from m anagement of at least one of those companies because he was incompetent; we’re seeing much more of that incompetence in his handling of Xitter.

    I’m still not sure whether a rapid unscheduled disassembly is better or worse than and unscheduled momentum transfer scenario with associated cascading exothermic reaction, but neither sounds like much fun.
    Also agree with NEC that there are far more important things upon which the USA should be spending all that time, effort and money.

  9. Phil Pryor

    Many thanks. We feel enraged here at times, and one thinks of Orwell’s nightmare of a jackboot permanently crushing a face, which could be ours sybolically, the “little people” who do not count. Rage into the night then…against Muskery.

  10. andyfiftysix

    leefe, i never said he invented anything, hahahahaha. His “genius” is in surounding himself with smarter people at Tesla. On his own, X treeemly short on smarts, hahahahaha. I am sure Tesla started as a whim, a billionare’s joy ride but it has become far more than that now. Its a shining light to a better electric future. X was pure Hubris and it shows, hahahaha

    As for money his company receives, i have no problem. Sure philosophically you can mount an arguement that its unnecessary. But if you look at whats actually happening on the ground, a monumental shift is happening in the energy sector. Anything that helps that shift is ok by me. It is america and policy by design has to be convoluted and money is fritted away. But its way better than bailing out the banks or GM again. The electric revolution we are witnessing will ease the climate change burden we have…..i dont think its a total fix but golly gosh, it will make a decent dent.

    Musk started this journey with Tesla around 2010 and one has to give credit where credit is due. If he acheives nothing else in this life, he has more than surpassed expectations in this field.

    Just as one must call out bad behaviour, we must equally call out good behaviour. Musk has both sides…..he is muscle and blood after all. Just dont elect him as president. Managing money and managing people are different . Success in one does not guarantee success in the other.

  11. andyfiftysix

    Phil, I too fear the rise of a despot……..Trump comes to mind. But Elon also has the luxury of dreaming the future. He sees a time when us humans dont have to work and is inclined towards a UBI. This to me is far more dangerous to the status quo than to me.

    There is something to be said about the smart people in tesla. They have managed to tame the “musk” element. Something he cant replicate on his own. Its a mistake i think to paint Tesla as only a Musk dictate. Its greater than the sum of its people. Face it, the people working at tesla design are geniuses, the amount of innovation they can produce is astounding.

    So my case is dont taint tesla with musk. Dont be a simplistic fool and assume because musk isnt that bright and is a parasite much like bill gates was, that great things are not possible. I have read enough crap here to know a few people are thinking these crazy simplistic thoughts.

  12. Merrin

    Of all the tech billionaires, I don’t mind Elon, at least he has a sense of humor and sense of theatrical. True he inherited wealth being the grandson of the Head of Canada Technocracy Inc. Lucky him.
    X looks like a data-gathering exercise. Besides that, X is the mark of an illiterate person (Biden?).
    In relation to Mars, Elon was probably borne 5 decades too late.
    The high point of space travel was back in the1960-70s when man landed on the Moon. At the time there were no quantum computers guiding the trip, no advanced AI, no smart phones for that matter, but they did have slide rules.
    Yep, them were the days.
    And what of the magnificent Lunar Rover? Tesla, eat your high-tech lithium battery heart out.
    Recent Moon landings have resulted in a Russian crash and, in the case of the recent Indian Chandrayaan-3, a riveting video of a 2-dimensional cartoon was created (for those who cannot separate fact from illusion).
    Yep, 2023, living the dream, these are the days.

  13. andyfiftysix

    NEC, “@ James Moore: I question ”that space travel is a worthy endeavor”.

    i know we are in a time of great skepticism but lets look at the historical facts.
    Countries have thrived when they have invested in new technology. The last big push, i will argue, was the space race. All the modern tech we have is all due to that spend. Later it was replaced by military spending which was showing signs of reaching a peak in the last few years. .
    Sure i can see other areas we need this push too, medicine comes to mind.
    Space X and Tesla have grown to fill the vacuum in our modern dystopian economies. Silicon Valley has lost a bit of shine. Just look at how Tesla is influencing battery development, manufacturing has never been more exciting or interesting, renewables are starting to have a significant impact that cant be reversed by the neo cons and space X is having an influence on materials development. They are all tied together.
    I am sure its not by design, right time right place, but hey i will take the win win win.
    Lets face reality, we cant fix every problem on this planet, its always going top be a work in progress, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Covid vaccines comes to mind…….just look at the mindless anti vax brigade…….hope they all get measles, hahahahaha
    Investing in space travel means a lot of money will come out of the coffers and into the hands of the workforce. $1b rocket isnt plated with money. Sure its not a very rational pass time, we have all watched too much Star trek in our lives, but the money is just a bit of recycling. In the scheme of things, i aint going to die on the hill bashing this Don Quixote dream.

  14. frances

    Pipped me to the post NEC, could not agree more with the dark equation. So a tad disappointed that James Moore’s refreshingly merciless skepticism does not extend beyond Space X to space exploration per se.

    The trickle-up phallocentricity of the enterprise barely conceals its rootin’ tootin’ covert military raison d’être, whose massive cost to the planetary environment and to pestilential humanity is unlikely to ever be clawed back as an economic benefit any which way.

    The poor stay poor and the Amazon continues to be mined while crazy Musk and his authoritarian corporate ilk pronounce black is white, day = night, terrible = wonderful, failure = success and so on to great applause as they usher in our Orwellian anthropogenic climate future right here, right now, the one no longer quietly incubating.

    With respect also, I must demur re James Moore’s reference to humanity’s DNA/drive to explore thingy. I recall a basic tenet in philosophy of science 101 which states that any attempt to identify a cause by its effects is doomed to irredeemable circularity.

  15. New England Cocky

    @ Canguro: I note your comment and am reminded that electric vehicles were most recently revived in the early 1990s, but abandoned by American automobile manufacturers in an agreement with multinational oil corporations protecting their fossil fuel markets. Indeed, all fresh electric vehicle things that had been developed were destroyed at that time.

    Certainly EVs will certainly become the replacement modes of transport, railways will replace long distance haulage (simply on a cost basis) and fresh ideas will be formulated by imaginative innovators.

    @ andyfiftysix: Methinks you have postulated another version of ”trickle down wealth theory” that has been disproven since Regan in 1980s.

  16. andyfiftysix

    NEC, “”trickle down wealth theory” …………putting words in my mouth?
    Trickle down doesnt work because its a one dimensional transfer of wealth to the top with the assumed trickling down to less beings. Wishful thinking about human behaviour.
    I never said any such thing or proposed any version of this stupid idea. I would tax the bejesus out of billionaires. I hear it all the time……thats how the sytem works. Yea well, if those benefiting designed the system, is it any wonder. Jokers say what a great man Elon is because he doesnt take a wage. Shit man, if i got a $10b blow back selling a few shares, i wouldnt give a shit about a lousy salary too.
    But i think its naive to think that a few companies that spit out product at incredibly low prices wont stop growing or expanding. Scale makes everything cheaper. Thats the capitalist, communist and socialist dream, isnt it? I think we will see more querks of capitalism show up. Just as banks have gone from facilitating capitalism to banks being the face of capitalism.
    I dont advocate it but if its happening, isnt it smarter to direct it to our benefit rather than letting the market play with us humans.

  17. andyfiftysix

    frances, what weed are you on today……?

    “The poor stay poor and the Amazon continues to be mined while crazy Musk and his authoritarian corporate ilk pronounce black is white, day = night, terrible = wonderful, failure = success and so on to great applause as they usher in our Orwellian anthropogenic climate future right here, right now, the one no longer quietly incubating.”

    Dont worry mate, lets just keep making cars that use fossil fuels, that will fix climate change……The poor are poor by design, Elon had nothing to do with that. Same as mining in the amazon……..i doubt Elon caused that. But while we are at it Elon is the devil with no good intentions……..hahahahaha. keep your head on mate.

  18. andyfiftysix

    frances, again, you got me on the attack….lol
    “James Moore’s reference to humanity’s DNA/drive to explore thingy”…………If we are but the sum of our DNA and the culimnation of a few million years of evolution, surely you cant separate us humans from the animal kingdom. We see our behaviour reflected by an astonishing array of species. Its not evident in the micro but clear as daylight in the macro view. Pavlov was onto something. Cause and effect? Pretty clear, isnt it? We have the data, the proposition and the theory.

  19. Fred

    For all of the plusses of our advancements in and exploration of space, we are just a bunch of hoons. Not only have we trashed the planet with our use of fossil fuels, but turned low earth orbit space into a rubbish dump. There is a “graveyard” in space for old satellites. If we keep going at the current rate it won’t be long before launching manned rockets to other planets will be impossible due to debris from explosions/failed launches/obsolete “stuff” being in the way. A 5 gram nut traveling at 7 km per second can do significant damage.

    I’m disgusted that Musk thinks “disassembly”, which adds to the space junk, is an OK outcome. It should be incumbent on any agency/company that launches stuff into space, for returning whatever they put up there to earth, as soon as it’s use is finished i.e. stage 2/3 rockets etc. directly after launch.

  20. frances

    @Fred: One can only imagine the state of that boy Elon’s bedroom! O Lordy! And he so expects everybody else to clean up after him. But he’s a clever boy and he’ll be a real somebody someday…hopefully he’ll remember the people he clambered over en route to the top when grasping for handholds on the way down!

    Gravity can be such an indiscriminate and unkind force.

  21. frances

    @andyfiftysix: I have decided to respond as I was taken aback by your scornful replies to my recent comment.

    I am not at all denying the human race belongs to the animal kingdom (you have erected a straw man here) or that humans don’t share similar appetites and drives as other species, etc, but I’m trying to make the point that if science wishes to investigate what makes humans tick (what differentiates us from other animals/mammals), a science of psychology needs to formulate strong, testable theories of motivation.

    Nor was I seeking to lay all our terrestrial horrors exclusively at Musk’s feet (or at his Space X ‘vanity project’) but rather more generally to his “ilk” – that is, the neoliberal/conservative/alt right masters of the universe who rationalise their dubious endeavours in heroic national security survivalist-planet-saving terms whilst pumping more detritus into Mother Earth and her precious atmosphere, and trashing what were once mysterious and pristine heavenly realms. I guess it makes good business sense to hasten the death of the planet if it adds value to SpaceX stocks.

    So I can’t agree with the author on the positive benefits of space exploration. Given the irony of the rest of the piece, demonstrating how a massively destructive, massively subsidised, unregulated SpaceX inflicts irreversible collateral damage on a powerless and poor indigenous community, it seems like a gratuitous concession. Indeed the scenario described mirrors in every ruthless and tragic detail the tension between big boys toys and the environment and its caretakers, such as the rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest, now on life support.

    Once upon a time it was probably comforting, if not a little scary, to have had access to something bigger and grander than oneself. We had the ancient gods for millennia as repositories of sacred and mighty powers just to keep us earthbound folk in check. But now it’s the deluded testosterone-obsessed fabulists like Musk who have usurped the old gods in favour of the secular gods of greed, convenience and political pragmatism.

    We have had the greed and the sociopathy since Adam & Eve but never has the means for our own destruction been in the hands of so few.

    For theoretical psychologists, biological drives must be theoretically sound (testable) and empirically supported, which a ‘drive to explore’, along with countless other presumed drives, is not. To explain an action in terms of its end goal-seeking behaviour is mere circular logic – we might as well nominate a lawn-mowing drive, an early morning jog drive, a drive to colonise, a drive for vengeance, the maternal instinct, a drive for perfection, the creative instinct, and so on an infinitum. Loading up our DNA with as many motives as there are observable human actions and behaviours has failed to bring us closer to understanding why we do what we do, leaving only untidy piles of empty descriptions and us none the wiser about what makes us tick.

    Thus my comment was not specifically directed against Musk (albeit exemplifying the paradox of an environmental saviour ejaculating more trash into the orbital atmosphere while doing over Brownsville) but to the mega corporate culture that engages in environmentally disastrous ends we are persuaded to accept as beneficial and thereby justified by any means at all. A kind of ‘Boys’ Own’ drive to explore lets Musk and his ilk off the hook by deflecting discussion as to what – apart from the obvious political/military-industrial aspects – might actually motivate the exceptional individuals behind such endeavours.

    Musk’s erratic, compulsive, persecutory, autocratic, and petulant behaviours do deserve explanation if only to dilute both the uncritical adulation and the loathing.

    https://www.theverge.com/2023/10/1/23895069/walter-isaacson-biography-musk-review

    The richest man on the planet at last count, a man who is suing a government, who is engaging in massive endeavours with consequences for us all and the world we live in without any of us having any say in the matter, whose lack of concern for the impact of his projects on the quality of peoples’ lives and the degree to which he is prepared to engage in autocratic behaviour to achieve his personal visions and ubermensch goals, is a man whose mental processes are not entirely based in rationality and may even be based in a severe trauma-related disorder. Is this the kind of person we wish to accord limitless power? Is this where neoliberalism is taking us?

    It’s not like we haven’t looked away before.

    With vagaries such as “the drive to explore”, we unwittingly cop out at the moment when we need our critical and scientific thinking and instead become the indulgent nanny. We’re clever enough to trample over virgin planets and what’s left of orbital space yet we still know nothing about ourselves and what drives us to do such things.

    So I take issue with the remark that, “(A) drive to explore is in our human DNA” not simply because it is a cliche with no basis in science but because allowing unproven assumptions about what drives us draws us inexorably into the language of untruths in some Orwellian sense. It also stands in the way of discovering what these ‘drives’ actually are. It lets us off the hook.

    We are all complicit in this global snafu in virtue of our ‘rampant consumerism’ and misplaced faith in the god of science to fix everything after us. The black maid still cleans the boys’ bedrooms, the damage to Brownsville is left for the indigenous to remediate, the searing stories are left for James Moore and others to document, and a significant degree of our fate is left to a mere mortal who seems to have no clue as to what drives him or why.

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