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Elon Musk: Not broke, never woke, and in on the joke

Last weekend, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskElon Musk says Teslas can no longer be purchased with Bitcoin 'SNL' star Michael Che 'stunned' by cultural appropriation backlash over sketch Elon Musk asks Twitter followers if Tesla should accept Dogecoin MORE tweeted out a shot at the “woke” wave washing over our country: “Woketopia.  Battle for the Moral High Ground in this new game!”

Musk — who has questioned the “panic” over COVID-19, the accuracy of tests for the virus and the vaccines rolled out to fight it — has never been reluctant to offer his opinion or criticize those of others. He can do so in part because he has created a massive, multidimensional platform that grants him the power to utter such pronouncements.

Years ago, a political friend observed that a key to freedom of expression in politics, business and life is “having enough money saved up to say ‘Screw you’ if need be, so you could always be true to yourself.”

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Sadly, most Americans will never come close to reaching that liberating financial peak. The daily struggle to pay bills and simply survive will always take precedence. Well before the advent of the woke “cancel culture,” Americans still had to swallow their words and pride when it came to correcting someone in authority or speaking up for their rights. Now, with wokeism ending careers and hurting businesses, they are even more terrified to speak their minds or correct the record.

With a net worth estimated at $179 billion, Musk is one of the world’s richest men. He does not have to worry about paying the bills or putting his career at risk. He is free to speak his mind at will and forever march to the beat of his own drummer. It’s an echoing sound of reason all of us would do well to recognize from time to time.

Say what you will about him, Musk gets it. He figured out long ago that most of business, politics, entertainment and the lifestyles of the entrenched elites who inhabit those power centers are part of an exclusive inside joke played upon the masses — a joke where the punchline often can be cruel and must be called out.

If others are understandably fearful to do so, Musk will step up to the line and fire off a rocket or battery-powered rebuke. Last weekend, it just happened to be about “Woketopia.” Coincidently, at the start of that same weekend, another influential voice with no worries about income or career also called out the woke cancel culture: Bill MaherWilliam (Bill) MaherMaher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' Maher on Biden's trillion plans: 'Thank God we got Mexico to pay for that wall' Hannity to interview Caitlyn Jenner following gubernatorial announcement MORE.

The left-of-center libertarian host of the HBO program “Real Time with Bill Maher” waved a red warning flag regarding the price the United States is paying to compete with China because of political correctness and wokeness. Said Maher:

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“You’re not going to win the battle for the 21st century if you are a silly people. And Americans are a silly people. Do you know who doesn’t care that there’s a stereotype of a Chinese man in a Dr. Seuss book? China. All 1.4 billion of them couldn’t give a crouching tiger flying (expletive) because they’re not a silly people. … Do you think China’s … letting political correctness get in the way of nurturing their best and brightest? Do you think Chinese colleges are offering courses in ‘The Philosophy of Star Trek,’ ‘The Sociology of Seinfeld’ and ‘Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse’? Those are real (courses) and so is China. … There’s got to be something between an authoritarian government that tells everyone what to do and a representative government that can’t do anything at all.”

Maher pointed out a few contrasting accomplishments to his audience: “China built 500 entire cities from scratch, moved the majority of their huge population from poverty to the middle class, and mostly cornered the market in 5G and pharmaceuticals. … They have 40,000 kilometers of high-speed rail. America has none. …We’ve been having ‘Infrastructure Week’ every week since 2009, but we never do anything. Half the country is having a never-ending woke competition … and the other half believes we have to stop the lizard people because they’re eating babies. … China sees a problem and they fix it. They build a dam. We debate what to rename it. … We’re not losing to China; we lost. The returns just haven’t all come in yet.”

Maher, an often spot-on satirist, sees serious problems on our horizon — and so does Musk, a deep-thinking visionary. 

But in Musk, we also have someone who is not only not afraid to offend if he feels it’s needed, but also someone who, through SpaceX, is literally working to get a representation of humanity permanently off the planet, if necessary, to help ensure the survival of our species.

Every once in a while, it makes sense to heed the warnings of those who don’t have to worry about money, canceled careers or what others may think of them as they let us in on elite establishment jokes that end with hope-crushing punchlines.  

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.