The highest and harmonious development of all human forces towards a tonality has been [...] the reference point that I have always kept in mind, and the only point of view according to which I have treated the whole matter of my "Ideas for an Essay". It always remains profoundly true that this intimate energy of man is in fact the only thing worth living for, that it is not only the beginning and the end of every activity but also the only matter of every true enjoyment, and that therefore every result must constantly remain subordinate to it.
W.Fr. von Humboldt, letter to Georg Forster, 1792
The takeover of "Twitter" by billionaire Elon Musk, already owner of "Tesla", has further boosted his reputation. With his intention to bring back democracy in what is one of the most popular social networks of all time (unlike the declining Meta empire), Elon Musk has definitively consecrated himself as the new tycoon of reference for Western conservative or alt-rightist, for two years orphaned of another great rich man from across the ocean, Donald Trump, and not since today victims of a harsh censorship campaign by the web barons based in Silicon Valley.
Trump and Musk, role models or idols?
Trump and Musk, however, remain quite different personalities.
The first, proudly American, Christian, descendant (like many white Americans) of German immigrants, is the face of a conservative United States, embodying the isolationist and protectionist soul of the States. Musk, on the contrary, presents himself in a totally different form. Anagraphically speaking, Elon Musk could be Trump's son, being in fact twenty-five years younger than the New York tycoon, and this already makes him part of a different world. Let's say of a world, rather than of an America, because Musk is American, probably, only culturally.
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, he then grew up and studied in Canada, until he moved to the United States, the country of which he acquired the citizenship, even though he also maintained the Canadian one. He defined himself "atheist or agnostic" and declared to believe in science. At least from the point of view of basic information, therefore, Musk appears to embody more the stereotype dear to the cosmopolitan Left or to woke capitalism than to the conservative or identitarian Right; more similar to Obama, at least in biography, than to Trump.
Of course, free speech is a fundamental theme, but is it enough to make the American-Canadian-South African billionaire, the richest man on earth, a conservative political totem? We'll get to that.
Musk is not a politician, or is he?
Musk has been involved in politics several times, mainly through Twitter, very often arguing against the aforementioned ideology of woke capitalism, but also making very explicit statements about what seems to be his real area of interest, futurology.
From "Starlink", the system of more than twelve thousand satellites that should bring the Internet in the most isolated recesses of the planet, to "Neuralink", the project that is working to make possible the implantation of chips in the human brain, passing through the superfast Hyperloop trains and private missions to Mars, Elon Musk's intentions seem to implement a transhumanist-cosmist agenda rather than one that is conservative or identitarian. In the face of such projects of reform not only of society, but of the very constitution of the human being's essence, the battle for free tweeting appears to us as something absolutely marginal, when not a sort of mirror for the larks, the right face of the two-faced Janus of the transhumanist utopia.
What is philosophically and ethically unacceptable, as always, will however come to terms with reality. Conservatives know very well how it is not possible to stop progress (it is different if it does not stop by itself, in the face of wars or scarcity of available resources), but they also know how the answer to the problems must always and essentially be political. The Covid-19 pandemic should have taught the cultural and political forces of the conservative Right that the answer to human problems comes from politics and culture, not from technicians, even if they are rich and successful entrepreneurs. Donald Trump, while also distant, in his opulent New York apartment or his very lavish Mar a Lago residence, still represented a political figure, for whom politics dictated the rules of the game. Can we say the same about Musk?
It is true that the eccentric billionaire is not involved, at least for now, in politics (his birth outside the US borders would prevent him from running for the presidential elections), but are we really sure that nowadays politics can be so easily detached from technological development and Science problems? How long will we remain philosophically and culturally incapable of understanding that unchecked technological development is as much a threat to states' sovereignty as uncontrolled market development and large trans-national non-governmental organizations? More: has conservative culture rationalized with the idea that even a state response to the arms race of technology would end up further shrinking the small citadel of essential humanity that remains to today's Westerners?
Faced with the refinement of society and the economy, a great philosopher and liberal political thinker, Wilhelm Freiherr von Humboldt, who lived at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, warned against the simultaneous multiplication of laws aimed at regulating the aforementioned process of refining and multiplying complexity.
In the struggle for survival, which is at the same time also interconnection and symbiotic osmosis between technological development and the sovereignty of states, almost by chance survives the fragile interstice of human freedom, of the practice of human life in its essential wholeness made of experiences, love, travel, human contact, Apollonian complacency and Dionysian delusions. The philosophy of a modern Right should, first and foremost, guard this interstice, the retreat of which is today directly proportional, in addition to a progressive alienation of individuals (which should make the liberal-conservative component turn up its nose), also to a progressive washout of collective identities (a factor that should instead disturb the most identitarian and nationalist souls).
Beware, therefore, of the idols we choose: getting on the wrong bus, just because we're in a hurry and maybe because we're without an umbrella in a thunderstorm, risks taking us well away from where we really wanted to go.
He has been dealing with politics and is a cultural and opinion editor for over ten years. Co-founder and animator of the portal of information and in-depth analysis Progetto Prometeo. A student of philosophy, he has been working for years on the theme of the revaluation of nihilism and the great German romantic philosophy.