Everyone has snippy rude thoughts from time to time. We get a glimpse of someone else's worldview or haircut or whatever and think, Really? With ironic eyebrow lift. Of course we do. C'mon, you know you do.

But we don't have to say it out loud, let alone on social media, let alone leverage a huge bully pulpit (aka stardom) to blare our inconsequential personal irritations and pet peeves over millions of square miles. Refraining from doing so is called politeness. Consideration. Manners.

Politeness is what we're supposed to learn in childhood, when Mum tells us not to point and say "Mummy, that lady's hat is so ugly!" in a big loud voice in the middle of the restaurant. ‘Cos maybe the lady's hat is ugly, but for heaven's sakes, an ugly hat is not worth hurting someone's feelings and embarrassing them in public.

We all struggle with inner prejudices and reflexes that are childish, or animal, or even reptilian ... and don't jibe with our "better angels" or with a civil and peaceable society. Keeping those thoughts to ourselves, exercising some tolerance and patience, being diplomatic — giving ourselves breathing space and a chance to mull over, digest, and absorb new information instead of reflexively barking at it — that's how we keep the peace and make the world a better and kinder place.

Few of us can achieve sainthood and never have a scornful, judgmental, arrogant or impatient thought about other people. The world is full of irritants. Conflicting ideas are always rubbing up against each other and throwing sparks — in a crowded room full of gas fumes. Practising total kindness 24x7 is frankly beyond me... but thinking twice before uttering (and when in doubt, not hitting Return) does help. I suggest bearing two questions always in mind...

1) is whatever I'm peeved about really worth being unpleasant in public or showing aggro/scorn to another living human being with feelings and all? will I care about it tomorrow? two days from now? next year?

2) more importantly: is the person I'm tempted to make fun of, mock, put down, challenge, etc in a relatively less powerful position than myself, or a relatively more powerful position?

It is never attractive (or nice, or honourable) to kick people lower on the food chain than yourself, particularly if you kick them where they're most vulnerable. F'rexample when Left men use weary misogynist tropes to attack right-wing women, they see themselves as firing 'upwards' across class lines at more privileged people; yet as men attacking women using sexist slurs, they are firing downwards from the more privileged perch to the lesser. If they would stick to the facts of the class war, that would be speaking truth to power; but when they start throwing b*tch and wh*re around, now they're acting out ages-old male supremacy… and that ain't pretty.

Elon Musk is rich, powerful, white, cis-male, the whole enchilada. In my book this means he should behave like a gentleman, e.g. be extremely polite and considerate to just about everybody, because he has all the advantages and any kicks he delivers are always to someone who's (relatively speaking) already on the ground.

There's no power for Elon to speak truth to, because he's up there at the pinnacle of the 21st century political and fiscal food chain. His opinions -- trivial as they are -- are amplified by the world's largest PA. And he sets an example, for good or ill, for his admiring legions of fanboys. What kind of example is he setting them? Thoughtless, careless scorn for whatever he doesn’t understand or agree with. Dismissiveness, lack of empathy, immaturity, poor impulse control. Bellowing at other people with a voice that covers continents over what, in the big picture of his incredibly fortunate life, is nothing but a passing sneer.

Public figures who enjoy (a) tons of wealth and (b) media "influencer" or celebrity status, imho should watch their mouths and resist the temptation to snipe carelessly at anyone they find silly or unattractive or whatever. Particularly when they're firing downwards. Their remarks are turbo-charged. Even a penny dropped from a sufficient height can hurt.

Retired; ex-software engineer. Paleo-feminist. Sailor. Arduino tinkerer. Enviro. Libertarian Socialist (Anarcho-Syndicalist, kinda). Writer. Altermondialiste.

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