Where could one find like-minded people who would go with us, wherever? The question came to mind after chatting with my friend Tom McEnaney, who is shockingly energetic. He has been volunteering at orphanages in Belarus for over 25 years, so it came as no surprise when he volunteered to help Ukrainian refugees.
The special aspect of his mission is his method. Tom drives a Tesla. He was one of the first in Ireland to buy the fancy electric car.
He recognized that some refugees could not afford flights or were heartbroken by leaving pets behind. When he saw the news, he felt the need to get in his beautiful car, drive to Poland and pick her up. But it’s a bit of a blast to even do something like that, let alone alone.
Because Tesla is a new breed of car, there’s a community of owners who stay in touch to find out about things like charger location and software updates.
So he pitched his idea to the group. Dozens signed up and off we went – a convoy of Irish Tesla owners driving refugees across Europe.
Tom’s impulse was both wonderful and crazy – but there’s more. They encountered other Tesla convoys from other countries, including Spain and Norway, doing the same. They did not hit any BMW, Mercedes or Toyota convoys. Tesla convoys only.
What does that mean? Are Tesla owners friendlier, more liberal and more active than other car owners?
He called me in Enfield while charging his car at the new Tesla station at Johnstown House up the road. Who could have predicted that Tesla would improve my social life?
His theory was that Tesla owners, especially early adopters like himself, were idealists and believers. They needed to invest in relatively untested technology that would help save the planet. A certain type of person owns a Tesla.
I took a more practical approach. Tesla owners are wealthy and had a pre-existing social network through the user group. I do not communicate with other Citroen owners. I do not have to.
There were other motor convoys, but they could fill up anywhere, while Tesla owners met at charging stations.
But Tom said he’d heard about other cars in the convoy on social media. no Tesla owners have behaved in a certain way that must say something about their culture.
The conversation was timely as I was preparing a speech for the Percy French Summer School in Roscommon on Thursday.
It was about identity and the theory that human beings have an innate “good view” that forces us to categorize ourselves and others.
We always identify “types” of people and attribute good and bad traits to them.
We identify our tribe and the other tribe. It is the single greatest cause of human misery – and, to be fair, much joy too.
An individual can have many different identities. I’m White, Female, Christian, Driver, Cyclist and Mac Using Mom from Meath.
As my circumstances change hour by hour, each of these identities is more important or says something about my kind and others. Why don’t cyclists obey the rules? Why are drivers trying to kill me? I am both.
Being Irish is important in a foreign country. Limerick people who had nothing else in common were just Limerick people last Sunday.
The difficulty arises when we decide that certain species exist – and then make them a problem. Whites made race an issue; Unionists made Catholicism a problem; the Taliban make gender an issue; The Victorians made homosexuality a problem; The Nazis made being Jewish a problem.
Hutus and Tutsis share a common culture, language and religion. Then one day, being a Tutsi was a problem.
Nationalism is a 19th century invention that has claimed the lives of tens of millions of people. Breakfast Roll Man was David McWilliams invention, but nobody tried to kill Breakfast Roll Man, so that was fine. Human species arise and perish.
For example, I’m left-handed or “neuro-diverse”. Left-handed brains are different from right-handed brains. Left-handers are not included in neurological studies because we would skew the results. So brain research doesn’t say much about me.
Being left-handed used to be a problem. The medieval term “sinister” eventually meant left, and the condition became heavily stigmatized.
I’m young enough not to have been forced to use my right hand, although I knew I was a “citóg” because it was mentioned all the time.
But no one notices or cares about my “kind” anymore. Except in restaurants. Whenever I eat or drink in public, I put the glasses and cups on the left side. This confuses the waiters and I have to explain.
I don’t expect or need the world to meet me. I can easily adapt to the world. The society that ignores my kind is progress.
In a healthy society and a healthy person, no particular identity should matter.
Yet we compulsively identify species and identify with species. Tesla owners may actually have a culture of their own, or maybe Tom created a culture where Tesla owners are the “kind of people” who rescue refugees.
As EVs become normalized, will this species go away, or will Tesla owners become the kind of tribe that others want to join?
There is nothing inherently wrong with any species until a species needs an enemy. So enjoy your kind, but remember, the only kind that really matters is humanity.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/tesla-owners-switch-on-for-ukraine-to-show-being-one-of-a-kind-can-be-a-brilliant-thing-41861293.html Tesla owners are tuning in for Ukraine to show that being unique can be a brilliant thing