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Opinion | Elon Musk is one of the best people of 2022. And no, I’m not kidding

We didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory this year, did we. It’s massively hard to select the very best people of 2022, given how badly so many people behaved. This year, I briefly considered adding household pets to pad out the list. Many Corgis are quite charming, I’m told.

But no, I forged ahead with some fine superfine humans.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was not just one of the best, he was arguably the best of all in this foul year. Even before he faced the absurd Donald Trump to get weapons to defend Ukraine before Russia’s invasion, he was already the leader Ukraine needed. And now? He is rational, fearless, implacable. It is surreal to watch him play Vasily Goloborodko, a schoolteacher shocked to be elected Ukrainian president in “Servant of the People,” a gentle 2015-19 comedy now on Netflix. A wonderful comic actor, Zelenskyy inhabits his bewildering new job set in a gorgeous country now blasted, bombed and scattered with uncollected corpses, a Putin-made hell. I can hardly encompass the ironies.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, of Ukrainian origin, kept her head this year when most people were losing theirs. When she was threatened in a Grande Prairie, Alta. elevator by a terrifying, sweary junkyard dealer in an undershirt and his companion, who said to Freeland, “You don’t belong here,” she cheerfully waved bye-bye at him and later praised the “kind, decent and welcoming people of Alberta.” I love Grande Prairie. So does Freeland, who grew up in Alberta herself. She’s right. Albertans are great, their current government not so much. Say bye-bye.

Det. Sgt. Steve Smith is the lead Toronto police investigator of the cold case team that used new and evolving DNA techniques to hunt down the suspected killer of Erin Gilmour, 22, and Susan Tice, 45, nearly 40 years ago. They were both raped and stabbed to death in their homes. As a university student, I lived downtown and used to walk past Gilmour’s apartment, haunted by her horrible death. Smith kept at it, narrowing the search, ruling out relatives including the suspect’s brothers and finally arresting the alleged killer. Gilmour’s mother died two years ago, never to know the suspect’s name. What great police work, what salvation.

British journalist Hadley Freeman is another woman who kept her head while institutions all over Britain (and elsewhere) spun off into space like Frisbees, untethered, directionless. Freeman, who is Jewish, resigned from the once-admirable Guardian newspaper in protest over the censorship of free and fair comment on issues like antisemitism and trans rights. As she says, “the paper has become internally dysfunctional, with writers and editors alike all terrified of saying The Wrong Take.” Orthodoxy and self-censorship have hit journalism like a truck. It makes us fatally boring. It’s why we’re losing readers. Bon courage, Hadley.

Christine Sinclair. The Canadian women’s team captain is our soccer superstar. She is everything, she is us, she never flags. Yes. Alive to the inequities between men’s and women’s soccer, she’s out to change things. A Canadian women’s professional soccer league? We want this.

Rep. Bennie Thompson. To my mind, the Democratic Mississippi congressman was the real star of the U.S. House Select Committee hearings on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, whose political courage was admirable, is elsewhere in her career a hard-right tyrant, much like her father Dick. As chair, Thompson, meticulous and intelligent, brought a wonderful calm to the hearings, a rigorous courtesy that so contrasted with the madness of the behaviour described by witnesses before him. He was measured and fair-minded. He spoke so well in his deep crackling voice, I should have taped his speeches to soothe me in the approaching insomnia of winter 2023.

Elon Musk. Oh calm down. Yes, he’s thoroughly unwell, clueless, cruel, self-destructive, externally destructive, an oaf in a china shop, but he’s rapidly killing Twitter. Whether you know it or not, your life without Twitter will be infinitely better. Your fragmented thoughts will be joined up, you will again think in cursive, you will be unable to bully friends and strangers, you will go outside and partake of fresh clear air, you will no longer blunder into intersections with your face horizontal to the dreadful phone that has become your drug, you will become once again a winsome and sought-out companion of clever and good people. For years, I was trying to get banned from Twitter but could never tweet anything sufficiently unpleasant. Now it will be done for me.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The bestselling Nigerian author gave the first of the four Reith lectures on freedom this year, her particular topic being freedom of speech. “I cannot keep count of all the books that have offended me, infuriated me, disgusted me,” she told her audience “but I would never argue that they not be published.” Accurately, Chimamanda says the biggest threat to speech today is not “legal or political, but social.” “We fear the mob,” she says, “but the mob is us.” I wonder if this will calm with time, with a Russian defeat, with COVID-19 slowing, but perhaps not. Orwell would know, I suspect.

Go forth and have a wonderful year. Be like the people listed above, please.


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