Thursday, January 20, 2011

TALE OF ADOLESCENT ELEPHANT RAMPAGE HELPS UNDERSTAND TEEN VIOLENCE

                             STATE OF MIND                                                                        5-14-99
                                                                                                           By
                                                                    BRUCE W. GLADSTONE, PH.D
     One evening I watched a remarkable program on the Discovery channel about the mysterious killings of numerous
rhinoceros somewhere in Africa.  Many rhinos had been found dead after being badly beaten and gorged.  It was clearly
not the work of poachers who used guns and who took the rhinos’ horns.
These rhinos had been brutally beaten and mauled.  Who could have done such a thing and why?
     Animal experts investigating these unusual rhino killings soon learned that the killers were adolescent male
elephants roaming in small bands.  They filmed these bands of teenage elephants chasing the rhinos, teasing them,
throwing rocks and dust at them, pushing them down and preparing to gorge them with their tusks.
     While the mystery of the rhino deaths was solved, the question still remained as to why the adolescent male
elephants would behave in such an aggressive manner, so belligerent and out of control.
     As the investigators continued to observe the teenage elephants they noticed that there were no mature male
elephants around.  They had all been poached for their tusks. The absence of mature adult males elephants was
striking but could it account for the murderous rampage of the teenage males?
     To find the answer to this question the investigators arranged for several bull elephants to be imported to the area.  
Within a short period after the mature male elephants arrived, the killing and harassment of the rhinos by the bands of
adolescent males stopped completely.  The simple presence of the mature males was enough to accomplish this result.  
When the male teenagers stepped out of line and threatened the rhinos or overstepped their boundaries, a gesture and
a bellow from the adult males brought them back in line. The young males even seemed to welcome the stability and
authority of the older bulls.
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     In our society an increasing number of young males seem lost and out of control, as recent shootings in schools
across the country indicate. Verbal abuse, belligerence, disrespect for elders and authority and a sense of
hopelessness seem to go far beyond healthy adolescent rebellion in search of identity. My sense is that the shootings
are just the “tip of the iceberg.” of very serious problems for boys in our culture which we have not wanted to face.
Hopefully we will begin to face them, quickly and thoughtfully.
     At times, the behavior of many young males scares and intimidates us, as they mock our values, defy rules, and
identify with anti-social energy like fascism, racism, neo-nazi and other hate groups. Often it seems there are no
accepted rules, anything goes, everyone looks out only for himself, there are no accepted boundaries and no one is in
charge.  Of course, this is not true for all adolescents, but it is true enough to warrant grave concern from all of us.
     Although the troubles of our youth today are much more complex than the troubles of adolescent elephants in
Africa, there is no denying that father absence is a problem our teens have in common with the elephants.
     In our industrialized and technological society, fathers have become increasingly absent from their homes and family
life and from the responsibilities of raising children. This is one consequence of the Industrial Revolution which began in
the 1800s and of our competitive, compulsive work ethic.  Most fathers work long hours in industry, businesses and
professions farther and farther from home.  Technology has not made more time for parenting.
     There are many ways fathers leave their sons.  They are poached by a ruthless work-ethic that insists on winning at
all costs and making money as the highest forms of success.  They leave through alcohol, drug abuse and television.  
They leave through marital strife and divorce.  They exit through doors maintained by an educational-corporate-socio-
economic system which declares that men should not feel.
     As fathers have become increasingly absent, adolescent males have become increasingly agitated.
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The focus of parenting (fathering)  them is more on control, management and discipline and less on knowing them,
connecting with their souls, uplifting and developing their unique gifts and creative genius.  There isn’t time for all that!!!  
Too often the essence of who a boy is gets lost in the shuffle of working schedules, busi-ness and other priorities, until it
is too late. Adolescent boys feel lonely, sad and
abandoned in our society and they cannot admit to it.  Its not their job to admit to it.  That is our job, the job of their
fathers and mothers and it is time we all wake up to that and begin thinking of making some serious changes in how we
raise boys to be men.  
     Like the rampaging adolescent elephants in Africa, our boys need strong, loving and mature male influence.  They
need their fathers and they need the entire village.  They need to know who is in charge.  They need to know what the
rules are and they need firm, loving attention.  Many boys get this, but far too many do not.

2 comments:

Leslie Raffelson said...

Do you know how I can get a copy of this video? We were just talking about this link and showing it to our male teaching staff as a reminder of how they are examples to young men. I can't remember the name of the show.

Anonymous said...

It has been one year since I first read this article by chance. I am glad I found it again for I believe it has hit the nail on the head. I would love to watch the Discovery episode, too.