In which I try talking about elephants with strangers on Facebook

So, I got invited to a Facebook group with ~300 members, only one of which I know, and that one being disconnected from all of the rest of my network. What an interesting social experiment!

I was invited because of a post I’d put on a racist comment on that friend’s wall, and so I knew I was strolling into a “blue team w/ designated assholes who play at trolling and/or conservatism, but who don’t, you know, play to win” kind of discussion area. Perhaps for that reason, I just strolled confidently into one of my favorite conversational topics: elephant trauma and the implications for violence among other social mammals. Maybe it was just an instinct that fortune favors the bold.

Here’s the post:

Hi y’all. New here. Here’s a first post.

Thesis: A major driver of male violence is a failure of socialization. Societies are probably not in our lifetimes going to be able to prevent male violence entirely, but where two neighboring societies, otherwise similar, diverge in terms of one having much more male violence… well, you may not need to look further than asking if the violence is connected to the society being worse at providing meaningful social connectedness to its men.

If anyone feels like disagreeing with that thesis, well, come at me. But first, here’s a provocative question:

Would you change your mind if there were solidly documented evidence that social isolation, or nasty socialization, can make male elephants–a famously social and gentle animal–form into all-male packs exhibiting such behavior as running down, pinning, trumpeting their victory, and only then killing human beings? What about if these groups of male elephants were also running down and raping and murdering rhinos?

link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/08/magazine/08elephant.html

You’re confused, and a little upset. Rhinos Raped? Sounds like a Mel Brooks joke. Yes. Rhinos. Raped. Now you’re asking… How much nasty socialization does it take to make an elephant into “that kind” of elephant? What are we talking about here? Well, how about being orphaned by poachers (who took mom and dad’s tusks, but didn’t have an interest in junior, who was too small to have any ivory)? How about eventually being driven by fear and hunger into departing from a snuggle-vigil with one’s dead parents, and then being raised by an abusive all-male group of elephants?

Still not convinced this is about loneliness and love and self-expression?

What if you also learned the elephants–the rhino-rapists who like ceremonial human murder… what if you learned they got put in rehabilitation parks designed for retired circus elephants, and given time enough to socialize normally… they got better?

Better you ask? Better how?

Yes, better to the point where they are very close friends with humans, and bond so closely with one human that, the human trusts them enough to hang out with them without any fence or concrete pylon or etc. But more than that. Better to the point where the rehabilitation place released them into the wild, where they successfully integrated and started families of their own. But more than THAT. Better to the point where they followed the elephant tradition of traveling–even if it takes a hundred miles–to introduce toddler-age elephants to their grandparents. Except here, the elephants travel back to the elephant park to introduce their children to the human they’ve bonded with.

Now ask me again if this is about socialization.

OR better yet, go read the article-the WHOLE DAMN THING if necessary, and yes, ermigawd, it’s like ten pages of dense NYTimes Mag writing. Suck it up. Now go post it to somewhere that someone prone to seeing the world in black-and-white, good-and-evil terms is a little more likely to come across it than here in a closed group of think-alikes.

here’s the link again: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/08/magazine/08elephant.html

I mean, actually, I don’t really know any of you (well, I know exactly one of you) but I’d probably love you if I met you, and you shouldn’t ever change. But you know what I mean. Don’t save it all up for private groups. Be friends with men who aren’t that good at it.

And also, if you disagree, come at me, cause that’s what this is all about.

So far, I’ve just gotten people adding comments that mostly chime in or agree–no real argument at all. Maybe I overdid it? A condition of joining the group was not to quote anything anybody else puts there without permission. I think it’s cool if I share the good links and specific ideas some people added in… which seems to be mostly just this:
http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comic/rat-park/#page-1.

1 thought on “In which I try talking about elephants with strangers on Facebook

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