It was several decades ago that I first saw the reports and subsequent studies concerning rampaging juvenile male elephants, who were tearing through unfortunate villages, crushing huts, destroying crops and intimidating a bunch of really scared villagers.
What the researchers finally realized was that the juvenile male elephants were living in a herd where the mature, dominant bulls had either been poached or removed from the herd.
It seems the juveniles didn’t know how to act when it was mating season and their testosterone levels went into overdrive. They needed the mature bull elephants around to not only show them how to act, but to control their behavior with a serious “trunk trouncing” when required.
In more recent years similar observations have been made. In South Africa, one herd of elephants was moved from the overpopulated Kruger National Park and resettled in the Pilanesburg National Park. However, due to transportation issues, the large mature bulls were left behind.
Sometime later, park rangers in Pilanesburg started discovering dead white rhinoceros, an endangered species that had been violently killed, suffering torso trauma and deep puncture wounds. Suspecting poachers, even though the Rhino horns were not taken, hidden cameras were set up and soon enough, the bad guys showed up and were caught red-handed.
They weren’t poachers at all, but a marauding gang of aggressive juvenile male elephants that were chasing down rhinos (as well as other animals) and goring and stomping them to death – behavior that is not known in elephants.
When the rangers identified the juveniles as part of the Kruger herd, they decided to import some mature bulls from “home,” as an experiment. Within weeks the bad-boy juvenile delinquents dispersed and stopped “acting out” and the other animals in the park could breathe easier.
Like our highly intelligent and social friends the elephants, this phenomenon is readily observable in the human family as well. The artificial manipulation and purposeful destruction of nuclear family life in the modern era is having profound reverberations in the United States, and around the world.
It’s not a new discovery, of course, that the family unit is a critical and important link in the lives and well-being of children, male and female. It’s been obvious common sense for thousands of years and has been called into question only in the modern era.
Humans are hardwired to live in community with a family unit. The roles of nurture, discipline, education and character are like the glue that assembles a person (or an elephant), that are passed down in the family structure, and done so at least in part by the varied and unique roles that females and males play in rearing offspring.
In the U.S. we now have a culture where ancient wisdom compiled and handed down over thousands of years, is treated as though it were poison, not the timeless reality and reflection of the human condition. We have legions of “professionals” to whom we have turned over the official duty of explaining how children “should” be raised – and we’ve gone even further as a culture to enshrine an awful lot of stupidity into our educational systems and family law.
The family is now seen – virulently by some and in part in others – as a structure that is actually detrimental to raising children, and it needs, some critics argue, at a minimum to enforce “scientific” methodology as practice.
And yet, the social issues in our society – especially with young males – stand in absolute rebuttal to all of this. Males are in trouble in our culture, our homes and our schools.
Certainly there are many successful female-headed homes that are doing a great job rearing both boys and girls, even if it’s a much harder job without two parents. They deserve our support and praise.
However, the staggering statistics speak for themselves; one in three male children in the U.S. live in female-headed families. Of that number, 35% rarely or never see their father and a quarter see their father less than once a month. The statistics for how young males in fatherless families “act out” are much worse, generally, compared to boys from homes with fathers.
They are 20 times more likely to end up in prison; five times more likely to commit suicide (males represent 75% of all youth suicides); 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders; fourteen times more likely to commit rape; nine times more likely to drop out of high school; ten times more likely to use drugs.
Becoming a “man” seemed pretty cut and dried when I was growing up, and one suspects those expectations probably hadn’t changed all that much over the nation’s history.
But now? Well, let’s just say it’s a bit confusing.
Many argue that the assault on “manhood” began with the Great Society programs of the 1960’s; others that the rise of radical and aggressive feminism played the larger role; still others suggest that changing manhood is simply a response to the changing economy. Perhaps all are true in part.
Personally, I think the elephants are more instructive.
Without involved dads or other dominate males around the family structure, young males don’t have a model to follow in terms of controlling their escalating emotions or a model that interdicts bad behavior with a swift kick in the pants. It’s not too complicated.
I think we need a new national “attitude” – a movement among men, led by men and insisted upon by men, that bubbles up from the grass roots of the nation and does our boys, our communities and our country a favor; purposefully teaching our boys to be men.
For starters, we need to teach our sons and boys how to clean up yards, paint and chop fire wood; swing a hammer and drive a nail; use a saw, a drill and a tape measure; turn a wrench and fix things.
We need to teach boys that doing for oneself at some level, and for one’s family and one’s neighbor is important.
We need to teach our boys that peace isn’t the absence of violence and that character is built one right decision at a time, usually when it isn’t convenient – that brains out-weigh emotions. We need to teach them nothing is more important than God, country and family – and show them by example in our own lives.
We need to teach them how to fish and how to use a firearm and clean it; that they would come to value and respect life, every life.
We need to teach them that a woman is not the same as a man and that they are to be honored and respected because of that – not dishonored by expecting them to fulfill their role and ours too.
Will raising boys to be men cut into their, and our, computer, TV and gaming time? Sure, that’s the whole point.