The Elephant in the room

The elephant has the title of the largest land mammal and they have a memory to match, so why can some circuses around the world keep them captive with as little as a rope tied to the front leg? The adult elephant would quite easily break free if it only made half an attempt. Looking at it from the outside there can only be two possible reasons. Either the elephant has become lazy and enjoys its life in captivity or it simply doesn’t realise its own strength. The general consensus is that the latter is what has happened. The elephants in such situations were tied up at a young age when they were not strong enough to break free. They were conditioned into giving up from a young age and now they serve as a reminder that no matter how big we get physically, if we allow our spirits to be fully broken then this is what will inevitably await us.

This picture of the captive elephant is analogous to our own lives. The rope around our legs is not a physical one but it is the numerous aspects of society, including the education system. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where people will say ‘I get to learn’ but most will say ‘I have to learn’. I am not an unrealistic person dreaming of a utopic society, therefore I don’t blame the education system per se, it is like politics, there will never be an optimal solution, only efforts to reach the optimum level along the continuum. I prefer to look at the education system as one of life’s many challenges and I am reminded of Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’, for it is the most adaptable that survive, in evolutionary terms.

I don’t think that the solution for the elephant is to wait until it gets big enough to break the rope. It’s memory is one of the elephant’s biggest assets but in this situation it has become the elephant’s Achilles Heel. I’m not sure if elephants have the capacity for visualisation but I know that humans do. If the elephant did have this capacity then I would advise the elephant to use it’s brain in a smarter and more efficient way. I would suggest that the elephant simply make one kick for freedom everyday, nothing more and nothing less. In this way it can do it subtly, the circus keepers will not be aware of the intention of escape, the elephant conserves energy and even the risk of embarrassment, most importantly the elephant will break free on the exact day that it is strong enough, no sooner or no later.