Are Some Men Really “More” Equal? Identifying the Trained Elephant in You

by Enitan Doherty-Mason

You too must have heard of the process by which elephants from the wild are trained. Essentially an elephant is captured and dragged to a training ground surrounded by other elephants that have already been “broken in/ trained”. Next it is tethered to a stake from which it cannot escape where it is painfully prodded and is calmly spoken to until its will is completely broken and it is in complete submission to its trainer. The elephants are eventually unfettered, but having learned that there is no escape from its “bondage”, it makes no attempt to escape even though it is no longer physically restricted and passively conforms to the will of its trainer.

The model for training elephants includes captivity (physical restriction), peer pressure, false reassurance while enduring pain inflicted by the captor/trainer, instilling confusion about opposite emotions of pain and pleasure – mental confusion, demoralizing/breaking the spirit, destroying the natural instinct to be free and replacing it with complete submission to the captor/trainer. This model of training elephants resembles in many ways how slaves and other supposedly “unchained” people in colonies in Africa and the rest of the world were kept subdued; the “humble” subjects.

While this training is all it takes to subdue most elephants, there is always that occasional elephant that is “un-trainable” and risks everything rather than submit its will and give up its freedom. As it is with the “un-trainable” elephant so it was with some slaves who were brought across the Atlantic Ocean and some of their “unchained” brothers who remained in the colonies.

The process of colonization involved varied levels of captivity. Many minds were captured and confused without a doubt. Fear was injected into indigenous societies by unfamiliar/white men with seemingly “more powerful” weapons. These outsiders in as much as they could systematically replaced the local deities with their deity, local clothing with their clothing, local languages with their language and made every attempt to prove and convince everyone of the inferiority of their captives in order to gain supremacy over them. The outsiders had practice because they also had fought amongst them selves and their like but most importantly they had access to sea faring vessels and weapons with which they could travel further and overcome those who would not bow easily.

The white man did not arrive among monotone lackluster human beings or savages. They obviously arrived among complex real human beings who lived in organized societies and were driven by their own desires and motives, in states of peace and war exhibiting all those qualities and involved in all those actions that make them human. It is in this complex meeting of will and wile that different cultures came together. It is in this scenario that some succumbed to “wild elephant training” while others percolated with ways to regain their freedom. We are all today eternally grateful to those who fought for and recaptured our physical and legal freedom. Unfortunately it took places like South Africa much longer to recapture some of that freedom that other people laid right to much earlier.

Currently, many of us exist in various states of mental freedom. Whilst the fetters and chains have been physically removed and laws have long declared us free, many of us continue to struggle with our mental freedom for various reasons. Some of us are unable to envision freedom for ourselves and being too reticent to explore other states of being, would rather remain in the safety of the familiar elements of our captivity. Some others, in an expression of zeal and elation at the idea of freedom, create new chains for our selves and others by espousing ideas that are not sound or beneficial to us thereby causing those who did not give up power willingly and others to doubt our inability to be in charge of ourselves. Some of us remain in a stunned state remaining in the shadow of captors long gone and we continue to aspire to be just like our captors with the false hopes of becoming powerful by achieving the superior status we have been “trained” to believe our captors held.

It is often difficult to reflect on the fetters that bind us when we are in a state of crisis. However, those of us who take time for reflection and those of us whose strengths allow them to think critically about our collective circumstances can help light the way to our mental freedom. Even with the best efforts of our greatest giants, some of us will forever choose captivity over freedom and will curse the ones who sacrificed their lives to set us free.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” – This is the opening statement of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776.

While this great document was not written with Africans and other people of the world in mind, it does speak to all human beings. We must believe that our language, our culture, our minds and all that defines us are equally as good as anyone else’s; not any better, but equally as good. Both you, the reader, and myself are not inferior to any one of any race, breed or creed in any term. Neither are we superior in any way. To feel inferior in any way shape or form is simply an indication that it’s time to check on that trained elephant that still trapped within you.

For those interested in training elephants, these links might be helpful. Be careful though, even elephants can resist such training.

Training of Elephants in Zoos and Circuses

Training Circus Elephants an Example of Learned Helplessness

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1 comment

John December 3, 2008 - 4:32 pm

Thank you for the reminder.


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