As many of you know, I studied animal behaviour when I was a professor back in the old days. One of the more interesting cases I knew of was the story of the elephants of Pilanesburg in southern Africa. The story starts with white rhinos rather than with the elephants themselves:
Park rangers were perplexed by the number of rhinos, young and old, who were found dead throughout the great park. To be more specific, they had been crushed. Not shot, not poisoned, not the usual work of poachers and the like. Crushed. Like some massive press had come upon, say, a baby rhino and his/her mom and crushed them.
It dawned on the rangers that the only thing that could do such a thing was an elephant. Rhinos are big of course…the adults are the size of small to medium-sized cars depending on the gender and the individual. But elephants are bigger still. Even a young adult elephant is bigger than an adult rhino.
It turns out that years earlier there was a population explosion of the elephants in the Pilanesburg. The wardens in charge of the park got the bright idea of taking out the adults of the herds. The adults ate the most and were leading the young all over the place, trampling everything it sight. Take out the adults – male and female – and the young will probably grow up docile and stay in one place. As they got older, then the rangers would cull that second generation of adults, too. So on and so forth such that they would end up with a smaller population of smaller (i.e. younger) elephants that wouldn’t cause any problems.
Sounds like a great idea…if one didn’t know anything about elephants. What really happened was that when they killed off the alpha males and the matriarchs, the adolescent elephants were suddenly orphaned. They went rather mad. Being social beings with no social structure to support them, they did the next big thing: they formed social structures of their own. Or as we might call them: delinquent gangs.
With no one to teach them manners in the park, they just made up their own rules. One pattern of behaviour was to kill rhinos if for no other reason than to vent their anomie and frustration in being cast out into a world with zero parenting, zero help.
This went on for a while until the humans – ironically, the ones who caused this mess in the first place – got the bright idea of bringing mature bull elephants from nearby Kruger National Park. The plan was to bring in these wise, mature bulls to teach the young “punk males” some manners.
Fortunately, this time the human scheme worked. The old bulls put the rebel males in their place, calm was restored in elephant society in the Pilanesburg, and the rhinos were safe again.
Something similar seems to be happening now during the Covid-19 plague (might as well call it what it is): many young human males seem to be unheedful of authority. This is the disrespectful nature of many young males I suppose but it is particularly maladaptive in this time of Covid-19. In their impatience and self-absorption, I have seen cars and trucks driven by these rogue males, if you will, tailgate, run stop signs, drive the wrong but more convenient way down one way streets and so on. If this keeps up there will be a rise in serious vehicular accidents.
Playing basketball on public courts, having picnics in large groups in the parks, going for runs together on the walkways…these are all recipes for disaster. The beast Covid-19 will find these people, insinuate themselves into them, and ride inside them in the hopes they will be be carried to their residences to infect family and friends. Covid-19 is nothing if not insidious.
So, these heedless human males are a danger to themselves as well as those around them – just like the rogue elephant males of the Pilanesburg. Why just today, the Dark Man and I saw a sporty car driven by a late 20 something male follow a family sized car driven by an older man right through a stop sign. Good thing I was driving: the Dark Man has little patience with the inconsiderate. If he had been driving I have no doubt we would’ve ended up following the punk with me inevitably watching him get taught a lesson in manners.
Well-meaning but nightmarish scenarios aside, the rise in fidgety impatience among the young, especially the males, has been obvious for a while now. I know why: they are afraid…and they are stupid. This leads them to behave rashly. Again, just like the Elephants of the Pilanesburg.
Where are OUR bull elephants who will come to restore order? I’m afraid the answer is we will just have to rescue ourselves. If you are tailgated by some impatient young guy, try to pull to the side to let them rush by. If you are deliberately pushed by some punk in a hurry at the grocery store, try to slough it off. If a young male from your own family starts beaking off about how unfair this all is TO HIM, ignore him or – in this case – set him straight.
We really don’t have time to fret about punks, hotshots, and young jerks. The bigger issue is to fight the Virus. And the best way for most of us to do that is to keep our heads, act judiciously and not waste energy on things we have little control over. Just as Covid-19 is really a response to the general neglect of Nature by First World practise, so too am I convinced that the the rude, thoughtless, and potentially harmful behaviour of rogue humans will also be taken care of by Natural forces.
This belief is a hunch based on something Grandma once observed about a particular disrespectful punk who, if I may speak euphemistically, got taken out by Nature via human agents in the old East Vancouver days. …When it was all over, when the Big Mouth had been ” taken care of”, Grandma observed bluntly that the gangster wannabe was simply “too stupid to live.”
Just like these rogue young males who are letting their fear and resulting anger lead them to impulsivity, to lash out at the gentle, decent, and innocent. “Too stupid to live.” This need not mean a person’s literal demise. It could simply be one of these impatient, heedless males causes an accident that leaves him paralyzed.
Or he catches Covid 19 while playing ball with his equally unmindful buddies. His case is not fatal but is severe enough that he is left with permanently scarred lung tissue. He spends his the rest of his days coughing, hacking, and gasping for air. Not quite vegetative but definitely very poor quality of life.
Better just to be patient and pleasant, a help to others. It just makes life easier all round. Just ask the Elephants of Pilanesburg
Story 2. To close on a happier note, there is a small mom-and-pop business in Waxahachie, Texas that makes affordable bubble helmet ventilators. Although not as fancy as the now $50,000 a unit top of the line ventilators, they have been found to be of use in a pinch. And…they go for $162 U.S. each.
Since Covid-19 got loose, the demand for Mr. Chris Austin’s machines has gone through the roof. So, he and his crew are gamely trying to meet the demand.
The punch-line to this story is that, unlike the actions of some of the big medical supply places, Mr. Austin has not raised the price of his helmet ventilators. They still go for $162 or so each.
He just wants to do what is right, I guess. Bully, for him. He and his crew are heroes all.
You can read his story here:
Until next time, Friends. Peace and health.