Shooting an elephant theme essay | La Gnosis de Hoy

As soon as I saw the elephant I knew withperfect certainty that I ought not to shoot him.

24.11.2012 · Shooting an Elephant text

Elephants figure in some way in a number of religions, more centrally in areas of the world where they are native. The elephant is considered a totem (sacred ancestor) in many African cultures. The Koran contains a Chapter of the Elephant, concerning how even the mightiest elephant-laced army was felled by a flock of birds and the will of Allah. Various Christian writings take the elephant’s graceful and majestic nature as symbolic of the virtues or a testament to divine glory. One of the Sanskrit Jataka Tales tells of the Buddha’s previous life as an elephant king, and Buddhists believe that white elephants are bodhisattvas (enlightened beings), or at least their mounts. Ganesh, the elephant-headed Lord of Beginnings and Obstacles, is among the most celebrated deities in the teeming Hindu universe. According to legend, Ganesh is the son of Shiva the Destroyer and his consort Parvati, who one day appointed her son to stand guard outside the door while she bathed. Due to a misunderstanding at the threshold, Shiva sliced off his own son’s head, and in order to appease the horrified Parvati, replaced it with the head of a passing elephant. A sweeter variant has it that the famously amorous Shiva and Parvati, observing a tender elephant couple in the forest and wishing to partake in this new mystery of love, turned themselves into elephants for a night, and from this union Ganesh was born.

Shooting an Elephant Essay - 840 Words

Enter the Owenses, with the ability to drop in as if from on high and devote their considerable energies and resources to no other purpose than the salvation of the elephants. The partnerships they tried to forge with park authorities and the neighboring community only went so far; over the years, their program became characterized by a kind of ad hoc martial law — armed night patrols in planes and helicopters, an unofficial understanding with the scouts (whose training and support the Owenses provided) that they should shoot to kill.

As in so many other ways, however, stepping in to control a specific aspect of a complex situation has yielded enormous unintended consequences. Although culling experts once believed that they could take out precisely the desired number of elephant families while leaving the rest of the population alone, more recent data show that survivors are definitely affected, even if they were far away at the time of the cull. Elephants have relationships within their herds that extend well beyond the small group of immediate family they travel and spend each day with, and their long-distance communication capabilities make them aware of events happening miles away. As Bradshaw and others have documented, disturbed behavior has often been observed among these survivors, and autopsies of those who die later for other reasons show signs of sustained high stress consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder.


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Tom, however, is not simply a hero or a victim. His devotion to Jenny also leads him to betray his sweetheart, abandon his family, ignore grave evil, and descend into a sordid London underworld whose misery he actively contributes to. In every choice that arises for Tom between Jenny and another person, he knows he can’t leave Jenny because there is literally no one else on earth who will protect her. She is “only an Elephant,” after all, and not entitled to the same basic social claims as people. But since she exists not as a subject in her own animal society but as an object in the human one, she susceptible to any violations someone may impose (as was her brother, whose untimely demise was the result of profound degradation and misunderstanding). Tom’s unusual connection to her puts him in limbo between two realms which are perhaps impossible to integrate — not because animals are too different from us, but because they are too alike.

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With globalization, mahout culture is going the way of other old traditions. It is less of a family business, the training is more slapdash, and many of the men who would make the most affectionate and dedicated elephant companions find, understandably, that they have better opportunities elsewhere. As Stephen Alter writes in (2004), this leaves the kind of men who have few other options, but who for the same underlying reasons may not be a good fit with elephants at all. The result is neglect, misunderstanding, conflict and abuse, and bitter frustration on both sides, feeding on itself for more of the same. But the demand for service and show elephants is only going up, and has to take care of them.

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These were both thrilling experiences, but looking back, those elephants were conscripted into unhealthy, lonely lives precisely because of the monetary potential in tourists like me. In the same vein but worse, luxury resorts in Thailand to entertain and delight visitors. Where and how these babies are obtained — and what becomes of them when they are more than a year or two old and no longer useful for the purpose — is a dismal thing to contemplate; and in any case, no elephant that young is well off separated from its mother and family, no matter how lavish the accommodations.