The Other I

March 29, 2008

About fathers and elephants

Filed under: Cultural Differences,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 9:10 pm

By coincidence after my ruminations about cruelty yesterday, I read some fascinating statistics about violence.

But let me begin with a story about an elephant cull that took place in Africa some years ago.  The elephant population in one of the nature reserves was becoming too large.  It was invading the fields of farmers nearby and authorities decided a cull was necessary.

In a misbegotten attempt to keep the females with the youngsters as well as to slow future population growth, the cull was limited to male elephant bulls whose numbers was drastically reduced.  But over the next few years, juvenile male elephants began to get out of control, causing much greater mayhem that even the larger population before the cull.  The keepers eventually realized that the problem was that the adult male elephants had exerted a socializing and moderating effect on the young males, and without them, the young males were simply running wild.  With the re-introduction of adult elephant bulls, the problem gradually subsided.

Today, I stumbled on a case for a human counterpart.  A recent analysis of the history of violence suggests that young men are more apt to believe that problems can be solved through violence than any other group in society.  And a study of demographcs seems to suggest that when there is a bulge of young males in a society, there is an upsurge of violence.  Without young men, violence is much less apt to occur, even in the fact of  social upheaval, injustice, or subjugation.  Nor is it necessarily reduced by increasing levels of education and affluence.

This pattern is not limited to any particular ethnic group nor is it limited to our present age.  It shows up in our prisons repeatedly.  It happened in the U.S. and Britain in 1968, in 17th century England, in Germany in WWI, during the French Revolution, the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Cultural Revolution in China, the troubles in Ireland, in Palestine, and Afghanistan.   Today there are 67 countries where 15-29 year olds make up more than 30% of the population.  There are significant levels of violence in 60 of them.

Do high levels of unemployment make a bad problem worse?  How significant is the influence of social injustice?  I don’t know.  I don’t know either how big an impact being raised without a father has on human male juveniles.  I’m sure fathers are by no means the whole solution.  But the number of children being raised without fathers in the world today worries me.

The best hope, perhaps, is that young males between the ages of 15-29 don’t stay that age.  And when they grow up, fighting it out doesn’t seem like such a good solution anymore.


  1. I enjoyed this post. Can you point me to the studies where you found your information?


    Comment by Kym — March 29, 2008 @ 9:16 pm | Reply

  2. Kym – It would not be unreasonable to expect an entire reading list to accompany this posting. However, briefly my comments on the youth bulge arise from Gunnar Heinsohn’s book Sons and World Power. You may also be interested in the posting at for a short introduction and suggestions for further exploration.

    Thank you for your comment.
    The Other I


    Comment by theotheri — March 30, 2008 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  3. Thank you!


    Comment by Kym — March 30, 2008 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks for the info!


    Comment by Kym — March 30, 2008 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

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