Tethering to Control
The elephant, the largest land mammal on earth has the most potential to wreck havoc on all around it. A male African elephant can reach a height of 10 feet and a weight of over 12,000 lbs. When considered for size, strength and intelligence the elephant creates both fear and awe.
Elephants are considered very social creatures, staying connected to their ‘community’ for life. The community will celebrate events, birth, return of a member missing for some time and they will mourn the passing of their community members. Elephants are said to never lose this sense of community or their desire to be free. Their memory is legendary. It is easy to be awed by elephants due to size, raw power and the uncanny sense of community. The elephant is much more than a beast of burden.
To be a constructive part of the economy by means of work or entertainment, the elephant must be controlled. The main means of control for captive elephants is the practice of tethering or picketing.
Domesticated Elephants live their whole lives tethered. The majority of the time, they are chained by two feet, unable to take even one step forward or back. Tethered for control a pole, stake, post or tree strong enough to keep the young elephant stationary is used. After time, the elephant gives up trying to break free. It grows in strength, strength that would easily free itself from the bonds holding it back. The elephant assumes nothing has changed and does not challenge it’s state.
Studies have concluded that picketing or tethering continually creates signs of neurosis. Just as a human will exhibit compulsive movement or repetitive behaviors when they are unable to respond to natural instincts such as fight or flight. When robbed of their instinctual belief in freedom and removed from their community, the tethered become impaired mentally and suffer the loss of their natural potential.
The Elephant is tethered, so others may have peace in their presence. The tether is the external training which takes place for the purpose of control and domestication. The freedom the elephant yearns for and is born for is taken from it unless the tether is removed, unless the tether is broken. People too can be tethered, controlled by teaching, training, tradition and cultural expectations.
This is the way of the cycle of poverty and illiteracy, generation after generation in Rionchogu, tethered to traditions and practices, tied to the limits of the past. Freedom from this cycle is dependent on breaking the harmful effects of the tether. The work within Rionchogu is dedicated to breaking the tethers responsible for so much of their pain, suffering, and difficulty. The tethers may differ in circumstance yet remain very affective. The local meaning of the name Rionchogu is literally: “The Place of the Elephants“. How appropriate then that we see this breaking of the cycle of illiteracy and poverty as breaking the tether which holds them captive.
To turn our backs is unacceptable, it is inappropriate, and to do so is to see ourselves as better than our neighbor. Our own potential is held back through years of conditioning. Like the people of Rionchogu, as soon as we see that the constraint is no longer able to contain us, our potential is limitless! The tethering or picketing of elephants has become our greatest model to relate to ourselves and the people we assist. If we accept this symbol of our potential and accept the commitment to the community to stand together our own eyes open to discover the potential of the future.