Taking Charge
MAD: reactions can be dangerous

How do you stop an elephant from charging?

You take away his credit card.

Have you heard that one before?

Me too, but I couldn’t help laughing when I came across it again so please don’t beat yourself upif you let out a chuckle.

Sometimes stupid can be funnyand I am certainlaughing is good… even at thelamest of jokes.

I started with that one because I was looking for a reaction…a laugh,a groan, whatever… mainly because I want to talk about reacting.

And just for the record, and for any of you who have experienced one first hand, I do not think angry elephants are funny.

Several years ago,I came across a big bull while I was driving in Nxai Pan with my family.

We were in our red Mazda 4×4 when we spotted him a kilometre away across an open savannah.

We had been hoping to see the big mammals so we were quite excited when he changed course and started moving in our direction… but when he started flapping his ears and running at top speed our feelings changed.

Okay, we were still excited, but it was more of a, ‘We don’t want to die,’ kind of excitement, so I sped off in the opposite direction.

We later learned several elephants had been shot for their tusks in the area and some of the poachers had committed their crimes while driving a red 4×4.

That would account for the big bull’s aggressive behaviour when he spotted our vehicle. Which brings us back to today’s topic.

That elephant probably associated a red truck with the death of his mates so when he saw our vehicle he reacted by seeking vengeance.

And if he had caught our vehicle I doubt I would be sharing this story today.

My point is that we spend a lot of our time reacting to things.

Sometimes that is good, like when we laugh at jokes or run away from danger or get so angry that we put ourselves between danger and our loved ones.

That, by the way is, is the proper use of anger.

It can be very handy when we don’t have time to be scared and then overcome our fear with bravery.

Unfortunately, though, we often hold onto our anger and allow it to effect how we react to things that don’t have anything to do with the event that made us angry.

That’s a big reason why tribal conflicts and other feuds can drag on for so long.

When we behave like that, we aren’t much different from that elephant that wanted to attack my family in Nxai Pan.

He may have seen people driving a red 4×4 shoot other elephants, but all the people who drive a certain type of vehicle are not the same and he was wrong to think we were to blame.

Fortunately, we are not just animals with instincts and reactions.

We can think before we act, and I think if we could do that more we would be kinder, happier people.

And if we could stop reacting to adverts and peer pressure, and think about what we buy, no one would need to take away our credit cards.

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