Everyone probably saw the video-gone-viral last week about the baby elephant who out-maneuvered 14 attacking lions. At one point, the little guy gets in the water and shakes off the lions… but then he returns to shore. One of the human voices in the video sadly says, ‘Oh no, he’s not smart.’

Elephant Company & Character

Well, I think we all know that elephants are actually pretty smart. And since I am currently reading Elephant Company by Vicki Constantine Croke, I happen to know that elephants are also very courageous.


Elephant Company is about Lt. Col. James Howard, who went to work for a teak wood company in Burma (Myanmar) in 1920. His years of work with elephants made him a legend in his own time. Eventually, during WWII, Williams and his courageous elephants helped refugees escape over treacherous mountains from Japanese-occupied Burma.

Croke says in the Introduction of Elephant Company:

Williams had witnessed a life among the elephants that would be hard for those outside to fathom — in fact, he reported behaviors that many would not believe until they were validated decades later by biologists in the field. He had seen these creatures thoughtfully solve problems, use tools, protect one another, express joy and humor, stand up for something more important than their own safety, and even, perhaps, comprehend the concept of death. There was a largeness to them that was about more than their physical size, a quality triggered especially when their sense of decency or outrage was provoked. Could one really call it decency? Williams thought so. Courage defined them. He had witnessed their bravery — mothers defending babies, tuskers squaring off against each other, closely bonded females running toward danger, not away, to protect one another.

Elephant Courage & Politics

Courage is part of the elemental nature of an elephant. Maybe it didn’t seem smart for the baby elephant to charge his lion tormentors just when it looked like he might escape, but that is the elephant way. Most likely, the instinct to face-down danger and charge at it head-on has greatly enhanced the survival of the species.

What about the survival of democracy?

Like Williams, we may all be inspired by elephant courage when we have a chance to witness it. That’s why I love how Cenk Ugyar, host of The Young Turks, ties together the courage of the baby elephant with Wolf-PAC, which is fighting courageously to get money out of the American political system.

For your encouragement, this is worth a watch:

I know he’s an elephant, but he totally reminded me of Wolf-PAC. At the end, he decides, ‘You’re not coming for me. I’m coming for you….

You know those lobbyists, it looks like there’s a lot of them, it looks like you can’t beat them, and when they’re attacking at the same time, what do you do? Kick, trunk, go to favorable terrain, and then f****ing charge.

Cenk Ugyar

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