What Elliot Rodger Needed: An Elephant


We can learn from elephants how to stop mass shootings. Kozo Hattori explains.


I recently wrote an article about the shooting in Isla Vista. A day after the article was published, Aaron Ybarra killed Paul Lee and injured two other students at Seattle Pacific University. Then another shooting erupted on Friday June 6 in Canada. This morning I called a friend in Vegas, who informed me of a shooting at a Vegas Walmart.

All these shootings were done by young men of different ages and ethnicities. Many are questioning gun laws and mental health concerns. I tend to see a larger issue. From mass shootings to sexual assaults to bullying and viral humiliation, young boys and men in our society are acting out.

I recently had the honor of interviewing Father Richard Rohr for The Compassionate Men Interview Series. In the interview, Father Rohr told me a story about young bull male elephants in Africa that were out of control—stomping on cars, destroying their environment, and attacking one another for no reason.

Scientist finally figured out that all the old male elephants had been poached or killed. Without these male role models, the teenage elephants did not know how to act like mature males because they had never seen a mature male.

The scientist helicoptered in some mature bull males from a different part of Africa and this cured the problem. The older bull males taught the younger males how to act.

Reading Elliot Rodger’s manifesto, I can’t help but notice his “father hunger.” One has to wonder if our male adolescents are out of control due to a lack of mature male role models.

For me, The Good Men Project is an oasis where older males can mingle with younger males. I cherish the guidance of wise men like Mark Greene and Graham Phoenix. At the same time, I love the discussions with younger men that happen in the comments sections.

The problem is that many young males like Elliot Rodger are not reading The Good Men Project. What can we do to “helicopter” in some older wise males into the lives of troubled young men? Here are a few suggestions. I also invite you to share your ideas in the comments below.


1) Bring young bulls to the watering hole: If you are an older or middle aged man or woman who enjoys the content of The Good Men Project, tell young men that you know to come visit. The modern way to do this is through Facebook or Twitter.

Think about some young men who might benefit from an article you read on GMP, then tweet them the article or share it on your Facebook page mentioning their name. They will get a notification about the article.

2) Be the elephant you want to see in the world: As we all know, adolescents learn more from watching what we do rather than listening to what we say. Being a compassionate male role model is key to changing the culture we live in.

Treating others, including the young boys we are role modeling for, with kindness, understanding, and empathy sets an important pattern of behavior that deeply affects how boys act in the world. One of the ways I’ve tried to do this is to have compassion for the shooter and victims in the last few weeks.

Many of the older men that I hear or see in the media are condemning Elliot Rodger as a “psycho” or “loser.” I try to have compassion for him and the four other young men who were killed. I hope this will teach my sons to be understanding and kind to anyone in pain.

3) Be a father figure for young bulls who are not blood related: Many boys today grow up without a father, but this does not mean that they can’t have positive male role models. We can nurture boys of all ages in our community through coaching a sports team to volunteering at organizations like Big Brothers or after school programs.

I try to model compassionate behavior for not only my sons, but also their friends, cousins, and team mates. I used to scream at my son, the coaches, and referees from the sidelines at his sporting events, until I realized how this affected every boy on the playing field.

Now I bite my tongue when we get a bad call or my son’s playing time seems unfair. I want to model peacefulness, understanding, and brotherhood for every boy in the vicinity.

4) Find mature bull males and helicopter them into your boys’ lives:If you have an uncle who embodies love and compassion, take your boys to him and let them spend quality time together. These compassionate male role models can be found throughout our communities.


Church leaders, music teachers, scout leaders, or athletic coaches can make huge impressions on growing adolescent boys. Just make sure you find the compassionate ones, not the ones obsessed with winning, achievement, or perfection.

You can also find positive male role models in the cineplex or on DVDs. When I interviewed Meng Tan, he said that one of his role models was Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Gandhi. Rick Hanson and Arthur Chu see Ender from Ender’s Game as a personification of compassion. I can’t wait to show my boys Billy Elliot when they get old enough.

My hope is that we can prevent future tragedies by surrounding our young male bulls with mature compassionate older bulls to show them how a real man behaves.


modified photo Shankar S./Flickr Creative Commons

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