And in the 20th year of the blog, the Slacktivist looked upon all that he had posted, and saw that some of it was, you know, pretty OK.
This is from January 11, 2013, “The elephant in the room displaces the gorilla“:
The idiom is popular because it exaggerates a real human tendency we can all recognize, and because it doesn’t exaggerate it all that much.
Yes, elephants are enormous, spectacular creatures and we’re all quite certain that the sudden presence of such a glorious creature in our own living rooms, or our own yards, or even our own neighborhoods would instantly rearrange all of our priorities and rewrite all of our schedules until it was dealt with. And that’s certainly true.
But social pressure is also a powerful thing. As certain as I am that I would snap to attention at the presence of an elephant (or gorilla) in my room, where I set the tone, I’m less confident of how I would respond in the unlikely circumstance the idiom describes — if I walked into a room for some gathering and encountered both a literal elephant and a literal group of people who neither mentioned nor acknowledged its presence.
One doesn’t want to seem rude, after all. Or stupid.
Surely the others are aware of the elephant, I’d be thinking, so there can’t be any need to point it out. I wouldn’t want to be Captain Obvious. I might ask what it was doing there, or how it got there, or what they intended to do about it, but the sheer enormity of the beast would make that an awkward question. I would probably have the sneaking suspicion that I already ought to know the answer. If I’m shocked and flabbergasted by something that everyone else seems to find utterly unremarkable, I start to suspect that they must all know something I don’t — something I ought to know and, therefore, maybe shouldn’t admit to having missed. I start to think maybe it’s better not to say anything, just quietly try to bring myself up to speed before everyone realizes I missed the memo about the elephant.
In real life, actually, I’ve had the chance to meet several elephants up close. And every time I’ve been allowed anywhere near an elephant, I’ve involuntarily cried out, “Whoa! An elephant!” and had a minor manic episode of unsuppressed, hyper-verbal glee. Because, you know, elephant.
Still, though, that social pressure I describe above can be almost as enormous, tangible and intimidating as any elephant. If there are enough other people around and they are all uniformly steadfast and confident in their disregard, their implacability and their nonchalance, then whatever regard and, um, placability and chalance I might be otherwise feeling tends to get squelched — even if it was initially of elephantine proportions.