When elephants fight, the saying goes, it is the grass that suffers. As a literal observation, made by some frustrated person trying to grow a lawn in Kenya next door to a gang of particularly pugilistic pachyderms, it is probably true. As a metaphor for political upheaval, however, it is rather silly.

I understand why the fighting elephants story is catnip for orators and pundits. Its message – an observation about power doubling as a statement of solidarity with the downtrodden – is nicely accessible but its poetic imagery wreaths it in profundity, making it seem like the sort of thing you might get told by a sage on a mountaintop rather than, as I mentioned earlier, a desperately unhappy gardener.

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