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Saturday, October 09, 2004 - 10:10 AM Permanent link for Sheep, Sheep Dogs, Wolves
Sheep, Sheep Dogs, Wolves

Blackfive has a GREAT article by Dave Grossman - author of the decidedly non-PC textbook, On Killing.  Grossman classifies humanity into 3 buckets - Sheep, SheepDogs, and Wolves -

 "Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident."

... "Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy."

... "Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."...

I'll admit that bits of it are a tad cliche BUT, it's still overallinsightful and provides a sharp commentary on the issues that divide us in the face of wolves.   The insight into the the SheepDog personality is particularly striking -

... Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, which is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.

But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.

the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."

...Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference."

Go read it.

I think Grossman (perhaps out of politeness) stops short of identifying one class of sheep that's particularly insidious - the militant sheep.    These are the sheep that not only refuse to accept a certain inevitability of violence but go so far as to blame the existence of the wolf upon the sheepdog.  In their minds & in their desperation to extend a sort of courtesy to the wolves, they believe that the wolves were actually sheep just like them BUT, were somehow forced to become wolves because of the SheepDog.  Classic "hating the solution".

As the author states, they begin by noticing precious little prima facie difference between the wolf and the sheep dog - afterall they both have fangs and they both use 'em.  But, in their zeal to demonstrate moral superiority to the SheepDog, they necessarily elevate and alas, provide opportunity, to the wolf.

UPDATE - A small anecdote about a true SheepDog in action.   Before living in downtown SF, I lived in a relatively quiet, boring burb about 25 min south of the city.  One of my neighbors was a cop who worked in Oakland (30 min away in a different direction) and *totally* possessed the ex-miltary cop stereotype - fit, very clean cut, very courteous, and a pickup truck parked in front of his pad.   Aside from the standard neighborly waves as our cars passed each other in the driveway, we never really interacted much.

However, one weekend afternoon, my girlfriend was visiting and parked her car in the apartment complex's lot.   A few minutes later, there was a knock on our door and it was my cop neighbor.  He introduced himself and said that he'd noticed my girlfriend had left a few bags in clear sight in the backseat of her car.  He said he "just had to" swing by and tell us that she should put 'em in the trunk or bring them inside for safety reasons.  We thanked him and kindly obliged.

Now, I can't emphasize enough that our neighbor wasn't on-duty in any way / shape / form.   He was far from his precinct and clearly off-hours.  And my burb was as low-crime & boring as they come. 

Admittedly, if I or most of my friends saw a neighbor's car w/ bags clearly visible and IF we'd made the mental note that this was a crime risk, it's pretty unlikely that we'd search out the owner and alert them.   More likely than not, we'd probably just go along on our sheep-ish way minding our own business.   But Grossman helps us recognize the strong sheepdog instinct in my cop neighbor's personality.   He simply wouldn't be able to live with himself if he later discovered her car had been broken into and "just had to" do something preemptively.

UPDATE2 - How can I blog about Sheep / SheepDogs / Wolves without pointing at one of my favorite blogposts of all time - Belmont Club's take on HG Wells' Time Machine?
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