Of all the posts on this blog none has garnered me more hatred than my criticism of Grossman’s sheepdog, sheep, and wolves analogy. Seriously, just read some of the comments and see how many people base their self-worth on the idea that they’re some kind of protector of humanity. Over two years later I not only find myself still believing that Grossman’s analogy is flawed but I also believe that almost everybody who subscribes to that analogy and believes themselves to be a sheepdog isn’t.
In Grossman’s analogy the sheepdog is the thin barrier that lies between the weak, pathetic, ignorant sheep and the vicious wolves that lurk around every corner. I find the analogy flawed because it implies that a person is either a protector of humanity, a stupid sheep who will get eaten in time, or an asshole wolf who exists solely to kill the sheep. I mean, come on, just read this tripe:
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath–a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
What if you have the capacity for violence but care only to use it to protect yourself? Or you have the capacity for violence but care only to use it to protect you and yours? How about those people who have a capacity for violence yet refrain from using it? And what about those who have a capacity for violence, use it against nonviolent individuals, and carry a badge? Reality is far different than what Grossman implies. People don’t fit nicely into tidy categories and most of the self-proclaimed sheepdogs aren’t considered what Grossman implies to be sheepdog.
If you go on to read the analogy you will see, for example, that Grossman considers police officers to be sheepdogs. I fail to see how modern police, who exist primarily to prey on the populace by extorting wealth from them, are defenders of anybody. But what’s really annoying is that many people outside of the police and military who consider themselves sheepdogs share many of the wolfish tendencies of a lot of modern police officers. The worst of which is the “Just give me an excuse, boy!” personality trait. People who exhibit this personality trait are the ones who are looking for any excuse to bring violence against somebody. For example, one of Baton Rouge’s finest who wanted somebody to pull a Ferguson in his town so he could thump some skulls.
Many of the people I know, both in real life and on the Internet, who consider themselves sheepdog are also hoping somebody will do something, anything, that will give them an excuse to go all Judge Dredd on their ass. The only thing keeping them from shooting bad guys, and by bad guys I mean basically anybody they dislike, is that they are lowly beta wolves. Sheepdogs, more often than not, are actually wolves and there are two types of wolves. Most self-proclaimed sheepdogs outside of law enforcement are lowly beta wolves and the police are the alpha wolves. Beta wolves want to go all Judge Dredd on people but the alpha wolves don’t like it when beta wolves challenge their monopoly on violence. So the alpha wolves keep the beta wolves relegated to just wishing for the day that they get a reason to prove their sheepdog claims to be more than bluster. This isn’t heroic behavior and the people who hold this attitude aren’t the defender of humanity.
As people wanting nothing more than to wield violence most self-proclaimed sheepdogs spend a vast majority of their time training to do exactly that. Something that always amazes me when it comes to the sheepdog crowd is their emphasis on training for some of the most retarded gun fighting scenarios, in regards to people living in the United States, every conceived. They drill for multiple attackers invading a mall and taking hostages, entrenched terrorists who are firing on the sheepdogs’ position and can only be advanced on by leapfrogging so that one sheepdog can provide covering fire to another sheepdog as he moves towards danger (because sheepdogs only ever move towards danger), and counterinsurgency after a foreign army has successfully invaded and taken over their hometown. What they seem to never drill for are scenarios where the mugger gets the jump on them and at gun point demands their wallet, a shooter opening fire in a mall causing most of the people to run chaotically in a panic and thus have made finding and engaging the attacker almost impossible, or two individuals engaging in a fight that’s impossible to ascertain who initiated it and who is simply defending themselves. If you want to consider yourself the defender of stupid sheep then you should at least practice for scenarios that may actually happen. Or, you know, learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
It’s true, some self-proclaimed sheepdogs are very competent with a firearm (but most aren’t). Anybody who spends every weekend practicing to engage the entire Mongol horde should have developed at least some competency with a firearm. But those people often suck at deescalation techniques (again, they want to get into a fight so deescalation is counter to their goal), employing the minimum force necessary to resolve a situation, and having a conversation lasting more than ten minutes that doesn’t devolve into ranting about how pathetic sheep are and how awesome they and their fellow sheepdogs are. The best fights are the ones that don’t happen and if you are actually interested in defending people you should start by learning to how deescalate a situation. Likewise not every situation requires a gun. Sometimes you can resolve a situation by restraining somebody long enough for them to cool down. And when things do go completely south and you need to use a firearm you will almost never have an AR-15 with a chest rig full of loaded magazines. Instead you’ll have a concealed handgun and maybe an extra magazine or two. Again most self-proclaimed sheepdogs seemed prepared for war not for defending members of their community from bad things that may actually happen.
The only people that I have ever heard use the sheepdog analogy unironically are those whose egos need regular stroking and the only stroking they find pleasurable are images of themselves being heroes. Meanwhile the people who actually protect members of their community; emergency medical technicians (EMT), people who know CPR, people who walk other people to their car at night so they don’t get harassed, etc.; usually aren’t bragging about how they are the thin line that rests between sheep and wolves. That’s probably because they’re actually helping people instead of talking about it. But a lot of people have latched onto Grossman’s analogy because it allows them to fantasize about being a hero as well as gives them a reason to feel superior to anybody who doesn’t spend every weekend preparing to fight off the Mongol horde.