Tuesday, September 06, 2005

From sheep to sheepdog

There are all types of bloggers. I'm a practitioner of the long essay form, for example.

And Bill Whittle is a practitioner of the LONG esssay form.

When you write LONG, as Bill does, you have to be very very good to get anyone to stick with you and follow your essay to its conclusion. Bill is very very good. He not only has intelligent and original things to say, but he says them in a uniquely conversational voice that manages to carry the reader along almost effortlessly through his LONG pieces (did I mention that they were long?).

So when Bill puts a new essay up, it's time to take notice. His latest is no exception. It's an infinitesimal bit rougher around the edges than his usual polished product, but that's because he wrote this one quickly, with a sense of pressing urgency. It's well worth reading, as always.

The part that caught my interest most, though, was not written by Whittle himself (sorry, Bill!); it's a passage from something called The Bulletproof Mind, written by a Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman (a digression: from looking at Grossman's biographical webpage, I learned that he's written some things I should take a look at--a psychologist by training as well as a military man, he has been doing some exceptionally interesting work on the psychology of killing). In Whittle's excerpt, Grossman uses a metaphor of sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs, and divides humanity into three groups based on this idea:

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....

Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial; that 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 dozens of times more likely to be killed, and thousands of times more likely to be seriously injured, by school violence than by school fires, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their children is just too hard, so they choose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog that intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land...


This is a vivid way of describing something I've wrestled with quite often on this blog, most recently in this post, and in this one.

Reading Whittle's essay and his description of what he imagines he himself might have done had he been a passenger on one of the 9/11 flights, I was reminded of a thought I had on 9/12. It had already become clear just what had happened on all the flights, and that only the passengers on Flight 93 had known about the others, and that this had emboldened them to take heroic action against the terrorists. The thought that struck me at that time was quite simple: well, that's the last hijacking we'll ever see. Hijackings are finished as of now.

This wasn't because I thought that security would be so wonderfully different after 9/11, or that terrorists would just give up. No. It was just that knowledge of what had transpired on 9/11 meant that no one would consider a hijacking to be a survivable event any more.

Never again could a hijacker say, "Just do what we say, and no one will get hurt," and have anyone believe them. Never again could a hijacker count on anyone, even a wimpish sort like me, to cooperate when the hijacker issued an order, assuming that complying would allow that person to survive. No, that innocence (that sheepish innocence, you might say) was lost for all time. Whether or not a flight also carried official sheepdogs (armed pilots or air marshalls) to protect the passengers, from now on, there are no sheep on an airplane.

When I was a child I loved the movie High Noon (and if there is anyone within the sound of my voice who hasn't seen it yet, please do me a favor and do so immediately). I loved High Noon for a lot of reasons. Gary Cooper's expressively stoic (no, that's not an oxymoron) face was one of them. The compressed time frame was another. The music--oh, how I loved that music! Katy Jurado was fascinating; she looked a lot like me, or like someone who could be my older sister, which was very odd because I was not a Mexican actress and I didn't have a sister. Grace Kelly was impossibly lovely and way too young for Cooper, but she was wonderful, too.

But it was the plot that made me love the picture the most. I didn't really understand it in a way that I could explain at the time--but, intuitively, I sensed that it was telling some sort of essential truth. I was a pacifist, like Grace Kelly's character Amy--or, rather, I wanted to be. I wanted everyone to love one another and hold hands and never use guns and never fight.

But even my rather short life so far had told me otherwise. I'd already encountered violence and meanness and, if not evil, then cruelty. And I already knew, from my own life, that you couldn't appease it or wish it away.

(Warning to those who haven't seen the movie yet: spoiler coming!)

So at the end of the movie when Grace Kelly, the Quaker pacifist, shot the gunman who was stalking and about to kill her husband, I knew something important and dramatic had happened. Until now I didn't have a phrase to describe what it was. But now I do: the sheep had turned into a sheepdog.

26 Comments:

At 12:13 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

- Whittle's essay simply was outstanding and very timely - the 'sheep' still want to see islamic fundamentalism as some kind of small aberration and not a serious menace. The full import of 9/11 has simply not registered with many if not most Americans.

 
At 12:23 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger Tom Grey said...

Wow -- I read the LONG sheepdog post, too, and it's great. The High Noon truth you articulate is perfect.

(Even looked up the Col., but he's teaching security.)

Yes, the sheep must turn into sheepdogs. To survive in a fight against evil.

But only if there IS evil. Denial of evil is a basis for denial of the need for sheepdogs. An unreal basis; but such folk often complain about real sheepdogs being too wolfish (Abu?) and NOT perfect.

Like Minister Fudge of Harry Potter...

 
At 6:04 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger AcademicElephant said...

Some fool sent me the Michael Moore "open letter" to Bush and I sent back this essay--I wish I thought they would stick to it through the end. I plan on wearing gray as a tribute.

 
At 6:58 PM, September 06, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Ever wonder what the sheepdogs think of the sheep?

Hint: The sheepdogs don't want to die. The sheep, through obliviousness or contrariness, get themselves into trouble.

The sheepdog must respond.

How pleased with the sheep is the sheepdog in this event?

 
At 9:12 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger the Ol' Sheepdog said...

Ever since reading On Killing, I've been of the opinion that certain unpleasant subjects are best faced squarely. People who decide to put a gun in the nightstand without coming to terms with all aspects of deadly force, are a danger to themselves.

I'm not sure where this kind of person fits in the sheep-sheepdog-wolf analogy, but there are plenty of them out there.

That's not really what this essay is about, but the idea that all are made safer by the very idea that some might fight back is exactly the point made by gun rights advocates about the deterrent effect of legally armed citizens.

I've posted a link to this post here and I also recommend Blackfive's mention of Dave Grossman.

Further common-sense advice on self-defense and personal responsibility is out there. Try Googling "Massad Ayoob," f'rinstance.

 
At 9:17 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger the Ol' Sheepdog said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:23 PM, September 06, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

I think the thinking about carrying a gun is nice, but restrictive.
If you hit somebody with your bare hands, you may kill him. It's more likely if you're strong and know what you're doing, but practically anybody can kill somebody else, if only because the guy ducks the blow and falls into a well or something.
The instant you raise your hand to somebody, you are in serious territory.
That's why cops spend so much time learning techniques which are designed to be non-lethal. Mostly, they are, but they have the additional cost of restricting the cops' options and making him less safe. Point is, it takes more work to be reliably non-lethal in the use of violence than to be lethal.

 
At 9:25 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger the Ol' Sheepdog said...

{NOTE: having trouble with a simple cut & paste operation}

I wanted to correct the "trackback" link in my earlier comment. It should have been this one.

 
At 9:36 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger the Ol' Sheepdog said...

"Point is, it takes more work to be reliably non-lethal in the use of violence than to be lethal."

True enough. I was talking about those for whom a gun may be perceived as a viable option, but who may not have thought through the consequences.

Sadly, many people get most of their "received truth" from TV shows, which seldom portray the aftermath for all concerned. In the last three minutes of a script, the reluctant hero/heroine drills the bad guy and the music comes up.

Again, sorry for hijacking the thread, since this isn't really what Bill Whittle's talking about.

 
At 10:13 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

What a coincidence. I was just reading Grossman's book, The War With Earth, coauthored with a Russian scientist of all things.

His Book

Dave Grossman is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel, West Point Psychology Professor, Professor of Military Science, Army Ranger, and lifelong SF fan. He started his military career as a paratrooper and a sergeant before attending OCS. Colonel Grossman is the author of the Pulitzer nominated book, On Killing, which is used as required reading in courses at military academies, police academies, and colleges worldwide. He has written many other scholarly and popular works, and since his retirement from the military in 1998, he now travels the world almost 300 days a year, training elite military and law enforcement organizations.

What caught my notice was that "required reading" bit. To my experience, anyone who wants to learn military science (AKA military experts) needs to read all those required readingajibs that Mil Science requires to graduate.

I have not even finished Clausewitz's On War (Which is ridiculously freaking long btw), and I'm still astonished at the little details I know compared to my friends on the internet.

I doubt his book would get a Pulitzer NOW... however.

I'll have to try to read that book, On Killing. Heh, sort of like "On War".

The military sure is conservative in some things.

It is unfortunate that many Democrats have little to no interest in reading these books. Sun Tzu's the Art of War, On War, On Killing, and so on.

I've been thinking about the aspects of civilization ever since I read John Ringo's tour de force with David Weber, in March Upcountry. Where there are warriors, soldiers, and civilians. Warriors fight on an individualist, pride, level. Soldiers fight on a teamwork orientated survival method, discipline based. Civilians run and hide and wait to be slaughtered.

And it was real interesting seeing how ancient type civilizations turned civilians, to militia-soldiers, to professional soldiers, to professional soldier-warrior hybrids.

I applied that to today's world, and I notice a great lack of... mobility between the different types in society. Much more than the Roman Empire days, but still not a lot pre-9/11. Then post-9/11, and things got a little bit weird. You had previous sheep, turning into steel eyed fighters, and you had a President ready to shoot down a civilian airliner with a military fighter.

It was certainly exciting at the age of 17. The rage and the fear hadn't fully manifested itself, because I didn't know much about world affairs at that stage. I didn't even know Saddam's history. You could say that many people, like me, started taking an interest in world affairs then, and realized that history wasn't quite as boring as the teachers made it out to be.

I think it is pretty simple, though perhaps not easy, to turn a sheep into a sheepdog. All you have to do is to find something that the sheep values, since it is human not an animal, and threaten to take it away. The will to survive in humanity will reassert itself, and fight back. Or it won't reassert itself, giving the wolf a juicy weakened target to take first.

 
At 10:31 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger David said...

Many sheep dislike sheepdogs more than they do wolves...after all, they see sheepdogs every day but rarely or never see wolves. It's rumored that wolves are in the forests, but many sheep believe those rumors are false. Others believe that the forest creatures are actually sheep, very much like themselves, who have been wearing wolf-masks out of fear.

There are some sheep who tend to fixate on the sheepdog's fangs, and argue that these make the sheepdog equivalent to the wolf. These sheep have never learned to look beneath the surface of things and understand that it's not just the fangs that matter: it's how the fangs are used.

 
At 10:32 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger John Moreschi said...

This is similar to the categories from the the movie "Team America": (bad language alert) there are "pussies", "pricks", and "assholes". Pussies don't like pricks, but they need pricks because pricks will fxxk assholes, who Shxx on pussies. A little cruder, but not a bad way to remember whose who in the world.

 
At 10:47 PM, September 06, 2005, Anonymous Will Franklin said...

My friends and I were talking one day in late 2001, after 9/11, about how we genuinely think we would have been the group of guys to storm the cockput had we been on that plane knowing what they knew. That's just how we are. I guess the Bill Whittle piece finally explains why.

 
At 11:13 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

About the gun argument. One of the problems with that argument is that it is derivative, and not the core assumption itself.

The core assumption is that the will to fight (character virtues) deters the enemy. The wolf.

Arming citizenry, or allowing them to arm themselves, is only a consequence of a policy that promotes character virtues instead of character weakness.

It is not and should not be the goal intended.

Because if you actually have legal weaponry available to people, it does not mean they will have the will to fight. Cause people kill people, not guns. Therefore you can't just give people guns and that will deter criminals, no, you have to get people to get some kind of fighting spirit going on otherwise they're still sheep.

Like Tony Martin. He used a gun, but only in fear and acted pretty crazy based upon that fear for his life, his property, and for what the police would do to him.

That was in Britain, and the gun was illegal, but it doesn't change the variables present. Which is that fighting spirit trumps weaponry. Everytime and anytime.

Any law that puts weapons above fighting spirit, (like banning handguns but not shotguns) is a big no no.

So in essence, the problem with governments that don't allow guns, is only a derivative of the core problem, which is that those governments don't promote civic character virtues but civic vices.

Once they make the sheep into a weak animal, it is a lot easier to control. But that sheep will not be able to defend itself as well against threats. But then, the shepherd might not care about that.

P.S.

The Jan Ken (X) is pretty ubiquitous in human history.

Rock, paper, scissors...

 
At 11:40 PM, September 06, 2005, Blogger Promethea said...

Thank goodness for the blogosphere. I've already decided that although I don't have fighting skills, I certainly can yell, as necessary, to bring others to a fight against terrorists. Also, I can brain the terrorist on the head with a Coke can in a sock. Also, I can smash their face when they are down. I had an encounter with a drunk today, and I know that I'm ready to do major damage to anyone who accosts me. As a "nice person" ("sheep"), I know that I'll need to counteract decades of niceness. But I'm ready to kill, if necessary.

As a group, all non-idiotarians need to think about what they personally can do in an emergency. Too many Americans are ignorant or in denial about the New World we live in.

Think of Promethea as a sheep with fangs and claws.

 
At 4:23 AM, September 07, 2005, Blogger camojack said...

WOOF!

 
At 6:28 AM, September 07, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

As we have heard several times, Orwell said that, effectively, the pacifist favors the fascist.

In the real world, what this means is the fascist is told by the actions of the virtuous society that it might be worth a shot. They're disarming and arguing about fighting and we ought to win easily.

So, to extend Orwell a bit, the pacifist increases the chance of war. Since the virtuous society won't give up without a fight. The fascist does not have the patience to wait the zillion years until they are one hundred percent pacifist.

So the fascist attacks.

Who takes the first hit? The regulars. The professional sheepdogs.
Who, by the way, are watching this process and watching the sheep make war--and the deaths of the professional sheepdogs--a pretty much done deal.

It is not merely that civilians don't understand or like the military. The feeling can be reciprocated, for a reason.

 
At 6:41 AM, September 07, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

I think many potential crimes are averted by the presence of a gun in the hands of an intended victim. I think too these incidents are often not reported to the police. Whether or not the intended victim could and would pull the trigger is another story, but most criminals are unwilling to run the odds since they are by nature cowards. Their courage is in proportion to the perceived vulnerability of the intended victim(s). There may be more sheepdogs in sheeps clothing than we realize.

 
At 4:05 PM, September 07, 2005, Blogger Jim said...

Thank you for this thoughtful, well-written piece. The irony, for me anyway, is that our “sheepdogs” are really just other sheep who through dedication and discipline have overcome their natural fear of fire and firearms to protect us in times of peril. I think what you've penned is particularly helpful in light of what the men and women who marched into New Orleans accomplished within 24 hours of their arrival, bringing order to chaos and salvation to the donwtrodden. I read on another blog how the NY PD and the NY FD brought honor to themselves and their emblems during 9-11. In my opinion, their New Orleans equivalent did not, leaving them with fitting acronyms: NO PD and NO FD ...

 
At 6:07 PM, September 07, 2005, Anonymous john moulder said...

I liked the Whittle piece but I thought it was flawed. I posted a critique of it on my site.

 
At 7:05 PM, September 07, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Jim.

Disagree. Sheepdogs have chosen to take responsibility for others.
The modality does not matter, whether a gun, or crawling into a wrecked car which might catch fire.
Perhaps sheepdogs did not choose but were hardwired, or trained by other sheepdogs from birth.

Sheep take no responsibility for others if there is any possibility of danger. They don't even take full responsibility for themselves, waiting instead for the sheepdogs to do it.

As I asked before, how do you think sheepdogs feel about this?
About the sheep?

 
At 7:18 PM, September 07, 2005, Blogger Tom Grey said...

Richard, I hope NNC really thinks about your question: what do the sheepdogs think about the sheep?

Because they prolly have some superior / contempt feelings. Sometimes quite a bit like the wolves, actually, though the wolves are more open and honest. (And many sheepdogs are NOT contemptuous at all, more supportive)

Socially, such superiority / contempt is kinda "cool" -- rebel without a cause sort of.

So many of the intellectual sheep take the same superior contempt pose against the other sheep as do the wolves.

The Left is allied with Islamofascists; against the sheepdog Americans (and of course against the Jews).

 
At 8:07 PM, September 07, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Herewith an example of my last couple of posts:

Going on forty years ago, I was involved in a project a thousand miles from home with about three dozen other college students.

There were places our leadership had said were Bad Places to go in our limited spare time, and Good Places.
Two other guys and I went to one of the latter. I have nothing bad to say about the other guys' heart, but they were small and convinced that Ghandi had been excessively macho.
We had just ordered when the waitress came in saying there was an emergency call for the big white guy with the Michigan State sweatshirt.

Three of our girls had gone to one of the Bad Places, redneck before redneck was cool

Here's the kicker. They looked to see where I had signed out to, written down that place's phone number and put a spare dime (forty years ago, remember) in a shoe or bra or someplace.

They knew in advance they might get into trouble, and they knew what to do about it. But they didn't ask me first.

We managed to retrieve the three women without further incident. I was driving a VW bug. Three of us, three of them. Me driving. A quick calculation will show that the only guy without a coed on his lap was me.

How do you think I felt about these three girls, and their action, and about the sheepdog/sheep thing in general?

Now, fastforward to a soldier watching the lefties put "kick-me" signs on the US.

 
At 12:13 PM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Jim said...

"Because they prolly have some superior / contempt feelings. "

I am differnet Jimthan the one Aubrey answered.

Anyway, superior feelings are bound to develop and they inevitable become a problem. This sheep/sheepdof relationship is basically the relationship between an aristocracy and its peasantry, or maybe also townspeople if there are towns the aristocrats control.

It can and has worked very wel for a long, long time in some places. Japan and Germany come to mind. In Germany you see huge vistas of what are almost real forests. Over the centuries the gentry preserved the forests from encroachment by the peasants, to preserve habitat for wild game, but eventually to the peasants' great advantage. The peasants would never have enjoyed that advanatge relying on their own insight and self-discipline. That is sheepdog behavior, protecting the sheep even against threats from themselves. The new arrangement is called socialism, but is the same in essence - a small elite manages threats for the good of the flock.

But the flaw is the contempt that the gentry eventually always feel for the masses. Well, not always. A commneter mentioned the flow of individauls between the sheep and sheepdog groups. Thats has been our saving grace in the US far. People decry the fact that graduates of elite schools don't go into the military. Thank God they don't! They can go be investment bankers or whatever. That is how we get people like Russel Honore as three star genrals instead of gas station attendants or highly-talented, toxically frustrated sergeants stuck in a motor pool somewhere.

 
At 6:07 PM, September 08, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Also, I can brain the terrorist on the head with a Coke can in a sock. Also, I can smash their face when they are down.

Or you could knee them in the groin (that one's popular), hit them with two knuckles in his right temple as he bends over. When he falls/moves to his left, then you kick out his knee cap, then put your shinbone on his neck.

I love how if you hit a nerve spot in the human body, it causes lots of paralysis pain.

(And many sheepdogs are NOT contemptuous at all, more supportive

I don't think it would hinder the protector's actions at all, regardless of what they felt. If they are ordered to protect the flock, they will do so. That is the discipline that separates warriors from just regular people, and warriors from murderers.

They may be disatisfied with life, but they can deal with it. A lot of people are dissatisfied with life.

Doers can't change their natures, and parasites can't change theirs. If we want to get rid of them, sure, we can kill them. But that's kind of messy and won't eliminate all of them.

 
At 10:24 AM, September 10, 2005, Blogger cakreiz said...

There was something primal about Whittle's essay that the sheepdog metaphor. Circumstances change but many of the big things- life, survival, human nature- don't. Great stuff (with a shout out to Lt. Gen. Honore).

 

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