Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The World

My dad was a Korean-era vet. He told me that people could be seen as sheep, wolves or sheepdogs. (You'll find the same analogy in Grossman's "On Killing" from another vet of the same era). To sum up the analogy, most people are generally kind and productive, but they need leaders and will rarely do anything beyond pleasure-seeking/pain-avoidance without some kind of force acting on them.

Wolves prey on the sheep.

Sheepdog protect sheep.

Sheepdogs are very much like wolves, except for the compulsion to protect. A Sheepdog has more in common with a wolf than it will ever have with a sheep. And they make sheep nervous.

We were on a search for a missing trail runner. I tried to encourage the younger members of the team: "It hasn't been that cold and it's only been two days. If the guy had the most basic survival gear or any common sense, we'll find him alive."
These 14-18 year old kids had more search experience than me. They gave me pitying looks and one said, "Sarge, if he had any common sense he wouldn't have tried to go cross-country at twilight. We don't search for the smart ones."

Later, one of the searchers confided that he wanted to quit, "I've been looking at all the people we've saved in the last two years and I don't want any of them breeding. I don't think saving stupid people is good for society." Harsh.


The sheepdogs have done a good job. Despite the media, this is the safest world for sheep that has ever been. It isn't perfect in any way, but it is safer, better fed, healthier and more comfortable than any time or place in history. When I hear someone spout some braindead 'insight' into violence or criminal behavior it makes me happy, in a way, that they are safe to hold those beliefs and very unlikely ever to face the truth. That could only happen in a world where the dogs have done well.

At the same time, the sheep control the world and move it ever closer to the perfect sheep world, a world of flat grassland and easy water and comfortable temperature. A world of long healthy life and no surprises.

I am ambivalent, because I know that the world I would love, the world that would make me feel most alive and necessary would be dangerous and uncomfortable for most of the people that I love.

Dogs aren't happy in the sheep world, but they work very hard to create and maintain it.

That's the essence of the sheepdog: he would give his life in a heartbeat to defend a world he feels only contempt for. And he would be honored to do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm tickled by this.