Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Sheep, wolves and sheepdogs

I was out walking the dog yesterday in cold weather, there had been snow and sleet and a strong bitter wind was cutting through the layers, when i met an old man shaking and in distress. I was keeping an eye out for him as someone had approached me full of concern. This was a man around the age of 30, who told me of an old man shaking and stumbling. Walking around with the dog i saw a few people walking on the moor.

It wasn't long till i met this old man, who was scared, cold, wet and shaking. He had obviously fallen and i went straight to him and talked to him. While i talked to him, several more people hurried past. There was a car park not far away so i got him to come with me as i felt I could find someone with a car who'd drive him home rather than call out an emergency service. I approached a young man who wasn't comfortable but willing to drive him home. I called his house to make sure there was someone home and at that moment a car drew up and the old gentlemans daughter got out full of concern.

How many walked past, seeing this man in distress? Even the man who alerted to me had not acted, although at least he let me know. After the situation was dealt with i bumped into my pal Dod, out with his dog and we discussed it as we walked. There are people who wont do anything and there are those who will.

There is a a passage from something called The Bulletproof Mind, written by a Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, a psychologist by training as well as a military man. 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...

Now, there are things in Grossmans thinking that i do not subscribe to. He's a military man with an agenda. However i do recognise the generalisation and yesteday i was the sheepdog. I act where others are hesitant. At the same time i will give or share my last morsel with a fellow human being and i do feel that a 'sheep' can step out of the pasture. That's why i teach martial arts and self protection. I know for some its about being nice to the victims [Peyton to McYoung], but i have this confidence, not a belief, that people can and do evolve and this is a fundemental difference to Grossman's stereotype.

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