Many people have heard the analogy of the human population being divided into three groups:
- Sheep – The masses. The general human being that is, mostly, a kind and caring person that hangs out with others of their kind. They gather in groups and go along with their lives. Sheep graze along, often herded by Shepards and their Sheepdogs. Sheep, generally, don’t have the ability to harm others of their kind, unless there is some kind of strange accident.
- Wolves – The evil of the world. These are the criminals, the terrorists, and often also include others that have evil on their minds and are just looking for the right opportunity. Wolves, if unchecked, would decimate the sheep and eat their fill. The wolves of the world have no empathy or consideration for the sheep.
- Sheepdogs – These are the protectors of the sheep. There are two types of Sheepdogs, the Herders and the Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs).
Herders – The Herders keep the sheep going in the right direction and keep them all together. They nip at the heels of the sheep that refuse to go along with the flow and do what they are told.
LGDs – The LGDs live amongst the sheep. They are there awaiting the potential attack and are prepared to use their fangs, their size and power, and their other natural abilities to meet the wolves head-on. Sheepdogs, supposedly, are altruistic, and would never harm the Sheep. In real life, we know this isn’t true, but their failures also fit this analogy.
Privately armed citizens often use this analogy to explain their role in the world as Sheepdogs.
The analogy is not perfect, but it tends to fit pretty well. Sheep are not bad. They do their job, they care about each other, and they just want to live peacefully. They are not looking for confrontation. This describes the general population.
A huge issue for many Sheep is that they do not want to have Sheepdogs around. They don’t like to be told what to do and when to do it by the herders, but they really dislike the LGDs as they are big and powerful and remind them of Wolves. A Sheepdog that gets upset could easily kill a Sheep. Sheepdogs can be violent. The Sheep would like to think that Sheepdogs are not needed because they don’t see Wolves ripping out the throats of their friends and family on a regular basis. They see Wolves as being very rare, even though the Sheepdogs are what make the Wolves’ presence rare. The Sheepdog is a constant reminder to the Sheep that there are wolves close by enough to be worried about the Wolves.
Of course, when Wolves show up, the Sheep want the Sheepdogs to be there to defend them. The Sheep do their best to hide behind Sheepdogs when the Wolves are present or at the perimeter.
In a perfect world, a Sheepdog would look like and act like a Sheep, until it needs to be a Sheepdog. Sheep would be so much happier if the Sheepdogs were more Sheep-like.
There are a couple of other groups that we should consider when talking about our population and extending this analogy a bit more. Granted, there are probably others, but these other two groups fit the model.
- Shepherds – Sheep are their property and the Shepherds decide when to sheer them, where they will graze, and when they will be moved to another field. Shepherds even control the breeding of the Sheep in many cases. The Sheepdog is also the Shepard’s property, and they are deployed according to the Shepard’s needs and desires, and they protect the sheep. The Shepherd feeds the Sheepdog, and the Sheepdog follows the directions of the Shepherd. The Shepherd would, certainly, punish a Sheepdog that ever harms any of the Sheep. By the way, the Shepherds also decide what meets the definition of a Wolf, too, and what the Sheepdogs need to confront.
- Porcupines – This has been proposed, by several people, as a new category for this analogy. Porcupines are not like Wolves as they do not attack other animals and treat them as prey. Porcupines forage for food and pretty much keep to themselves. Porcupines do not initiate confrontation. However, Porcupines are able to defend themselves very well.
- Pet Dogs – I guess there are also pet dogs that have the tools to be violent, but either don’t have the demeanor or the training to use the tools that they received at birth. How should we react when we see a pet dog? Do we assume it is a Sheepdog or that it is a Wolf? Can we easily identify a pet dog?
[Edited on March 27th, 2016]
I just heard an awesome one from Ben Schorr when discussing this analogy. I was saying that it really isn’t a good idea to try to take away the fangs of Sheepdogs just so the Sheep can feel more comfortable while they graze. His response cracked me up:
“I think the Sheepdogs should keep their teeth but the German Shepherds should leave their tennis balls at home. And for God’s sake can somebody take that squeeky toy away from that Chihuahua!”
It really comes down to Pet Dogs needing the right training in the use of their fangs, which, assuming they have the ability to be violent, would make them Sheepdogs, too.
I am not a Sheepdog. I am not out there looking to protect the Sheep. However, I am willing to help protect my family and close friends. I am absolutely able to protect myself.
In fact, I am able to be lethal. So, I am a bit more than just a Porcupine. Maybe I am a Buffalo or a Rhino.