The idea of some people in the world being sheep and others wolves is an old and trusted analogy. The sheep are, of course, the general populace, the plebeians, hoi polloi, etc. whereas the wolves are those who seek to eat and exploit the flock like criminals and psychopaths. Perhaps this view is too reductionist. After all, there are usually sheepdogs involved in the picture. This inclusion is nothing new; David Grossman used it in his book On Combat (the passage can be found here). Adding that factor in, we have a picture which is more fleshed out. The sheepdogs are the soldiers or policemen or vigilantes who valiantly fight off the wolves in order to protect the sheep. A nice, straightforward analogy.
However, simple analogies only work for simple times. Let’s try to apply it to modern Western society in a more general way.
Firstly, a distinction has to be made. There are two categories meant by the term sheepdog; herding dogs and guardian dogs. As their names imply, herding dogs are used to drive the flock on its intended path while guardian dogs protect the sheep from predators. These two distinct roles mean that two different types of dogs are required. Herding dogs are quick, agile, and always ready to sprint into whatever position is necessary to move the sheep. Collies are a good example. Guardian dogs are of a large build and are raised from an early age with the flock. The sheep essentially become family members, and the dogs instinctively protect their adopted kin. Wolves and other carnivores looking for a free meal have to get through them first. The Great Pyrenees breed is commonly utilized for the job.
Now, we are ready to have a look at the current flock. Fortune seemingly smiles upon the sheep. The wolves have been driven off for the foreseeable future except for a straggler here and there. They continue along with the herding dogs driving them on, occasionally stopping to eat a bit of grass every now and then. A great period of safety and prosperity. But something is not quite right. The herding dogs have been acting in a strange way. An odd look is in their eyes. Some of the guardians and sheep notice the peculiar feeling but can’t quite figure it out. Most are completely oblivious; everything looks fine and dandy as far as they are concerned. Nevertheless, something is indeed wrong. The brighter ones have figured it out.
The herding dogs have decided that they want to be wolves. They hatched a plan to score a big feast at the flock’s expense. They’re slowly driving the sheep toward a cliff. Eventually, the dogs can corner and force them to fall off and perish at the bottom. It’s quite genius, actually. Attacking the sheep directly would alert all the guardian dogs and a fight would ensue. On top of that, the sheep would scatter. Instead, this insidious plot has neither of those two problems. The guardians trust the herding dogs to keep everyone going the right way which is why many won’t figure out that things are amiss until it’s too late. Also, the number of sheep to dine on will be much greater. It’s better to have all the sheep leap to their own deaths as opposed to chasing them down. More would get away.
Fortunately for the flock, the tricks have not slipped past all of their watchful protectors. They see that the herding dogs have gone rogue and betrayed their duty. Another factor in their favor is that some of the sheep are starting to understand that they are not on the right path. This is not ground over which they usually tread. The cliff is getting closer and closer; it was inevitable for at least a small portion of the sheep to notice. Therefore, a few perceptive ones stand in defiance to their drivers. Despite their intentions and actions, herding dogs are not wolves, no matter how hard they try to be. A sheep will always flee from a wolf, but it’s possible for them to see that the herding dog is not truly a direct threat.
This is the state in which we find ourselves. Our ranks include a handful of both guardian dogs and sheep who are wise to the scheme that is unfolding.
What’s to be done? A direct attack upon the herding dogs is unlikely to work. They are swift, light footed, and slippery; more than capable of evading the larger guardian dogs. Furthermore, the numbers currently favor the enemy. Sheep are poor fighters. Even if they are no longer under the influence of the herding dogs, they are not capable of brawling with them. Standing in between the herd and the cliff in an attempt to turn it around is likely another poor decision. The flock will not be swayed by their guardians. They’ll do the bidding of those in the back driving them instead of running from those who they perceive as brethren. Maybe they’d even trample us on their charge toward their death.
This leaves few options. The other unaware sheep and guardian dogs in the flock can always be roused. We need the numbers to turn the tide, but we can’t rely on waking them all up when time is of the essence. Another good idea is to build a new flock out of those who’re aware, although only the strong will be able to take a small herd and build it up again. The others will be left behind; not all the sheep can be saved. Of course, some of us might even want to guard the bodies of the dead after their tumble. The herding dogs’ plot may not be able to be completely foiled, but we can certainly make them fight for their meal. Who knows, some of the sheep might even survive the fall.
Hold on a second. A piece of the puzzle is missing. Something so obvious that everyone has forgotten about it. Who owns all these sheep and dogs? The sheep certainly do not belong to any of the dogs; even if they did, the dogs would still answer to an overlord. Where is the shepherd? It seems we lost him a few miles back. That would explain how and why the herding dogs started calling the shots. Normally, they have someone to answer to. Now their plan appears foolish. Why kill all the sheep for one great feast when you can be fed by the master for your entire life as payment for work? I suppose that’s what happens when you forget there’s a shepherd in the first place.
We might even ask — who is the shepherd? Can we find the old one? Do we need to find a new one? We’ll definitely need a shepherd to lead and feed the new flock. We’ll need a shepherd to bandage the survivors of the fall and bury the dead. We will undoubtedly need a shepherd to drive off the old, traitorous dogs and find new ones that’re hopefully more dependent.
Someone needs to find the shepherd.