Six months ago I wrote a post about the fable of the sheep, sheepdog, and wolf. At the time, I was using it to describe how people were responding to violence in society. I believe it also describes our current political environment, attitude, and actions towards each other. Our political system seems broken, and I realize that there is no way I can change that. I would love nothing more than to have educated discussion and discourse on the issues facing our society, and more importantly, the issues we face now that will have impact on future generations. I don’t see that happening anywhere. The only thing I can offer is my experience, and what I have seen first-hand. I have no desire to debate, or even try to change minds. All I can offer is an alternate perspective.
My social media feed is saturated, stuffed to the absolute bursting point by people voicing their opinions. They are screaming at the top of their virtual lungs, posting anything and everything that supports their point of view, often times, regardless as to whether or not it is actually based in fact. I did not have social media during the last election cycle, so I do not know if this is the norm, but I have never seen anything like it. I have finally realized that what I am seeing is not an attempt by people to articulate, explain, discuss, quantify, or debate their position. It is an attempt to justify their fear.
Fear. The single greatest weapon on earth. No one is immune, it impacts us all to one degree or another. Some choose to use it as a governor, others as a guide. It is cumulative. Once you are scared, it is easy to scare you more. If left unchecked, or worse, increased, it can become debilitating. It creates irrational behavior, and makes you susceptible to manipulation. I have seen it happen in others, and I have certainly fought it off in myself.
The candidates are running on an engine of fear, and as a society we are buying it. Hook, line, and sinker. Fear of color, religion, immigrants, taxes, health care, debt, etc. There is no debate of policies, merely a focus on their opponent, and how you should fear their potential actions. Our “news” networks are the fuel powering these engines.
First, what we see on TV is no longer news, it is entertainment. It is a rush to get there first, and it is completely driven by ratings. At best, it is editorialized opinion aimed to increase the reach of one side or the other. A rational person can switch between major networks discussing the same issue and the bias is there for all to see. It is no longer information presented for the viewer to make a decision, it is opinion aimed to stoke the fire of fear on one side or the other. When the topic of the election is not of the hour, we are bombarded with stories of shootings, murder, rape, rioting, protest, and disaster. Absent the warning of impending weather, I cannot think of the last time my life was improved by something I saw on the “news.” These platforms want you to be reliant on them for your information. They want to be the center of your information universe. It gives them power, by taking it away from you. It makes you a sheep.
Sheep live in fear. They can be made to fear just about anything, to include their own shadows. They crave the protection of a wall, because others tell them physical barriers provide protection. Sheep face inward from the wall, and keep their head down. They are most comfortable in a flock, surrounded by others who think and act in the same manner. They are constantly told by others that the wall makes them safe, and they cannot live without it. They are told of the dangers outside of the wall, constantly circling and hunting them like a school of predatory sharks. A sheep looks for any piece of information, founded in truth or conjecture, to justify their feelings and fear. When they find it, they pass it along, so others can join in.
Sheepdogs exist in the middle ground. They have a view to what is happening inside of the wall, and a view over the wall that is limited only by how high they can climb. They can balance what they hear, vs. what they are able to see, and this makes them very hard to manipulate. Sheepdogs are hungry for knowledge. Although they do not stray far from the flock, they are interested in events outside of the wall, and what their view provides. They question information, rationalize behavior, and resist manipulation. A sheepdog may not agree with violence, but they are prepared to use it if needed to protect their own.
The big bad Wolf…..
The main difference between the wolf and the sheepdog is experience. You can read on an issue for decades, and the information, although powerful, will always fall short of seeing and experiencing first-hand. The wolf has spent the majority of their life outside of the wall, maneuvering through the world, observing other walls, and other flocks. The wolf understands how some walls are at odds, and some are collaborative. He has viewed other flocks, compared them to his own, and appreciates the differences, both good and bad. The wolf and the sheepdog are very close relatives, but the experience and distance travelled cannot be replaced.
The wolf is often portrayed as the villain purely because of violence, a willingness to fight and kill. I believe these to be his most redeeming quality. The wolf values what he has, because he has seen its value in comparison to what others do not have. It is because of those values and beliefs that the wolf is willing to fight, inside of the wall, and thousands of miles from it to protect what he believes. The wolf does not look to others for protection, he provides it for himself.
There is no way that someone with a breadth and depth of knowledge, prepared to fight and defend what he holds dear with violence and action if needed is more dangerous than someone who lives in the shadow of a wall provided by others. Yes, the wolf can be violent, but so can the world that we live in. Sharp teeth, cunning, intelligence, and a willingness to fight are qualities that prepare you for the world outside of the wall. They are much less dangerous than a stampeding herd of sheep, driven by the manipulation of others.
The wolf is not the most dangerous animal in the fable, nor the most dangerous mindset in our society, it is its most valuable.
Out of curiosity, I conducted a poll on the most scientific, unassailable, triple gold standard platform available today, Twitter. Obviously this was done as entertainment, and the information should be viewed purely as that, but it did get me thinking. Why do so few people identify with the category of sheep, when their actions indicate otherwise? If we lived in a society of sheepdogs and wolves, we would not have allowed our situation to become what it is. My guess, fear. We are afraid to look into the mirror. If we did, we may find that it is not the politicians, the news, or the wall that are the problem, but ourselves. We created and empowered all of those things.
Be whomever you want to be in this life, just please don’t do it wearing a blindfold. There is nothing to be lost, and everything to be gained by finding the wall, looking over it, and making informed decisions for yourself. Most will never travel the world to gain experience and knowledge first hand, and that is ok. Educate yourself and develop a thirst for knowledge, they are the first steps toward becoming hard to manipulate. We have access to information at our fingertips. Be cautious confusing internet searches for experiences. One can seem like the other, and they are both valuable, but they are extremely different. If you choose not to expand your perspective, and accept the word of others as gospel, the wall will never provide the protection you expect it to. It will serve as your prison.