By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
A lot of folks in the gun community and/or concealed carry community, if a person wants to say there is one and/or call it that, have adopted or otherwise taken to quoting Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s “sheepdog” trope.
The idea comes from his book “On Killing,” in which he proclaims that people separate into three categories: wolves, who prey on the sheep, sheep who are blissfully unaware of dangers and/or are too trusting, and sheepdogs who guard the sheep against the wolves.
Here’s a hot take for you:
A sheepdog is a bad metaphor, and you shouldn’t take the “sheepdog” thing very seriously anyway. Some people do, insisting that it’s either part of or is otherwise their identity.
You don’t have to ask, either; they’ll tell you about it, unprompted, whether you want them to or not.
But with that aside, let us consider why.
Now, this isn’t to dismiss Grossman or his work. This is, however, to call the triumvirate of sheepdog/sheep/wolves either overly a gross oversimplification of human behavior at best or, at worst, an example of “personality types” which is not scientific, at all, nor really supported by pretty much any evidence whatsoever.
Some aspects of personality are absolutely supported by science.
For instance, a growing body of research indicates that a lot of personality traits are inherited. So far, a lot of the study into heritable traits largely concerns traits that are sympatico/related to mental illness, such as risk-taking behavior, but there is real and legitimate scientific research into “personality.”
However, personality type classification schemes, pretty much aren’t. For instance, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment and scheme has virtually zero support in terms of data or other serious evidence, and that’s the wheelhouse that the sheep/sheepdog/wolf trope falls into.
In other words, there’s little to no evidence that anything like it is actually true.
Again, not to say his work outside of that has no value.
The reality is that police and soldiers can or will confront deadly danger. While they do so for the benefit of others, it’s also the case that putting one’s self in harm’s way and having to injure, maim or kill other humans is traumatic for someone that doesn’t suffer from some sort of serious pathology.
Therefore, the existence of something, anything, to help them reconcile the horror of what they sometimes have to do and the fact that it is for a greater good (or at least, hopefully a greater good) is beneficial.
But what of the metaphor itself?
A sheepdog is on its face a bad metaphor.
For one, sheepdogs aren’t sheepdogs by choice. They’re bred and then trained for the purpose; they have no choice in the matter. Sure, you get the odd collie or what have you that shows no aptitude and they wind up as house dogs, but you get the idea.
We humans, on the other hand, aren’t bred by anybody but ourselves. To our knowledge, at least; there’s still the possibility we’re living in a simulation.
Sheep aren’t sheep because they’re sheep; sheep are sheep because we’ve made them that way. Wild sheep are very different than their domesticated cousins; they live in incredibly rugged country and don’t relish the presence of humans or other animals.
They book it if they think something’s awry, and they book it over grades and terrain that would make a rock crawler Jeep weep transmission fluid. The animals we think of as sheep were made that way by us; they exist only artificially.
Consider also what the role of a sheepdog is. Guarding the sheep, yes, but to what end?
So they can be fleeced or – worse – slaughtered. And at that, for their children to be slaughtered; mutton and hogget (hogget is a lamb that’s older than 1, but younger than 2) is not very popular in most of the United States.
Now what’s the point of all this?
The idea is that you need to be careful about the mindset, the philosophies or whatever that you buy into. When you invest yourself emotionally in an identity, into an idea, into a way of doing things, you want to do so in an identity, an idea, a way of doing things that has solid footing.
And while we’re at it, a better metaphor for the armed citizen actually might be wild cattle.
That sounds a little silly, but follow along for a minute. What are wild cattle like?
Wild cattle, such as the various water buffaloes, guar, Cape Buffalo, bison (which are not buffaloes) and so on, are fairly docile and retiring most of the time.
While they are preyed upon by apex predators (tigers in Asia, leopards and lions in Africa) from time to time, they are not easy prey. When they are threatened, wild cattle are among the most powerful, deadliest creatures on earth.
Cape Buffalo are nicknamed “The Black Death” for good reason, and more than one yuppie or aristocrat has assumed the bull they shot was down for the count and paid a steep price for it.
Predators rarely are able to take them one-on-one; they have to prey on juveniles, the very old or sick, or have to use a gang attack on a lone individual to have half a hope of getting dinner out of it.
They aren’t predators, and they exist in the real world in a real context with everything else around them but are very, very dangerous to anything that threatens them, their children or their fellows.
Sounds a lot like an armed citizen to me.
Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.