Of Sheep, Wolves, Sheepdogs, and Mutts

I’ll say right off that I was reminded of this subject, and in particular this very annoying analogy, by this excellent William Grigg essay on the Lew Rockwell site, which I was re-reading this morning. Grigg is writing specifically about a highly-publicized and of course videotaped beating of a fugitive by a couple of cops.

In the course of the article, Grigg makes the hardly controversial observation that, regardless of anything police apologists say, police brutality is a current, pervasive problem which is if anything getting worse rather than better, and that at least part of the reason for this is that police are encouraged to think of themselves as a warrior caste, an elite among men who are enabled by their noble yet aggressive natures to protect the … well, the sheep.

Grigg reminds us of an article that I, at least, would like to forget. But for today I can’t forget it. Excerpted from a police training course called The Bulletproof Mind and a book titled On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict, In War and In Peace, it’s written by a man named Lt. Col. Dave Grossman who has apparently made a good living for himself training police officers to think of themselves in this way. It’s possible that Grossman is among the principal contemporary reasons policemen no longer think of themselves as civilian peace officers, but instead dismissively refer to those they once claimed to serve and protect as “civilians.” They themselves are the Warrior Elite, and warriors are soldiers, and soldiers are not “civilians.” They’re better than that.

Grossman popularized the characterization of criminals as “wolves,” police and soldiers as “sheepdogs,” and everybody else as “sheep.” He loudly proclaims that police officers, as “sheepdogs,” are morally obligated to pursue practices they would cheerfully arrest “sheep” for getting caught at. Example:

If you are a warrior legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be on 24/7 for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself, “Baa.”

Grossman’s view of the “sheep” is instructive:

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 kids’ school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is to deny that it could happen. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their children is just too hard for them to fathom.

Let us stipulate that there may be some truth to this. We all know people who don’t like to think about violence, who deny that bad things can happen to them and theirs, and who are shocked into uselessness when those bad things happen anyway. But why is that? Grossman claims that a sheepdog is “what you choose to be,” and yet supposedly sheep are just born that way. It couldn’t have anything to do with public schools that teach from kindergarten to college that violence and the weapons of violence are so completely unacceptable that a child who merely draws a picture of a firearm is suspended from school and stigmatized as a deviant. It couldn’t be because a young person’s college career is more likely to survive his being caught with heroin in his backpack than with a tool of personal protection on his belt. No, of course not. There’s no conditioning involved here; that’s just paranoid. And it couldn’t have to do with the many, many people who have been prosecuted by the state and then sued into poverty by their would-be aggressors, with the sanction of the state, for the criminal sin of taking self-protection into their own hands. The cries of vigilantism from the mainstream media and predictions of ‘blood in the street’ should “civilians” be allowed to possess and carry the tools of personal protection, those couldn’t have anything to do with it. Sheep are just born that way, and need the protection of the state “sheepdogs.” If they weren’t the way they are, they’d be cops.


Well, no. Not right. I’m not a “wolf,” who feeds on his fellow man. I’m not a “sheepdog,” who keeps the flock herded together for the benefit of the shepherd between fleecings. And I’m sure as hell not a “sheep,” one of Grossman’s “healthy, productive citizens” with “no capacity for violence.” I reject the metaphor absolutely and in detail, unless I get to add a character to his little cartoon show myself.

I’m a mutt. (I’ve used this word before, and it always drives dog lovers nuts: They prefer “mixed breed.”) I couldn’t care less about herding sheep, or about oppressing them. I have no interest in sheep at all. I know exactly on which end my teeth are kept, and I keep them sharp. I reject all demands that I have them pulled for the benefit of the flock. The flock, as I may have mentioned, does not interest me. I reject aggression, and to the extent my circumstances allow I reject violence, but if violence is forced upon me I will not delegate its use. In that case I’ll do it myself. And in that case my aggressor will find me perfectly capable of dishing it out. I’d rather avoid a fight than engage in one, but it would be a terrible mistake to class me among those you consider to have “no capacity for violence.”

Mutts are not sheepdogs, and they are not showdogs. I’ll never be pretty, and I’ll never be rich, and you’ll sure as hell never catch me in a blue uniform or any other kind of uniform. All I want, from sheepdogs or wolves, is to be left alone to pursue my life. As long as I get that one little thing, I’m as harmless as a sheep. When I stop getting it, from sheepdogs or wolves, the differences will become apparent. Neither sheepdogs nor wolves should try to speed that day, for neither are my allies. Aggressors all look alike to me; they look like food. I’m a mutt.

And I’m way not the only one.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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13 Responses to Of Sheep, Wolves, Sheepdogs, and Mutts

  1. Anonymous says:

    Aggressors all look alike to me; they look like food.

    I like that.

    I have rejected the popularization of wolves,sheep and sheepdogs as well. The so called sheepdogs are way out of control.

  2. Junker says:

    Grigg’s been good at reminding us that LIC is going on and the result for the target is the same.

    Good work on your lair. Enjoy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So what you’re saying is that you’re ignorant? It’s a shame since all these sheepdogs have fought for your freedom and protected your little fuzzy white ass while you’ve been asleep. Danger does not present itself momentarily and then disappear, it is a constant state. Stop assuming your ass is safe as long the wolves and sheepdogs are harassing you. The minute the sheepdogs give up on you sheep, then all sheep, including yourself, are going to get skinned and killed. Stop being so ignorant and start appreciating the men and women who have provided you with the comfort and food in which you survive with. You are no mutt, there is no such thing. You are a sheep and the least you could do is be a good sheep and keep your mouth shut.

  4. jw says:

    Mutt….interesting addition to the analogy. I thought you might be an unemployeed sheepdog, since you definately aren’t in denial with the other sheep, but you didn’t even mention a family you would protect, like most hidden sheepdogs. I think you’re just a low-level wolf, not dominant enought to initiate the aggression. or maybe you’ve been castrated by all the societal conditioning you mentioned.
    you need to ask yourself. what kind of life do you pursue? do you take advantage of others, the sheep, or do you work to improve others. or do you just provide a service. then you might be a mutt.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Bleet bleet bleet is all I heard…. Poor lil confused sheep

  6. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous and jw: I’ll bet you wish that the imaginary scale of your self worth could rival the size of the fake testicles you probably hung up on your pimped out Ford F250s.

    You can think of yourselves as ‘sheepdogs’ or ‘wolves’ or ‘sheep’ or whatever the fuck other category that makes you sleep better at night; in the end, the people who prosper, and the people who realize what is precious/important in their own lives don’t have a NEED to label themselves as a hero.

    I’m quite certain that around 8th grade, I began to realize that issues in life weren’t EVER black and white, as Grossman’s essay would have anyone believe. Although he cleverly masquerades this opinion towards the end of the essay. He was also pretty swift with saying that there’s nothing wrong with being a “sheep”, while subtly degrading them in every successive sentence.

    When a person can think for themselves and QUESTION THOSE IN “POWER”, I consider that a success.

    People who need an essay about how they are big brave sheepdogs didn’t get hugged enough. It’s like helping an elderly woman across the street, and then reminding her every day that she wouldn’t have made it without you.

    I’m all for gun rights. But when people carry them around and talk about it, all I can see is the child in them who didn’t get enough praise from Daddy.


  7. fluoro ninja says:

    Why is it that almost every criticism of the ‘On Wolves, Sheep and Sheepdogs’ essay that I’ve read completely ignores the part where Mr Grossman clearly describes that it’s a continuum and not a series of fixed and immutable categories? Probably because most people who read and disagree with it are idiots… who have computer access. Yeah K and the original Anonymous I’m talking about you.

    To the blog author ‘Mutt’ fits very nicely on the continuum described in the original essay. Whether you get pushed into being more wolfish of sheepdogish more than likely depends on your environment, as it does with most other people.

    It’s getting very tedious reading criticisms of this piece that are either not thought out or are simply hypocritical. People cry out when Police use brutality and assume and assert that only sheepdogs will become police and thus it is ‘sheepdogs gone bad’ who are the problem as opposed to wolves in police uniform. I can assure you that a good number of wolves have realised that the position of police officer gives you very great access to the flock. This delusion is almost as stupid as expecting the ranks of politicians to be solely made up of folks who have the best interests of the citizens at heart. Wherever there is power, real or perceived, there will be evil men trying to get their hands on it in order to harm as well as good men who wish to wield it to do good.

    For people who claim they have a full grasp on the non black or white nature of the world you sure do forget that principle quickly when reading this essay.

    If you like you can think of the three groups described by Grossman as referring to population means of three different but overlapping groups.

    If you don’t like well then I guess you’re also free to bitch ineffectually on the internet some more. Perhaps there’s a Wikipedia page somewhere you can check for correct apostrophe usage in order to boost your feelings of intellectual superiority?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Grossman’s article is an analogy you jackasses…lighten up.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You are an ignorant ass.

  10. Anonymous says:

    fluoro ninja, i think you just created a new category in that continuum….bitch, a mutt who barks harder than its bite.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A mind like a parachute only works when it is open. This does give grist for the mill. Thank you for work.

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To the stake with the heretic!