Concerning Goats and Other Animals

A week ago today, one of my professor friends read before a class a certain metaphorical document likening human civilization to a collection and interaction of sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. For hose of you unfamiliar with this story, the basics are as follows: The overwhelming majority of people are like sheep, that is; mentally well-adjusted and productive members of society. They harm no-one, provide for the community, and go through life blissfully ignorant of any and all danger until it tries to bite their legs off. The second type of people are wolves. These people are criminals, destroyers, and usurpers who prey upon others and contribute nothing worthwhile but, fortunately, are a decided minority of the population. The third type is the very rare sheepdog. These are the warriors, the military, law enforcement, etc. who willingly place themselves between the forces of good and evil at their own peril. In so doing, they are hated not only by the wolves, whose devious plots they seek to foil, but also by the sheep, to whom the sheepdog serves as a constant reminder of the existence of evil. It is rightly said of most sheep, that they would rather see the sheepdog de-fanged and cloaked in wool, until, of course, the day the wolf comes and one-hundred sheep try to hide behind a single sheepdog.

The complete text is far more emotionally charged and thought-provoking but this is just the basics. Unfortunately, for all its profundity, I feel the metaphor is incomplete. There is, i my experience, a fourth kind of person who may be likened to a goat or ram. They are productive members of society, they do not seek to harm anyone, but they are not at all ignorant of the danger around them. And on the day the wolf comes and no sheepdog is around, (because, in spite of their best efforts, sheepdogs can’t be everywhere at once), it behooves the goat to lower its horns and face the predator.

Some would argue that these goat-people are just another form of the proverbial sheepdog, but there is a key difference. The sheepdog yearns for righteous battle and the opportunity to pit itself against the forces of evil. The goat would much rather stand in the shade and eat clover and will only take a stand when there is no alternative. There is no greater moral value in the role of the goat as compared to either the sheep or the sheepdog, it is simply another way of responding to the appearance of the wolf: the sheep will always run, the sheepdog will always fight, and the goat will run if it can and fight when it must.

Some time ago, I came to see myself as the goat and have spent several months trying to correctly phrase the way I see myself in the world. I’m still not sure I’ve got it completely right, but this explanation feels closest of any I’ve had so far.

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3 comments on “Concerning Goats and Other Animals

  1. ladyimbrium says:

    This, sir, is fantastic. I’m a sheepdog- obviously- but I’ve noticed that there are those folks out there who will avoid conflict whenever possible, only discovering that they too can fight if cornered. There may be more goats out there than realize it.

    • I’ve been debating running this idea past said professor friend. Not sure what he would think of it though. But it does feel like I’ve gotten the phrasing right finally.

      • ladyimbrium says:

        Eh, your call. The essay is required reading at most academies and similar so attempting to alter it might meet serious resistance.

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