Goats and Sheep – Kate Paulk
Inter oves locum praesta, Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Provide me a place among the sheep, and separate me from the goats.
Lately, it seems this particular phrase from the Requiem Mass has a rather wider application. Truth to tell, that’s pretty normal among humans: we’re a social animal at our best and worst, and we don’t do well without other humans to rub off our odder and less pleasant edges.
Like anything, this can be taken to excess, as it is with the kind of destructive group-think where one must adhere to all the tenets of the group in order to belong, and any deviation from said tenets makes one not merely subject to expulsion, but evil and fit only to be destroyed as well. When the list of BadThink things is generated seemingly with a hose on wide dispersion and covers everything from politics to soft drink, that’s the kind of group you want to avoid, lest you fall foul of “Everything is an Abomination Unto Nuggan” syndrome.
To take the extended metaphor a little further, sheep are notoriously herd-centered, to the extent that often it only takes getting one sheep to do something and the whole herd does it. They bunch close together when they’re nervous and while they pack a pretty mean kick (and bite), by predator standards they’re reasonably easy prey. And any sheep that’s just a little bit different from the others will be abandoned by the herd even as it runs after said herd bleating to be let back in.
Goats are different. They tolerate each other, and are annoyingly independent creatures with a remarkable ability to make even the most patient person swear. Getting one goat to do something is no guarantee the herd will follow – in the words of Terry Pratchett, “Sheep are stupid, and have to be driven. But goats are intelligent, and need to be led.”
It’s hardly surprising that the standard religious metaphor to separate the good from bad is the sheep from the goats. Irrespective of the validity of said religion, every faith has gone through at least one phase where its leaders were extremely powerful – and what person with power doesn’t prefer to have sheep who can be driven rather than independent-minded goats for whom he (usually it was a “he”) has to actually be a leader rather than simply issue commands to drive the faithful onwards.
Lest the religiously inclined here take umbrage, I’m also referring to the modern secular religion of communism and its assorted personality cults and Dear Leaders, along with the splinter sects of anthro-centric climate change, enviro-fascism, and US political parties. The fact that one of the parties is marginally less of a religion unto itself than the other is largely a happy accident that I sincerely hope will be used to break the bloody power faction open and return it (or push it) to a narrow focus of “pay the bills, don’t use debt for the living expenses, and don’t screw with the rest of the world unless you’re prepared to clean up the mess afterwards”. The other one I don’t think has any hope: it’s become the Communist-Lite party (and lite only in the sense that the bastards are smart enough to avoid using the obvious communist rhetoric there. In terms of policy-as-enacted it’s somewhere between communist and anti-national socialist-fascist with a side of mafia in which the government forms the largest imaginable protection racket).
We’re seeing the results all over the world right now. Iraq and Afghanistan both needed decades of occupation to become marginally functional nations. In both it was painfully obvious that removing the strongman would awaken all the tensions said strongman had been brutally crushing for years. It’s exactly what tore Yugoslavia apart and why Czechoslovakia is now the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There were two ways to handle both countries after defeating them. One was to crush them utterly and walk away – leaving what was left to pick up the pieces in any way they chose. The other was to occupy them indefinitely, with a strongman level of control – including being willing to crush any sign of internal conflict or revolt against the occupiers. And actively change the culture to an American one.
Instead, the so-called experts (most of whom have been corrupted by soviet propaganda – but that’s a completely different rant and one Sarah has more experience with than I do) tried to build a middle path which tried to “respect” the local cultures – including the most appalling ones – and turn places that had been tribal before falling under the rule of strongmen (which is really tribal writ large) into modern nations in less than a generation. I don’t know about you, but I’m hardly surprised it’s falling apart at the seams.
I could forgive doing this out of foolish optimism, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Libyan adventure isn’t forgivable. Qaddafi was anything but a good person, but helping to replace him with our enemies goes beyond criminal stupidity into treason – and I do not use that word lightly. I don’t expect to see any action taken on that front because there are too many people with power who have too much to hide, but that’s not going to stop me calling what I see. The White House is occupied by a traitor.
He wants sheep that he can drive wherever he chooses. We – more than most Americans – are goats. We’ll follow a leader, but that leader has to prove himself, herself, or itself worthy first. Hell, a lot of Americans are goats and are with us, but they’ve been disenfranchised from politics like the rest of us. We no longer have a real say, and we are seeing the consequences in thousands of small things as well as some of the big ones. Police becoming nothing more than uniformed thugs who can murder innocent people in their beds and get off with a metaphorical slap on the wrist. The bloody TSA. Courts upholding this bullshit when it’s obviously wrong. And of course, the American Pravda which is just as true to the name as the Soviet one was.
Like quite a few others, I see the next ten years or so getting quite ugly. I think that the American spirit is still there, but most people don’t realize they have it. I also think when it comes to crunch-time, that spirit will make itself felt in ways that will be unpleasant at best and involve a great deal of death at worst. But at the same time, no matter how bleak my logical analysis tells me things are going to get for us goats, I have a – possibly bizarre and insane, but quite unshakable – sense that the end result is one that will see the American experiment and American ideals rising to a new strength.