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WOLVES, SHEEP, AND SHEEPDOGS

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Scene from Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper”

There is a disturbing cycle of violence that occurs when a wolf gets loose among a flock of domesticated sheep. The wolf kills and maims as many sheep as possible as fast as possible — far more than it needs to eat.

This “surplus killing” is inflicted only on domesticated animals and is partly responsible for wolves’ reputation as bloodthirsty killers. Such killing sprees are often misinterpreted as killing for sport, but they really represent a wolf just being a wolf. “Surplus killing” is not caused by the wolf but by the behavior of the prey.

You see, in the wild, prey animals have strong defense mechanisms against predators. They have horns, speed and heightened awareness, and they often band together to protect each other — ringing the young and presenting an attacker with a natural defensive phalanx.

In the natural order of things, the taking of prey by a predator is a risky business and wolves often must work hard to cull a single animal from a flock just to survive. But when offered domesticated sheep, who’ve been bred into a state of docile helplessness, no such deterrence exists.

To compound the problem, when an attack occurs, an uncontrollable panic reaction sets in. The sheep flee in all directions, often abandoning or trampling their young, running headlong over cliffs or even crushing each other to death against walls. These “sheep wrecks,” as they are called, are as destructive to the flock as the wolf.

I am struck by how similar our society has become. Wolves are out there whether we like it or not. And wolves will be wolves. The problem is in how much like sheep we have become.

Absent a protector — a sheepdog — we have allowed ourselves to become helpless victims. And to compound the problem, when an attack occurs, rather than coming together in a unified way, we panic — reacting in all the wrong ways.

We clamor for yet more gun control, expanded “safe zones” and politically correct appeasement measures that serve only to embolden the wolves. These responses are useless in preventing the next attack and, in fact, only reinforce the vulnerability that virtually guarantees an escalation in the cycle of violence.

Interestingly, a wolf pack may be deterred by the presence of only a single, lonely sheepdog — a protector willing to do battle with the wolf regardless of the odds.

This predatory logic lies at the core of the wolf mentality — whether alone or in a pack. A hard target simply poses too much potential for failure, thus the predator naturally seeks the soft target, the way water seeks the path of least resistance down a mountain.

Such is the case with human predators. Most of the time you don’t have to be a better fighter. You just have to be willing to protect yourself — willing to acknowledge threats for what they are; willing to recognize that managing fear is a far cry from achieving actual security; willing to realize that sacrificing liberty for the illusion of security is the surest path to more victimization; and willing to understand that personal security is, ultimately, an individual responsibility.

Willingness, though, is a state of mind. Ability is a statement of fact. One begets the other.

I’m not suggesting that we all become proverbial sheepdogs — most people simply aren’t equipped or wired that way. What I’m advocating is that we take a lesson from nature. If we come together, we stand a far better chance of protecting ourselves — no matter the types of attack — than if we panic and trample each other in blind ignorance.

Even though sheepdogs and wolves often look alike and even have much the same capacity for violence, the difference between the two could not be more stark.

Where the wolf mercilessly preys on sheep given the slightest opportunity, the sheepdog would lay down his life to protect the flock.

But the sheepdogs of society, to make a difference, need to have teeth! It’s way past time for us as a society to accept once and for all that wolves eat sheep. And you cannot protect yourself by declaring a “wolf-free zone.”

We all may not be sheepdogs, but we all can decide to start taking more personal responsibility for our own security.

 

Sam Rosenberg owns INPAX Academy of Personal Protection in McCandless, Pennsylvania. He is the developer of the ASSERT program (Active Shooter Survival Escape & Response Tactics).