What is the force that draws someone to run into a burning building to save a child or a pet, that makes people want to join the military and defend their nations or their families, that fosters the desire in an individual to be a first responder to a horrific accident or to be a surgeon, saving lives on a daily basis?
There is some innate desire in this certain type of human being to be the watcher on the walls. To take themselves to the barrier between good and evil, between light and darkness and to stand guard.
Search “know the darkness” on Google and the first link that will come up is the below video. Jocko Willink’s message to us is “Know the darkness, to see the light”.
He is absolutely right. The above video is directed most specifically at veterans for they have had the most direct exposure to evil, and to darkness. That said, in the new millenium everyone has seen it first-hand. The outbreak of the War on Terror and global terrorism threats has brought the reality of fear and danger home to everyone in the Western world.
And as a result, this seems like the ideal time to discuss Lt Col. Grossman’s “sheep, wolves and sheepdogs” analogy. Nicely parodied in Team America in Garry’s monologue to the FAG.
In a static, peacetime world, sitting in a position of neutrality is default and safe. It is easy in a western civilisation to ignore the poverty and deprivation and darkness in the world, as it barely touches on our daily lives. Those who do not know the darkness are the ones who are neutral, the ones referred to by Grossman as sheep. It is not meant in a derogatory manner, merely a categorisation. The category represents those who choose to bury their head in the sand with regards to the horrors of the world.
There are also those who are powerful, and yet who have no empathy for their fellow man. These wear the mantle of evil in the world, and are the embodiment of the darkness. This is the wolf. The danger represented by these people to the status quo is constant and overt, at least to those of us that recognise that the danger still exists.
The wolf is constantly on the lookout for the weakness in the pen, trying to get in amongst the sheep and turn the peaceful state to one of chaos, either temporary or permanent. If a wolf gets into the midst of the sheep, panic ensues, terror spreads and sheep often die.
This is the 9/11’s, the 7/7 bombings, the Columbine shootings, the Sandy Hook tragedy and the serial killings of the world. They are instances that shake the realities of the sheep to their very cores. The only defence the sheep have against such an instance is that of denial, and when the waves settle after an incident the great healer that is time can allow the people to put it out of mind en masse. To almost forget that it ever happened… Until the next instance.
The guardians that stand between the sheep and the wolves are the glue that holds society together. These are the warriors, those who are both powerful and empathetic. The sheepdogs are more closely related to the wolves and the sheep, as they too have fangs, they too are muscular, lithe and agile and they too are willing to fight. The only difference is, the sheepdog loves the sheep. It will never lay a hand on those it has sworn to protect.
In a time of peace, the sheep can distrust the sheepdog as it resembles more closely the wolf. A sheepdog is in a state of constant readiness, always watching. The sheep can resent the hard line that the sheepdog holds, the disciplines that it applies in its daily life to maintain its state of preparedness.
Yet in a time of war, a time of threat, the sheep run and hide and look for a sheepdog to protect them and fight for them. The wolf is at your door, and who will stand tall?
It is a sheepdog’s awareness of the darkness, its intimate knowledge of the soul of the wolf, that allows the sheepdog to be ready to fight for the light.
In the words of Dr. Jordan Peterson (and I’m paraphrasing), you don’t make the world safe by making men weak – in fact, that makes for a very dangerous world, for no one truly knows what the weak man will do. You make the world safe by making men strong, and disciplined, able to harness that strength. In a world full of very dangerous and disciplined men, people watch their step.
Three arbitrary categories, separated by a sliding scale. It does not make for a black/white divide, it is not hard and fast.
It takes a certain kind of person to stand as a watcher on the walls, a type of discipline that makes for a hard and uncompromising life. It is not for everybody. But for those who can, it becomes a true case of “If not me, then who?” Who will stand up when called upon? Who will meet the demands of the darkness, flying the flag for the light?
Reference: “On Combat” – Lt. Col (Ret) Dave Grossman
Grossman, D., with Christensen, L., On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace, WSG Research Publications, 2004.