September is National Preparedness Month. There's a philosophy that gets talked about a lot in the preparedness community. It's called the "sheepdog approach." It comes from an analogy that describes humans as either sheep, wolves or sheepdogs as it relates to preparedness.
Here's a brief overview, with the analogy broken down into its parts.
Sheep make up the vast majority of society. Peaceful, kind, gentle. Collectively, they're productive and make up the "greater good" of our world.
This is not to say that the sheep, in this analogy, are by nature weak, fearful, blind or any other negative attributes.
Yet, the sheep are vulnerable to the wolves. The reason sheep are vulnerable is not because wolves are more powerful and cunning. No, the real reason is because sheep deny the existence of the wolves.
Many people understand danger and have a desire to feel safe. For instance, almost everyone knows that a seatbelt can save a life. Yet, these same people often complain about taking their shoes off at the airport.
The difference has to do with denial. Most people are more comfortable with accepting the fact that a dangerous accident can happen versus a violent person carrying out a willful act to injure, maim and kill.
Wolves are characterized by two things among humans: a lack of care for the rest of society and a capacity for violence.
Many people visualize home invaders, terrorists, or enemy combatants as the wolves of this world. Indeed, these are wolves. They are threats to the sheep of this world.
However, it can't be denied that there are often wolves among us. They may be wearing sheep's clothing. They may not carry out violence themselves but put others in harm's way to achieve their ends by violent means. They may swindle sheep out of their peaceful way of living to selfishly make a better life for themselves.
That's why the world needs sheepdogs.
The sheepdog protects the sheep from wolves. It alerts the flock to the wolf, and if necessary, defends against the wolf with equal violence. The sheepdog is capable of violence, but only out of love for people.
In society, the most identifiable sheepdogs are our servicemen and women and law enforcement. They put themselves in harm's way to protect the greater good. They neutralize the wolves, even if a wolf in sheep's clothing sent them to do so.
It's worth noting that all sheepdogs don't have to be capable of violence in order to stave off the wolves.
The armed forces and police make effective sheepdogs because they know how and when to use violence. A lot of people think they are born this way, as natural sheepdogs. But the truth is, no one becomes a warrior or a hero overnight.
Today's sheepdogs are constantly training, constantly learning. As the world changes, so do they. They are sniffing out new threats, becoming better equipped to handle them and so on.
Sometimes, many "sheep" tend to deny the threat of violence because at this moment, they are not prepared to handle it. It's much more comfortable to deny it.
The bottom line is that being a sheepdog is more about mentality than current abilities or capacity to take down the bad guys.
This means that everyone is capable of becoming more sheepdog-like in their everyday lives. More prepared.
There's one last role that is often overlooked.
What about the Shepherd?
One character that is left out in this analogy is the shepherd. Humans are either sheep, sheepdogs or wolves. Now maybe, just as in the biblical version of the analogy, a higher power is the shepherd. This makes sense, since the shepherd is ultimately responsible for the fate of the sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.
Ultimately, the shepherd is a leader who can see the whole picture. They train the sheepdog. They care for both the sheep and sheepdog's needs. And they are careful not to lead either into a place where wolves can prey easily.
People are not destined to be one archetype or another. All of us are part sheep, sheepdog, shepherd and even wolf. Inside us, there is a battle going on to determine who we will become. National Preparedness Month provides us with a moment to consider our position in society.