Posted by lex, on April 2, 2008
I’ve got no beef with LtCol Dave Grossman, the Army Ranger who wrote “On Combat,” and “On Killing“, two books that attempt to explain the psychology of human combat and aggression. One particular quote he uses has been often – perhaps too often – repeated:
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath–a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
Although I concede the man his larger point, I’ve never been entirely comfortable with this sort of language, to be frank. It is necessarily reductive, unnecessarily divisive and all too often self-congratulatory. The iconographic ”sheepdog” – if in fact such exist – would feel no particular pride or superiority in his status. It would simply be who he is, his ontology – the classification of his existence.
People are almost infinitely complex, all the more so in that they are shaped by infinitely variegated experience. We all react to different stimuli in different ways, a fact that military training and discipline attempts to minimize but can never quite eliminate.
And because of their ontological nature, these are difficult issues for me to wrestle with. There are noumenological limitations of existential self-inquiry because of the effects of à priori which prevent the being-for-itself from separating the rational power of introspection from its own underlying essence.
Which doesn’t mean that others don’t do a damn fine job of it. Read this essay from FbL over at the Castle, if you haven’t already.
It’s well done.