Don’t Be a Sheep, or a Wolf

By John Zmirak Published on December 13, 2017

Yesterday I wrote about how those who were dead-wrong on the Iraq War paid zero price for it. Whatever hubris, arrogance, and groupthink they displayed was only rewarded. In light of that, I concluded the following: Truth isn’t always what matters. The way opinion works these days, there aren’t so much truthful ideas and crucial facts. There are respectable ideas and presentable facts. And the latter matters much more, at least for writers trying to make a living.

As a help to young aspiring conservatives, let me list some of the respectable notions that will speed you on your way, help keep you from getting dismissed as a “fringe” or “extremist” thinker. It’s not that they are true. Don’t think of them as fact-statements about the world. See them as rhetoric intended to signal your willingness to play by establishment rules:

  • Islam is a religion of peace. It’s only a tiny band of extremists who pervert their own religion that are a problem. If we point out how their own sacred texts endorse jihad and persecution, we are only helping the terrorists.
  • Refusing foreign immigrants because their religious beliefs entail sharia and jihad violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Every nation on earth is aching to become a liberal democracy just like the U.S. It’s just one quick, surgical invasion from turning into New Hampshire.
  • Russia is the primary threat to freedom and peace in Europe. Pay no attention to the hundreds of thousands of young Muslim men huddling in radical mosques, fathering large families on welfare.
  • Every immigrant from any country is a likely Republican voter, as long as we don’t alienate them by speaking up for U.S. workers, culture, or security.

You might find it hard, at first, to repeat slogans like this. But practice makes perfect. Pretty soon, you’ll find it as easy and natural as Orwell’s sheep did, when they learned to bleat “Four legs good, two legs b-a-a-a-a-a-a-d!”

The Servile Conservative

But there is more than one way to sin. In many situations, there is only one best course of action. There are countless errors which you could choose instead. The checklist above is the one that tempts those who lean towards being Servile. That’s one of what I call (following Aristotle) the Seven Deadly Neuroses. It’s the opposite error to the Deadly Sin of Wrath. The virtue, of course, lies in the “golden mean” of Patience. (See my The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins for a detailed analysis, complete with Cosmo-style quizzes.)

The wise man who looks for truth will patiently sift the facts of any situation. He will feel the tug on the one hand of sinful Wrath. And of contemptible Servility on the other. If his main concern is for his temporal advantage, he will doubtless make the Servile choice. He’ll run with the herd, then plummet with the lemmings.

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Unfortunately, instead of just accepting the wholesome change in our civic religion that rejects sinful racism and irrational chauvinism, some on the right have chosen Servility. They’ve internalized the self-hatred that leftists want to infuse in every Westerner and Christian. They’ve embraced a kind of cultural masochism, and congratulate themselves for it. They preen about how unworldly and principled they are — when in fact they’re just competing for attention from intolerant leftist elites: “Oh, look, that one’s not so bad. Let’s let him in our club.” Won’t happen, thankfully. The left is only interested in “principled” conservatives during close elections when third party candidates are running. Or they hope to suppress our turnout. Then they kick us to the curb.

Many on the right have proven Servile.

Choosing the Wolf

But it’s easy to overreact against Servility, to willfully choose the opposing extreme. To dismiss not just popular errors but common truths. The wolf will embrace exaggerated or cruel points of view — if only to prove to himself that he’s not being sheepish. And that’s no better.

I get it. We see the perversion of decent principles such as equality or tolerance, and our gut fills up with bile. We’re stuffed to the gills with the preening rhetoric of the Servile, and decide we are done with it. So we programmatically reject every appeal to those misused values — even where they really do apply. And that’s how you get the Alt-Right, and “Illiberal Christians” of various sects.

In the rush to reject ideas that are merely respectable or presentable, we can find ourselves toying with those that are genuinely wicked. And it can feel heroic for a while, as we weather the fire of leftists who pervert those values daily, and enjoy the effeminate squeals of the Servile sheep.

But that’s just another devil’s trap, and we would be fools to fall for it.

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  • Howard Rosenbaum

    W/out a taste of eternity in our hearts the demands of a righteous redeemer will never see the light of day . To be complicit w/the compromise of the “world” in its many variations on a theme will always create a crisis of identity . I think the condition which the Master refers to as “lukewarm” fits the bill here. The consequences for the practitioner of this behavior will likewise eventually be the same . Not fit for human consumption ….!

  • Nathan DeParis

    How are we to combat that though. What mean are we looking for?

    • Bryan

      There are two ways to answer your question that I think come to the same thing. First, as Mr. Zmirak explains in other articles, the mean is the virtue that we’re trying to live by. The virtue is not the opposite of the sin (those sins being Lust, Greed, Gluttony, Wrath, etc.) because the opposite of one of these sins is also a sin, though it is sometimes more acceptable. For example the opposite of Lust is Frigidity or Imposed Celibacy. Chastity is the virtue to that is in balance. In other words, there is a continuum where virtue is the balance between two equally sinful attitudes. This continuum holds true for the other deadly sins.
      The other way to answer your question is to introduce a third type of character in the narrative. Where there are sheep, there are wolves trying to prey on the sheep. There are also, sheepdogs whose job is to protect the sheep. Sheepdogs help the shepherds herd the sheep to keep them going where the shepherd leads and run off the wolves when they get too close to the sheep. This has been a common analogy in the self-defense community for many years. I’m not sure who started the analogy but I know it got a lot of traction from a retired Colonel named David Grossman.
      In essence in this context, you need to be mindful of the shepherd and of the wolves and try to help people find the mean while you’re living the mean.

      • Zmirak

        Yes, thank you! I should have mentioned the Sheepdog, but I thought readers would supply it on their own, as you did.

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