Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice:
Title: Shepherds and Alphas
Sheep. I do not get the appeal. They are undoubtedly the freakiest creatures I have ever seen and this from a man whose profession is most easily summed up as “monster hunter.” I can’t even tell you what it is exactly that freaks me out about the oversized cotton balls. Well, other than their being the barnyard’s take on the poodle that is, though that alone should be justification enough.
My cousin finds my distaste for sheep hilarious. Our mutual grandfather and several great-grandfathers before him were shepherds. The last birthday I had before she vanished, she got me a fluffy little ball of energy she laughingly informed me was some sort of sheepdog. To keep the sheep at bay, she told me.
My cousin was – is – a brat.
Okay, you know what? I figured it out. My problem with sheep is that they are an entire species of followers. I have nothing against following orders, but following orders just because someone more powerful than you – either actually or merely seemingly – commands it is the height of ridiculousness. Despite what many think, loyalty is not a measure of one’s obedience. It’s not about how high you jump when told to or how well you’re able to suppress your own emotions and opinions for the sake of someone else’s. It drives me up the wall when people actually use “I was following orders” as an excuse for doing horrible things. Am I supposed to believe that being put in a subordinate position fried your brain cells? Seriously? Get a clue.
Do you want to know what a good leader, a good ruler is like? Once upon a time, people would have said Alexander the Great was the bee’s knees of rulers but they forget; good old Alex died before he ever actually had to deal with the political aspects of the empire he’d built. He conquered and conquered until he ran out of world and then he died, leaving behind the legacy of a great warrior and general and a political mess it took decades to untangle. Julius Caesar, on the other hand, had the politics down to an art form. He knew how to play the system and manipulate the masses to bypass his naysayers and achieve what he wanted. He was not a ruler, however; general, politician, kingmaker, yes, yes, yes, but not a ruler. His hate club alone proves that. Oh, and of course there’s everyone’s favourite: Louis XIV. The man was a master of distraction. Traumatized at a young age, he was a man who could never fully trust his noble class but knew he couldn’t just dismiss the lot of them either. Instead, he relocated them to Versailles, well away from the power hub that was Paris, and instituted so much etiquette and ritual, all with the focus of gaining his favour, that not a one of his nobles would ever have the time to so much as think the word “rebellion,” let alone plan one out. Louis boy managed to bankrupt an entire nation with nary a boo. Always a coup that.
A good ruler, meanwhile, is like a chameleon, adopting and abandoning traits as needs rise and fall. A good ruler is a strategist and conqueror, capable of balancing court intrigue and etiquette with the needs of the lower castes. A good ruler resorts to instilling fear in her subjects only when love has failed and the need is dire. A good ruler accepts the council of her subjects with grace and attentiveness, even if she never plans to implement their suggestions, she still hears and respects them. A good ruler has control of her emotions and never lets emotion or reason guide her actions unchecked. A good ruler sets the example for her subjects to follow. A good ruler is not a glorified shepherd; she is an alpha among wolves.
It’s as simple as that; good rulers might inherit their crowns through a quirk of fate, but they earn their kingdoms through compassion, attentiveness and intelligence. They work to gain the loyalty and recognition of their subjects through more than pomp and circumstance, violence and fear.
Which is why sheep freak me out; they’d accept leadership from a lemming if the suicidal rodent could generate enough oomph. Wolves, lions, deer – it’s all about the strongest. Sheep it’s about whoever makes the most noise, generates the most fear, to get them moving. It’s an entire species of followers and that’s just freaky.
You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at calliopedomain.blogspot.ca