Sheep Need a Shepherd

February 7, 2010
By Sam.B BRONZE, San Antonio, Texas
Sam.B BRONZE, San Antonio, Texas
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.” – Jules in Pulp Fiction


The sheep were content
They roamed freely by day and slept in warm beds at night. Farmer John established no rules and the sheep were grateful for his generosity and respect. They enjoyed Mary’s delicious cooking and were especially proud that they were included at the dinner table every night. Mountains of praise were thrust upon Mary’s culinary adroitness and she responded in kind by tucking them all into bed, every single night.

The sheep were content
There was an eight o’clock curfew and the sheep sometimes slept with their hunger unsatisfied, but their tremendous love for generous Farmer John trumped their insignificant inconveniences. They were given a large tract of land in which to live. It provided both warm sunlight and cool shade. They alternated between sun-bathing their exquisite coats and resting under the refreshing vegetation as they roamed the lush pasture.

The sheep were content
They had been stripped of their coats thus left completely nude, but the sheep were glad to be rid of the itchy nuisance; Farmer John told them they looked more distinguished now, anyway. They admired each other and thanked Farmer John profusely for bestowing them with such beauty.

The sheep were content
While it was true that they were now all packed in some sort of truck speeding off wildly to an unknown destination, they were nonetheless excited for the adventure. While initially skeptical, the sheep were now unanimously thankful for this completely free extended vacation. They decided to send Farmer John and his gorgeous wife Mary a postcard.

The sheep were content
The ominous mechanical rumble was indeed alarming, but fear was soon replaced by self congratulation and pride as the sheep strutted their distinguished, hairless bodies down the runway. Love for the selfless Farmer John overflowed from the sheep who promised to never forget his indiscriminate benevolence.

The sheep were content.


The author's comments:
My mother actually inspired "Sheep Need a Shepherd", giving me an impetus for criticizing the conformity and lack of original thought in today’s society. I used the line “The sheep were content” to illustrate that regardless of how Farmer John treated them, they refused to even consider reevaluating their relationship with their master. Farmer John could represent a god, a parent, a ideology or anything really; it does not matter. I find it astonishing and reprehensible that so many people live like static characters in novels, never changing, learning from mistakes, or adapting to new environments. Instead, they stubbornly and unflinchingly remain loyal to a person, divine being, or way of thinking without even considering that they could be wrong. My intention in “Sheep Need a Shepherd” is not to evoke empathy for the dumb sheep who are about to be slaughtered; no, the sheep deserve their fate. My intention is to warn of the dangerous of complacency. I hope I succeeded.

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This article has 7 comments.


T.C. said...
on Nov. 11 2010 at 7:54 pm

I think the poem demonstrates a meticulous thought process and illustrates the point very well. The poem seems to challenge the reader to live on a higher level and not succumb to the sweetness of the first stanza. 

As for the structure of the poem, I think its clever and appropriately organized. 


sn12 said...
on Mar. 27 2010 at 8:05 pm

Sam, I think the main difference between the sheep and your examples of the conformist German and the “meek” United States (although I’m definitely going to disagree with your characterization of the “benign” superpower) are that both the German and the United States *recognize* the evils of Hitler and North Korea, respectively, whereas the sheep whole-heartedly adore their exploiter. The anti-Hitler German is probably a conformist; but he’s definitely not ignorant. Misplaced complacency requires the awareness of one’s exploitation.

 

Stinger, your comment illustrates exactly why I disagree with that element of the poem’s message. The Jews deserved their fate because Hitler developed a powerful military and successfully brainwashed the rest of Germany with propaganda and endless lies? The slaves deserved their fate because they were too “conformist” to stand up to the entire United States military? The sheep were foolish, no doubt, but the idea that the oppressed deserve their oppression because the elite are capable of controlling the flow of information and preventing serious uprising seems counter-intuitive to me.

 


sn123 said...
on Mar. 27 2010 at 12:04 pm

Sam, I think the main difference between the sheep and your examples of the conformist German and the “meek” United States (although I’m definitely going to disagree with your characterization of the “benign” superpower) are that both the German and the United States *recognize* the evils of Hitler and North Korea, respectively, whereas the sheep whole-heartedly adore their exploiter. The anti-Hitler German is probably a conformist; but he’s definitely not ignorant. Unjust complacency requires the awareness of one’s exploitation.

 

Stinger, your comment illustrates exactly why I disagree with that element of the poem’s message. The Jews deserved their fate because Hitler developed a powerful military and successfully brainwashed the rest of Germany with propaganda and endless lies? The slaves deserved their fate because they were too “conformist” to stand up to the entire United States military? The sheep were foolish, no doubt, but the idea that the oppressed deserve their oppression because the elite are capable of controlling the flow of information and preventing serious uprising seems pretty counter-intuitive to me.


stinger said...
on Mar. 23 2010 at 8:37 pm
I believe that this poem is written more to critize the ignorance of the sheep, if you had read the note from the author, it states that he believes the sheep deserve their fate. Taking this view point, the title makes perfect sense, in that the ignorant deserve to be led by a man that will take advantage of them because they are ignorant. The sheep need a shepard because they need someone to follow so they can continue being ignorant. The poem was very well written in my opinion, the author seems to be a well educated person when it comes to philosophy

Sam.B BRONZE said...
on Mar. 20 2010 at 2:19 pm
Sam.B BRONZE, San Antonio, Texas
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.” – Jules in Pulp Fiction

Thank you very much sn123 for your well thought out comments. To begin, you are completely right that the title "Sheep Need a Shepherd" seems to completely contradict the content of the poem. This was actually a calculated decision for a variety of reasons:
1. It seems like modern society dictates that conformity is necessary to survival in the cruel world we inhabit. Whether it is at school where a student is urged to keep his or her head down in order to avoid conflict with a class bully or malevolent teachers, or in international relations where North Korea rapidly begins the process of producing nuclear weapons, and the general global responses are "harsh condemnations" from the world's superpowers. The United States’ reaction is in particular meek and weak as it simply urges the U.N. to impose economic sanctions on North Korea (which actually only hurt the poor, starving North Koreans instead of punishing Kim Jong-il) for fear that any harsher punishment would alienate the ever powerful Russia and China.
2. Our society is ridden with cliché sayings and isms that are basically devoid of any unique insight (think of the bland fortunes found inside of fortune cookies)
3. I was hoping that the title “Sheep Need a Shepherd” would gather the reader’s attention as it seemed rather counterintuitive to the idealistic way we look at “freedom.” It seems that rather than provide cynical commentary, it actually confused you, so it seems like I may need to rethink the title.
I also understand that you find fault with the tone of the poem which grants sympathy to the sheep in the first few stanzas. My intention was to illustrate how exploitation is a gradual process that often times begins innocently enough, but is only fully in effect once those soon to be exploited stand idly and do nothing. A famous quote comes to mind, that of German pastor Martin Niemöller: “In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews , and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew . Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics ,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
I am not sure whether farmer John originally intended to exploit the sheep, or if he was forced to sell their lives due to the global economic crisis (see irony in my use of this meaningless term thrown around by the media to explain how the rich people in the world lost all of the poor people’s money) affecting the world today. My major goal was to simply highlight the dangers of complacency and express my opinion that trust should be earned by our masters/legislators/peers and not simply granted in the blink of an eye.
Anyway I hope that this response addresses your previous comments sn123, and I hope on continuing this intellectual dialogue with you.
- Sam. B

sn123 said...
on Mar. 16 2010 at 7:32 pm
Very interesting poem. I have a few questions/ comments if you’re interested in constructive criticism.

I’m sort of confused by the title “Sheep Need a Shepherd.” It seems like the entire point of the poem is that sheep do NOT need their shepherd – the shepherd’s sole intention to exploit (and eventually slaughter) the sheep for his personal profit. If anything, the sheep would be better off if not held in captivity. I like your repetition of “The sheep were content” – yes, the sheep (and humans, for the most part) are content with the shepherd (or God), but that’s only because they’re oblivious to the shepherd’s true intentions. I feel like your title also falls victim to the very ignorance you’re trying to criticize (unless I’m missing something).

In my opinion, the biggest problem with your poem is how sympathetic you are of the shepherd’s actions. The first two stanzas are *literally* dedicated to glorifying Farmer John. I realize that your intention is to demonstrate the foolishness of the SHEEP for respecting their shepherd, but you probably want to make it more clear to the READER that the shepherd has plainly cruel intentions. In my opinion, you want to make it explicit from the very beginning of the poem that the sheep’s gratefulness is entirely unwarranted given the way the shepherd mistreats them. This allows you to really employ irony in your characterizations of his actions – the sheep worship the shepherd (much like humans worship God) DESPITE his evident cruelty. One of my high school English teachers used to say that irony is the most sophisticated literally device an author can use. The most devastating way to criticize the established order is with mockery and satire - exposing the obvious hypocrisy of the state, politics, religion, etc with humor is a particularly effective and interesting way to channel your arguments.

Anyway, I’d love to hear back from you whenever you get a chance.

testing said...
on Mar. 10 2010 at 2:49 pm
cool poem!!


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