Don't Be A Sheep

Jamar Watkins

“If I became a monster today, and decided to kill them, one by one, they would become aware only after most of the flock had been slaughtered. They trust me, and they’ve forgotten how to rely on their own instincts, because I lead them to nourishment”
-Santiago, shepherd in the “The Alchemist”
Sheep are pretty modest creatures. They eat, sleep, and shuffle along, moving wherever their shepherds guide them. In return for food and protection, they provide the shepherds with milk, wool, and unobtrusive company. They don’t get involved in a lot of drama, or make too many requests. For the most part, sheep do what they’re told and don’t have many responsibilities.
But in addition to milk and wool, sheep are a source of meat.
For their entire lives, sheep depend on a human for direction and guidance. This shepherd is someone they see everyday and someone who protects them from the danger of wild animals. But who’s there to protect the sheep from the shepherd? If Santiago were to decide that he wanted to kill all the sheep and sell their meat, it’s doubtful that he would experience much resistance. The sheep have grown to know him so well, they would ignore all the signs warning them of their impending destruction. His change in demeanor. Their slaughtered brothers and sisters. The knife pressed against their own throat.
When I first read this quote, I made an immediate connection between the sheep of Santiago and the humans of this world. A lot of people are so lulled to sleep that we will always trust the hand that feeds us. Even if that hand is holding a machete. The capitalist oligarchy we live in is one where wealth trickles down, and the peasants snap up whatever crumbs may be thrown their way. No questions asked. Even if the economic giants are picking off your kin, you won’t notice because your only focus is your next meal/paycheck. And by the the time you notice that you’re being hunted, you won’t dare believe that your benevolent overlords could do something so heinous and sinister.
I think the passage about becoming a monster and killing the sheep was meant to be an insight on human nature, and the dangers of being overly trusting. One should never be so naive that they place complete trust in a human being. I love and trust my parents (generally speaking); but you’d best believe that if one of them came up behind me, put a bag over my head, and told me “don’t worry”…there’s gonna be some kicking and screaming going on. One should never be so trusting that they lose vigilance. Losing vigilance makes you vulnerable and open to a betrayal of your trust.
You put yourself at the mercy of someone who you may or may not know the intentions of. I won’t say that you should NEVER trust anybody besides yourself. At some point in life, we all must find someone besides ourselves whom we can rely on. But what I am saying is that trust should be given out sparingly, and only after deep consideration. No one can tell you who you should place your faith in. But it can be said that levels of trust should be constantly assessed and reevaluated, based upon the actions of the shepherds in question.