Shepherds, Sheeple, and Kool-aid
No doubt almost every single person who has interested themselves even slightly in politics has heard the terms ‘sheeple’ or ‘kool-aid’ thrown around. And among this hurricane of insults and ‘last words’ that we call politics I’ve always wondered, somewhat disinterestedly, why isn’t it spelled ‘sheople’? I assume my question will never be answered, or, more likely, I will get the typical circular filibuster similarly employed when I ask what exactly a ‘neoliberal’ is. Like an efficient military aircraft, I imagine most people prepare for their day by loading up all the necessary missiles and flares to walk around with an untouchable confidence. Of course missiles being the talking points, and flares being the well rehearsed responses to both familiar and unfamiliar broadsides. What is this neoliberal you speak of so confidently and negatively? ‘Give em some of the filibuster gun! Evasive maneuvers, evasive maneuvers!’ Perhaps the problem is that political conversations are approached with the seriousness of a military engagement.
But I would much rather have this—the filibuster and evade tactic—than what we have now: ostensibly the atomic bomb of simply calling someone a ‘sheeple’ or telling them that they’ve ‘drank the Kool-aid.’ That instead of even entertaining your thoughts, I will confidently reduce them to ash. This would be humorous if it weren’t so confusing. Not surprisingly, this confusion is from seeing that both sides are accusing the other side of being fruit-imbibing sheeple. In my more conspiratorial moments, I can only imagine our bureaucratic gods sitting on Olympus laughing as we peasants squabble and call each other sheeple. I imagine that they will find it similarly odd that being accused of drinking a particular drink is seen as a political insult.
What lies at the heart of these supposed insults is an indication that we have simply been guided by the going thought of the day. That we consume information and opinions without question and, even worse, we believe them wholeheartedly. But I cannot for the life of me figure out on what basis this accusation is thrown. If I am called a sheeple, is it because you—the accuser—are my shepherd? Or rather is it because you—the quasi-omniscient, thinker for one’s self—know the truth of the matter; you know what’s really going on. That if I only listened I would no longer be anyone’s sheep. I would be a tetherless, free-floating good idea machine with no political or personal sympathies. Being quite the psychological feat, I would first and foremost direct this person to the top psychological research lab for immediate study (read: quarantine). And why this accusation of drinking Kool-aid? What makes my drink any different than yours?
My ultimate point—if I can extract it—is that this accusation is nonsensical and, unsurprisingly, just another evasive tactic. I’ve been called a sheeple before and upon questioning my newfound master about which sources I should seek out, I am told something to the effect of ‘non-mainstream’ or ‘pieces from the people on the ground.’ The latter being stuff that’s really hard to find I’m told, and the former being, as it turns out, simply unpopular thought that supports that particular person’s point of view. Which at this point one can only guess what I say: wait, so then are you a sheeple for Truthdig? Alternet? Infowars? But apparently—this is something I knew but tried to act shocked upon learning—good news and the best sources are good and the best simply by virtue of them being non-mainstream. And to a degree I can sympathize with this view, but in another sense I can also see how the person who loves Truthdig oh so much would turn on it almost immediately having seen the publication go “lamestream.” Even without changing a single bit of its mission or content.
Somewhat surprisingly, the worst offenders of this trend of calling people sheeple does not come from the right—again, it comes from both but there are absolutely better and worse degrees of it—but from the Left. The difference between the Left and the Right in this case is the difference between being a sheeple for something in particular and being a sheeple for intangible, unconscious, incomprehensible factors. Such that according to the Marxist-trained Leftist we—pretty much everyone—actually don’t even know that we’re sheeple. That our sheepleness is due to some unconscious environmental conditioning that is both untraceable and incomprehensible, but we are told to trust them, because it’s there somewhere. Either way, as most already realize, political discussions are getting increasingly frustrating, and that an exchange that amounts to ‘point-counterpoint-sheeple’ or point-point-point-Kool-aid drinker’ is neither a substantive conversation nor is it an accurate picture of what either party in the conversation believes.
Image by Bubblejewel96