Monday, March 30, 2015

Stop with the "Sheeple" Talk

  Your watching a crime show on TV.  The story follows a pair of detectives and things get gory--a body was found, the person was shot.  A few minutes later on the show, they are at the medical examiner's office and out on the slab is a grayed body, split open, stem to stern with a bone saw.  The detectives have a look of mild disgust on their faces as the body. Then, for dramatic effect, the medical examiner is poking and prodding inside, sending waves of revulsion out towards the detectives and the viewers.  Then, in a point of gallows humor, the poking and prodding continues in graphic fashion, only now the TV medical examiner is drinking a cup of soup in one hand and poking innards with the other.  The cup of soup's contents look a lot like the pooled fluids in the corpse and the rookie TV detective goes off screen to puke.

In real life this would (probably) never happen, but medical examiners do deal with corpses in a way that most people find odd, to say the least.  Similarly, sanitation workers at plants jump into "the fresh" all of the time, without much regard for what it is, aside from their safety gear.  Folks at chicken plants debeak chickens like folks assemble cars.  This is the whole premise of the TV show Dirty Jobs--our context can desensitize us to our surroundings and our behavior.  

This leads me to the term "sheeple" (one of my two least favorite words used by the gear community, "pimping" is the other).  

I absolutely HATE this term.  In fact, its very existence is an indictment of the knife community.  Guess what?  Not everyone is comfortable with knives.  That doesn't make them a wimp or a moron.  It makes them different from you and me.  Their context is different.  My family has gotten used to me carrying and fidgeting with a knife, but not everyone has that context to draw on.  And while I think the demonization of objects is stupid, I think being insensitive to others is even dumber.  

Part of this is an issue of being conscientious of others. I don't want to be the guy that purposely takes up two parking spaces.  I don't want to be the guy that gets his mail in his underwear, a la Tony Soprano. I don't want to be the guy that screams and yells at his crying kid in a store.  Being part of humanity, being with others, means, that on some basic level human decency makes you, on occasion, think of others.  So when you want to open a pack of gummy snacks with your Microtech Scarab and you are doing so in a crowded park full of families, think twice.  Be discrete.  Don't be THAT guy.

The other part of this is much more self-centered.  Members of a community are, for better or worse, seen as representatives of that community. All gun owners are branded by the media and politicians by of the actions the least responsible gun owner.  And when that person inevitably makes bad choices the government steps in.  Over the years, government's track record of managing and dealing with discrete issues like this has been--well, there was only one Amendment to the Constitution ever repealed...So flipping your Woods Titan in Target is not just inconsiderate, its the kind of stupid behavior that inches us closer to more dumb legislation (see: the Switchblade Act).

They aren't sheep people because of their antipathy or discomfort with your knives.  Being overtly intimidating by playing with knives in an obvious and inappropriate way is both inconsiderate and the kind of stupidity that invites legislative action. And that mindset starts with a word and that word is Sheeple.


  1. Well said! I agree completely.

  2. Well put. So often on forums I just shake my head at some of the ridiculous things people carry and imagine what they must look like to somebody who doesn't understand knife or EDC culture. I think we all know what a lot of these knives and tools end up

    I'm sure there are some folks out there with legitimate uses for some of the items they have, but at the end of the day a good chunk of these guys are probably opening mail at their desk jobs with a 3.5" blade and make a point of everybody seeing them do it...and on top of that they want to complain about "sheeple."

    Just my opinion, but the tools used for a job should be task-appropriate. There will always be exceptions, but most of other people's perception of your knife will be whether or not you treat it like a tool or a toy.

  3. Jesus Christ. Finally someone said it. I can't stand the vibes from that term- "Oh, I'm a tactical badass, and if you aren't comfortable with me and my gear you're a fucking pussy."
    I'm fairly certain these people don't realize that something called a life exists, apart from the gear world. At the end of the day, all this gear stuff is a hobby. And when it starts to interfere with the real world, in how you treat/view other people, it's a problem.

  4. That's all well and good and yes, the dude opening his gummi bears with a OTF knife is inviting trouble, but WTF.

    Not every encounter you and your knife have with John Q. Public goes like that even though most of the time they reactions are quite similar.


    My extended family and I are all together and some of us want to play games. We decide to break up into teams and someone pulls out fabric to make team color bandannas. No one has a pair of scissors on them so I take out my 3in, damascus and carbon fiber very dressy Tobin Smith, open it conventionally and discreetly and begin calmly slicing up the fabric for everyone. Immediately I'm met with a chorus of 'WHOA WHOA WHOA', 'Are you going to cut someone?', 'Why do you carry a knife?', 'Hey everyone, Scurvy carries a weapon.' etc etc etc from the group.

    I'm not going to call my family a group a sheeple, but there are a bunch of irrational people out there who are scared that someone carries a portable version of a very useful tool they own several of and use everyday in their house.

    I've never used the term sheeple to refer to people who don't like knives but it seems like you are making two different arguments (the term sheeple is dumb and people who act super tacticool in public with knives are dumb) and your attempt to connect the two is very tenuous.

    1. I think there is a large overlap between the people that act super tacticool and the people that use the term sheeple.

      I too here the moaning about knives. When my grandfather was young he HAD to carry a knife to get through his day in rural southern Ohio. A knife was no big deal. And now he gets stopped by TSA people for carrying a Texas Toothpick.

      The way to overcome those biases is to be responsible, not label people with those biases as lemmings, wimps, or morons.

      My coworkers had the same reaction your family did, but after about the tenth time someone came to me for help with a package or cutting food or opening a brew, they changed their tune. No one, except for new people, complains about me carrying and using a knife.

  5. Nicely put. I've learned that what I carry is sometimes determined by not just where I will be, but who I will be around. I no longer carry my SOG Vunlcan to work because a coworker called it a "pig-sticker" once when I used it to cut a sandwich. Instead I just stick to my Blue FRN Delica (better for EDC anyway) because it's a seemingly less intimidating knife.

    That said, it is very annoying when I encounter a person who thinks the only reason to carry a knife is to go on stabbing rampages. I usually tell them that a knife is simply a tool, and that I always have one because I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it but not have it.

  6. Well put, Tony. At times, it's like we're our own worst enemy. In my mind, it seems it's almost always the extreme end of any group that draws the most attention to the rest of the group, and rarely in a good way. While I don't necessarily think it's our job to "educate" people who don't share our hobby/interest, it doesn't do us any good to antagonize them, either.

  7. This is a contentious issue within the gun world as well. Then there's the whole other realm of open carry of long arms into coffee shops, restaurants, even an airport as happened here in Phoenix, all to provoke response.

  8. It is also regional. Some people see any knife no matter how big or how it is used as a weapon first and foremost. In my city office I never have anything on me larger than a Case Stockman or a SAK Cadet, and I keep them discreet, but some people cannot understand why on earth anyone could possible need any knife other than to stab someone. You see these same people run to the kitchen or the supply room to get scissors or a dull butter knife to open a package and it would never occur to them that a 2.5" blade in pocket can be very useful.

    Calling them Sheeple might be moronic, and provoking a negative reaction even more so, but there is a certain needlessly fearful attitude about knifes here in New York that is ridiculous and borderline cowardly, and it goes hand-in-hand with a loss of independent spirit and self-reliance. In the Midwestern state I grew up in I doubt anyone would bat an eye if I carried a Para 2, but these people are more likely to recognize a tool, understand what it is for, and be able to use it and therefore appreciate it.

  9. Balancing act. Need to prudently challenge dysfunctional attitudes toward tool use without being obnoxious about it.

    The sorts of fearful attitudes larrybar refers to do not merit any genuine respect. Sorry. While some people who hold them are good people, the attitudes are indeed atavistic, un-American and unworthy of free people.

    But notice, that still doesn't mean knife owners should go de-tagging their new hand towels with an XL Vaquero Voyager in the foyer of Pottery Barn.

    Those attitudes, while bogus, are still an existing reality that must be taken into account in choosing how to go about one's activities -- including how to prudently educate, challenge and shift those attitudes.

  10. Well said, T. Also, the old adage that we hate in others what we hate in ourselves is operative imo in the knife community. People who carry knives are often compensating for insecurities that manifest themselves in tactical aspirations. These people are afraid that deep down, they're just sheep in a land of mostly imaginary wolves, so they posture as wolves.

  11. Nice piece of writing--I would like to read a full-length entry on 'pimping.'

  12. I love the irony that comes with people jumping on a new buzzword such as "sheeple" like moths flying to a flame.

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