I tried really hard, but in the end, I gave in. But for once, let’s start with the beginning: With “my people”, there is this talk about sheep, wolves and sheepdogs: The people who live their lives ignorant of the dangers around them; the people who prey on them; and the ones who stand between the two to defend the former from the latter. It is an absolutely terrible metaphor for several reasons:
First and foremost, it does not adequately describe people. People are complex. Joel famously pointed out that he’s a mutt – not busy defending anyone else, just wanting to be left alone. That’s a contradiction to the available categories. The other is that people are quite complex: While a bunch of IT people I know do qualify as sheepdogs when it comes to privacy, they are occasionally sheep or wolves when it comes to other areas. That’s a contradiction to the application of the categories. Basically it is doubly wrong.
Second, the metaphor comes from fucking Dave Grossman, who styles himself both a scientist and a military man. His credentials in both areas are not very impressive. When he came out against computer games (the famous “murder simulators”), the internet, grown up on requesting actual proof, took him apart in a day or two. When former military people get on the topic, it becomes quite entertaining, too 1. But what he says is convenient to many: Some gun people like to blame computer games, so they quote those parts, gamers quote the gun parts. He invites people to be less that truthful and he deserves to be forgotten for all the disservice he has done to honest debate.
Third, a good metaphor should be used equally by all participants (either offend all or laud all), but this one is usually applied by quite self-servingly by the sheepdogs only. Ah, the poor sheepdogs, always looked down upon by the sheep, until they are needed. And then pushed away again by that ungrateful society. If those sheepdogs where the warrior monks they usually paint themselves to be, they’d just suck it up, fucking buttercups.
So that is why I try to avoid the whole metaphor. But it is so hard when the sheep insist on being so very sheepish! “I cannot take care of myself. Baaah! Your self-reliance offends my sensibilities. Baaaaah!”. Still, I want no part of the additional baggage that comes with the terms. So -again- I bow to Joel’s wisdom and steal one of his terms: Eloi. HG Wells’ happy-go-lucky, bohemian, but ultimately clueless surface dwellers that, spoiler alert, serve as food for the Morlocks who actually run what’s left of mankind. Eloi have become so dependent on the environment that the Morlocks provide that they simply cannot help themselves.
I consider learned helplessness to be a consequence of our successful society. At some point, we went beyond necessary specialisation to where people actually have no idea how things get done. They know how to do their little contribution and some benevolent societal construct is supposed to take care of the rest. If someone, even only by sheer merit of existence, hints at the flaws of said system and the belief system it needs to be sustained, they become offended and demand their safe spaces where they cannot be triggered 2.
If everything goes well, they will get all of that, all watched over by machines of loving grace. Gaming addiction already demonstrates that if real work life sucks, gaming is a better alternative 3. The existence of numerous echo chambers within the media (and MSM as a whole) shows that there is also a market for avoiding differing opinions. I guess that, just like we redefined the web’s direction with web 2.0, we will have to do the same for assisted reality 2.0. Want a reality without Trump? Just load the right filter on your Google Glasses 2.0. Same for homeless people. Maybe we can get a skin color adjustment, too.