Independence, a goatherder and a shepherd

A goatherder and a shepherd do not and cannot have the same experience for the obvious reason that both herd quite different animals with different temperament. A goat is not a sheep, nor is a sheep a goat. A goat is a goat. A sheep is a sheep. A sheep shall be a sheep and treated as sheep until it is proven, in legalese speak, beyond reasonable doubt that it has, with the generous help of time and a touch of nature’s magic or man’s ability to play the creator with genetic modification, eventually become a goat. However, for that to stand a chance of happening, time (alone) would neither be enough nor the solution. But it’s an essential part of both the process and the solution. It would be an essential input in the process of finding a solution – the output: sheep turned into a goat.

A goatherder and a shepherd, however, have something vital in common: they both have herding experience. They both, like any herder, have tales to relate to, tales to recount; but not the same tales. Although, admittedly, the tales of both a goatherder and a shepherd might be similar because the subject: herding experience – is the same. And the objects of the tales: goat and sheep, are quite different; hence, the likely acute variance in experience between a goatherder and a shepherd.

Goats and sheep have characteristic differences; and this is an important factor in the way they are both herded and therefore a defining factor in the experience between a goatherder and a shepherd.

Goats and sheep have rather different flocking behaviour. Goats are rather more independent in their behaviour and movement. But over all, such independence is dependent on the will and not to forget or naively undermine the whims of their herder; the degree to which the herder will allow them to independently roam around and graze. That, in itself, is dependent on other factors, such as the size of the herding area and, importantly, the independence of the[ir] herder from external forces and/or influence; which is unlikely given the inevitable interdependence necessary in the realm of the universe.

So, while goats are naturally independent (minded) creatures; their independence is dependent on, rather heavily, and consequently curtailed by the independence of their herder: the degree to which the herder is dependent on or independent from external forces and/or influence. Even if goats are allowed by their herder to roam and graze freely in the[ir] designated grazing area, free from the[ir] herder’s watchful eye; it would be spurious for the goats to claim to be independent from their herder’s reach and control. Their independence is to the extent, the herder defines and permits them.

Goats, as naturally independent creatures they are; can be as independent as they want, however, and for as long as it’s within the parameters of independence as defined and permitted by the goatherder. Goats, with their independent nature, have no agency over their independence in their designated grazing area. The same is true of and applies to sheep, with only one exception that the sheep characteristically move in flock and hardly move independent from each other’s movement. This is the genius of the sheep. Although they’re falsely but widely characterised as “dumb” creatures, they’re not. Far from it, they’re intelligent creatures, conscious of their weaknesses/vulnerability and environment. They move in flock to protect themselves from danger.

In a narrow sense, the independence of goats and sheep is dependent on the independence, will and whims of both the goatherder and the shepherd. In a broader view, their independence is not independent from the limited or lack of independence of both the goatherder and the shepherd, and the necessary interdependencies in the universe. While goats, out of naivety, can boast to sheep about their independence to move separate from each other – not in flock as sheep do; their independence is as restricted as that of the sheep by the goatherder whose own independence is not as the animals might admiringly and naively imagine it is.

Both the goatherder and shepherd are as independent in their role and their environment as, and to the extent their environment is interested in their animals. That is, to the extent goats and sheep are of value to the goatherder’s and shepherd’s environment. And to the extent that environment is influenced and/or controlled by external interests and forces.

To the extent, and for as long as, goat meat and goat cheese taste different from sheep meat (mutton) and sheep cheese; and to the extent, and for as long as they attract a craving from (the) insatiable external taste buds; the independence of both the goatherder and the shepherd and their animals will depend on their ability to supply and maintain a steady supply of goat meat, goat cheese, sheep meat and sheep cheese irrespective of the pack of fierce dogs each has to protect their animals. Whether the dogs bite or simply bark, is of no consequence to the craving of external taste buds. The external craving and taste buds are not bothered by the fierce growls of the dogs surrounding the herds.

The independence of the goatherder and the shepherd, therefore is intricately entwined with the ability of the goats and sheep to serve and maintain a steady supply of their products to external demand. Goats and sheep, therefore, owe their independence or lack of it, to the craving and demands of external taste buds for their products.

However, the independence of goats and sheep, is made more precarious when the goatherder and shepherd develop the same external craving and taste buds. The hapless animals face a vicious double prong attack: domestic demand and the avarious external demand.

The mouth, for instance, cannot, in its wildest dreams, claim to be independent from the demands of the stomach. Nor can the extreme end of the alimentary canal claim to be independent from the mischief of an avaricious mouth.

A fish that manages to secure its independence from a shark’s reach but finds itself in a fisher’s net, even if the fisher decides to spare it from his plate and keep it safe within his reach; the fish cannot, in all its foolishness, claim to be independent of the fisher’s taste buds. If it does, it’s indeed a rare kind of optimistic fish. Its “fishness” must be closely examined.

Fundamentally, there’s more need for the goatherders and the shepherds and certainly the fisher, to question the narrative of independence than there’s need to celebrate, for example, the dangerously misleading illusion of independence of sheep from the unrevealed intention of the shepherd.

If Africa is the goat, the sheep; who is the goatherder, who is the shepherd?