In America, what with our First Amendment and revolutionary origins, being a sheep is a bad thing. The sheep is a follower; most sheep are, from a distance, indistinguishable from others in the flock. Our preferred animal icon, the eagle, is bold and individualistic. None of this stops Americans from acting like sheep in horrible ways, or for that matter from driving the bald eagle to the edge of extinction via sprawl and pollution. But no public figure in the United States would ever cop to admiring the sheep's qualities, or to wishing that his supporters were more sheeplike.
Not so in Hong Kong, where activists spent last year agitating for democratic reforms, or for its China-appointed leader, C.Y. Leung.
Leung was delivering a Lunar New Year message to mark the Year of the Sheep, or Goat, in the Chinese calendar that is based around 12 animals of the zodiac.
"Last year was no easy ride for Hong Kong. Our society was rife with differences and conflicts," he said.
"In the coming year, I hope that all people in Hong Kong will take inspiration from the sheep's character and pull together in an accommodating manner to work for Hong Kong's future."
Humans: We're all alike in some ways, but in other ways, we're different!