According to the Canadian Chief of Defence Staff, sexual misconduct in the military occurs because of biological wiring. Apparently, the same rationale might apply in the Canadian Senate. The Chief has since apologized amid calls for his resignation. No word from the Senator yet.
Well, what are we to make of this? Is the general right? Are men (and he didn’t rule out women) wired to behave badly? Are we nothing more than dogs?
Of course, there is a biological basis in human behavior – several of them – including the drive to procreate. Similarly we have a drive to eat and to sleep. We have lots of biological heritage from millions of years of evolution. Yet, we know that people who can’t control their urge to eat constantly or to sleep their lives away have problems. Why wouldn’t we think that people who can’t keep it in their pants, can’t respect other people’s imperative not to have sex (not necessarily never have sex, just not have sex with YOU), why wouldn’t we think they have a problem? A problem that needs to be dealt with in the most appropriate way – whether that is treatment, punishment or dismissal.
There are those who seem to believe that we are nothing but a series of instinctual twitches, driven by our chemistry and our genes to behave like automatons. I always wonder what motivates people to think that.
However, humans long ago transcended their biology. We have liberated ourselves from the vagaries of nature. While people may go hungry in the world, there is actually no biological or natural reason why that should be so. We, in fact produce enough nutrition to feed everyone. We just do a lousy job at distribution – another biological imperative presumably is to horde food and wealth and deprive ‘the other’ from what we enjoy.
So these are all choices we make. Perhaps that is the greatest biological imperative of all, to use our collective intelligence, our constructed rationality (made of language and law and civil practice) to overcome those remnants of biology that seem to drive some people.
The military of all places should understand that ‘wiring’ does not determine human behavior. The whole purpose of ‘boot camp’ and strict discipline is precisely to manage our fight, flight or freeze response, to overcome our natural reluctance to kill other humans, to make soldiers agree to follow orders of people they don’t necessarily think have superior qualities.
Perhaps the general needs to start thinking about how to overcome biological wiring so that he can be in command of human beings instead of mindless animals.
But that’s ten minutes.