Those were the words of a leader to his men after they had been lectured about a rash of misconduct over a several month period. A captive audience sat and listened to list of violations:
The circumstances surrounding the events varied, but there was one common theme involved in most of the incidents:
But instead of focusing on alcohol as the primary contributing factor to these crimes, the leader decided to address far less relevant issues.
Be assured: the theme of this post is not “no drinking.” The theme of this post is “no drunkenness.” There is a significant difference.
The media’s high-powered microscope is focusing more and more on misconduct in the military. Service members are expected to embrace the core values of their branch. The Marine Corps values—honor, courage, and commitment—are ingrained into every recruit and officer candidate from day-one of their basic training. When we screw up, we should be held accountable.
If our leaders are serious about fixing the problems plaguing our military, they need to correctly identify the cause. This is where it doesn’t hurt to study a little philosophy on causation.
- A service member goes out to the club and has too much to drink. He meets a girl and takes her back to his place. They become intimate until the girl feels uncomfortable with his advances. In his drunkenness, he pushes her aside on his way out the door. She stumbles and falls into a nightstand, sustaining an injury to her head.
Why did the girl suffer an injury to her head?
In order to answer “why” questions, Aristotle identified four types of causes:
- Material cause: the physical properties responsible for the condition.
- Formal cause: this has to do with the form, or pattern, or type of object and its resulting effect.
- Efficient cause: this involves the change or movement that starts and stops and its effect.
- Final cause: the ultimate aim or purpose for the act.
The material cause for her injury is the fact that wood is harder than human flesh. The formal cause is that the wood fashioned into a sharp right punctured her flesh. The efficient cause is that he pushed her and she fell into the night stand. The final cause is either he wanted her to feel his frustration, or he wanted her out of the way.
Now let’s ask another question:
Why did the man get drunk?
The answer given too often is “he didn’t have a plan,” or “his buddies didn’t take care of him,” or “the regulations aren’t strict enough.”
Here is my analysis on why the man got drunk:
- Material cause: alcohol metabolized in the human body impairs functioning.
- Formal cause: alcohol was brewed into liquid form and ingested into the stomach via the mouth.
- Efficient cause: the man consumed excessive amounts via pints and shots.
- Final cause:
The man believed it was okay to get drunk.
Alcohol abuse is the common thread weaving together the problems plaguing our leaders, whether its fighting alcohol abuse, sexual assault, or ethical misconduct.
When a person is drunk, they have abused alcohol. Period.
Our leaders need to change their attitudes toward drunkenness. Only then will they be able to change the attitudes of those in their charge.
That leader was right. This is not an “alcohol problem.”
The only way to change the pattern of abuse is to change the attitude of the abuser.
Here is my question for leaders: will you stand in front of your people and tell them, specifically, it’s wrong to get drunk?
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