Testosterone and War

I consider myself somewhat of an expert on testosterone, since I grew up with four brothers and a dozen boy cousins. I was the only girl, “the only little petunia in the onion patch,” as Grandma used to say. I like males, I think they are a hoot. I think its just fine that they go ahead and be males, too.

But the more research I do, the more I wonder if a lot of wars have more to do with testosterone than geopolitics. Why do we equate manhood with killing other people? Our spiritual evolution has not kept pace with our technological revolution; we now have the ability to blast our opponents into body parts without ever having to look into their dying faces.

I just watched “Bush’s War” on PBS Frontline, and Rumsfeld and Cheney were engaged in major urinating on fence posts around the capital. Perhaps fence posts should be strategically located around Washington so politicians could adjourn from their debates, gather at the designated fence posts, and see who can pee the highest. I realize that “political operatives” like Karl Rove might electrify the fence posts and flip a switch when opponents took their shots. My brother once peed on an electric fence (only once) to prove how tough he was. It was not a pretty sight. But then it would provide amusing photo opps.

The dominating “alpha male” behavior of supposedly professional men in the Bush cabinet was alarming. It’s not too surprising that J. Coffer Black, CIA Counter Terrorism, wanted al Quaida heads on pikes and flies crawling across their dead eyes, or told his men, “I want you killing the enemy in 48 hours.” But for Vice President Vader to go to the “dark side” (or does he live there?) and the Secretary of Defense to demand that “the CIA has to work for me!” is just adolescent arrogance.

Alpha males with an agenda to go to war against Iraq, even though they knew Bin Laden was in Afghanistan….and they knew there were no weapons of mass destruction! They  pushed and intimidated and manipulated until they got their wish. Two men who never saw combat themselves sending other people’s children off to die…and to kill. “Collateral damage” is a real human being who wakes up one day, changes the baby’s diaper, grabs a roll, and heads out to the corner store, only to be blown into meat chunks by a smart bomb having a dumb moment. Better kill the baby, too, or he might grow up and seek revenge.

Some social scientists deny that testosterone is responsible. But I not only grew up with all those male humans, I grew up on a farm with male animals and the challenges of working with them are well-known to any farmer. A bull, for example, is an animal deserving of fear and respect; basically a ton of muscle with a powerful-bad attitude. We used to watch these beasts in the bull pen just go berserk sometimes and try to gore each other for no apparent reason. The cure for this was castration. A castrated bull is a steer. He loses his muscle mass, his meanness, and he turns into a complacent steak-producing machine.

We also kept stallions on the farm. Stallions do not play nice; they bite, kick, rear up and strike, and generally make a 1,000 pound menace of them selves. I remember leading a stallion out of his stall, chain correctly positioned over his nose, and I also remember him yanking me completely off the ground and charging off with me dangling from the end of the lead shank.

I gladly assisted the vet with that horse’s operation. I did feel kind of sorry for him and took special care of him until he recovered, at which point, he was a completely different animal, not only tolerable, but actually rather friendly. We castrated hogs so we didn’t have to deal with vicious boars and believe it or not, we bought castrated roosters, or capons, because instead of waking us up at dawn every day, they quietly grew into large, tender Sunday dinners.

I’m not advocating castration as a war deterrent. It shouldn’t be necessary. Human beings are supposed to possess the ability to think and not just react to hormone jolts. Human beings are supposed to possess a conscience and some sense that other people are people, too. But if a human being can’t act like a human being, maybe the farm cure would be just the thing. Of course, this would only be done if our national security were at stake, and we would need some kind of consensus that we take action “by any means necessary.” Fortunately, the alpha males have already provided that.


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