Exxon Mobil's vice president of shale oil and gas, David Scott, has been arrested on second-degree felony assault with bail set at $30 000. He has been effectively fired from Exxon with the statement: “All ExxonMobil employees, officers and directors are accountable for observing the highest standards of integrity and code of conduct in support of the company’s business and otherwise. This individual will not continue work responsibilities" A standard issue PR response to a high command sexual assault allegation. In many ways a business executive being charged with sexual assault is only mildly eyebrow raising. The #MeToo movement uncovered the prevalence of these crimes in the workplace and the day-to-day plight of sexual violence that many women experience. But why is this so prevalent? How could it relate to climate change?
Why is it that sexual assaults are handed out like candy on Halloween by the leaders of corporate America? Its an interesting question that the MeToo movement tried to answer. Many believe its just the nature of men, an animalistic urge of the limbic system that dates back to prehistoric survival mechanisms. If that were the case, it would be an unsolvable problem that nearly every man would partake in. That doesn't seem to be the case. 4 - 16% of college men admit to having committed at least one rape in college. This is a surprising and frankly disgusting number, however, it is not the majority of the male population. Its not shocking that these men go on to inhabit and exploit positions of power in the corporate world.
If we zero in on that 4 - 16% of rapists, we need to ask what differentiates them from the general male population. Rape is a gross crime committed by those who crave power through sexual domination. It requires a callousness and sense of sadism. It necessitates a fundamental selfishness that most people couldn't comprehend if they tried. It encapsulates a lack of shame, remorse, and capacity for violence that would require an absolute dehumanization of the victim by the perpetrator.
In 1941, Dr. Hervey Cleckly marked down the first official scientific recording of the group now known as psychopaths. He was the first scientist to properly define the behaviors and motivations that make up the disorder as well as give it a name. The word likely springs to mind images of pop culture's most sadistic serial killers like Ted Bundy. However, the prevalence of this disorder within society is far greater than the rogue serial killer. The disorder doesn't guarantee someone will be a killer. It is characterized by a fundamental lack of remorse, a guiltlessness regarding infractions committed against others, and an internal world that lacks warmth in human relationships.
These individuals are attracted to positions that allow them to exercise power over others and accrue wealth at their expense. It is no surprise that roughly 4% - 12% of CEOs display these traits, in line with the 15% found in prison. Some estimates say it's 1 in 5 CEO’s or 20% who have these traits. This is compared to psychopaths being 1% of the general population.
When one considers the actions of Exxon Mobil, it is fundamentally absurd. The company was ahead of the curve with its research on climate change, understanding that the further continuation of their business strategy would compound into a mass extinction event for the human species as early as 1970. From a business perspective, they could have invested heavily in oil alternatives and lobbied themselves into advantageous positions within these industries, effectively diversifying their market share and allowing them to lock down potential competition within these markets. They could have led the charge on nuclear energy and profited many billions. On a human level, the executives who made these decisions never once considered their children, their families, even their legacies. Why make billions if not to cement your future? Provide a future for your children? For your grandchildren? These people never once considered such things. If they did, it was likely as an afterthought. The immediate push to silence all dissent on a global scale, as well as halt any attempts at competition, shows exactly how much care and importance is placed on human life by psychopaths. It makes sense that these individuals would be prone to rape and sexual violence.
When looking at climate change, the psychopathic mindset can explain the actions of companies like Exxon Mobil.
1. The problem, though measurable, is not immediate. The effects will build slowly over time and affect the poorest amongst us first.
2. You directly profit to the tune of billions of dollars, as long as you don't stop.
To these individuals with no moral breaks and an insatiable lust for money and power, this is an ideal situation. You get to win and everyone else gets to lose. It's as simple as that.
One of the leading researchers on psychopathy is Dr Robert D. Hare, whose research is considered the successor to Cleckly, stated this about the prevalence of psychopaths:
“There are certainly more people in the business world who would score high in the psychopathic dimension than in the general population. You'll find them in any organization where, by the nature of one's position, you have power and control over other people and the opportunity to get something.”
This cream that rises to the top permeates the culture of sexual violence, enriches themselves off of the pillaging of the earth, and further widen the gap between the plentiful and the destitute.