Perhaps the most critical element that professional cause advocates fail to factor into their crusade equations is technological advance. Not only does technology continually render perceived crises irrelevant, it also continues to raise the living standards of potential cause joiners.
In our modern age of prosperity, nothing annoys crusade leaders more than the realization that otherwise perfectly good prospects for their causes are relaxing in the backyards of their suburban homes, grilling steaks on the barbecue, and watching their kids splash around in their ten-by-twenty-foot swimming pools. Convincing these folks that they’re being exploited by “the rich” is a pretty tough sell.
But even if you believed in a group’s objectives and actually had firsthand knowledge of the facts, it still would be less complicated and more efficient to act on your own rather than in concert with others. In addition, as I pointed out in my previous article, collective action encourages one to avoid personal responsibility.
As with the charity example I discussed in that same article, if you feel strongly about a cause, by acting alone you can start doing something about it immediately. But if instead you decide to build a sophisticated organizational structure to promote the cause, you may never get around to your stated purpose.
The nature of such organizational efforts — endless politics, debates over differences of opinion, funding, and other bureaucratic obstacles — can easily use up all your available time and energy. All too often, the organizational effort becomes an end in itself.
If you feel a sincere urge to take action for or against something, don’t waste time trying to convert others to your way of thinking. If you believe in a particular philosophy, you should be too busy living it to spend time trying to get others to join a cause. If you have a desire to have your ideas heard, why not write a book about them or offer to lecture on those ideas for a fee?
Above all, don’t feel that you have a moral obligation to help people “see the light.” Chances are pretty good that you have enough problems of your own that require your full time and attention. Life burdens us with too many nonproductive projects as it is, so why look for more? The fact is that the world doesn’t have problems; only individuals have problems.
Notwithstanding all the real or imagined crises, the reality is that you have it within your power to lead a fulfilling, meaningful life — starting now. Don’t allow perceived disasters that may or may not occur during your lifetime — if ever — to rob you of the opportunity to do so.
A secure, mentally healthy individual maintains control over his actions rather than allow the desires of a group to determine them for him. Unfortunately, millions of individuals are burdened by having to spend a significant amount of their valuable time and energy fending off those who constantly try to interfere in their lives through crusades.
It’s wise to be vigilant about not allowing yourself to be emotionally swept along by the herd instinct, the rhetoric of Absolute Moralists, or the slogans of a mindless band of people. Staunchly refuse to yield to the intimidating pressures of others to become involved in group action.
A group may dwell endlessly on how it can help you become a happier individual, but such claims are meaningless. Why? Because the very premise of group action negates that possibility. When you subordinate your interests to those of an organization, you lose not only your individuality, but also precious, irreplaceable hours that could be well spent confronting the obstacles in your own life.
To a rational individual, the farther off the promised results, the more obvious it is that perpetuation of the group itself is the real objective of the leader. When the next crusader comes knocking at your door, babbling about this or that crisis, do yourself a favor and advise him to get a real job, get out of the way of those who are creating value for others, and allow entrepreneurial creativity to continue expanding the frontiers of modern technology and improving the living standards of people worldwide.
Using your time and energy to help promote a cause that advocates the use of force to make others accept an agenda that certain individuals believe is right is far removed from the noble objective of having a legitimate purpose in life, being passionate about that purpose, and taking continual and constructive action to achieve it.
If you wish to make a serious contribution to world peace and prosperity, I suggest you use your time and energy to improve the one person over which you not only have control, but the moral authority to control: you.
If you do decide to become involved in a crusade, just make certain that you do so for rational reasons — your rational reasons. And be doubly certain that you are honest with yourself about your motives. Any rational motive is fine, so long as you genuinely understand exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
And for goodness sakes, don’t chastise others for not becoming involved in a cause that you believe to be worthy. How others spend their time and what they believe in is none of your business. When you start being so presumptuous as to concern yourself with getting others to become involved in a cause you believe in, you are taking the first step toward becoming a true-believing crusader/nuisance.
On the other hand, if you make the decision to focus on your own life rather than becoming involved in a crusade in an attempt to solve some group’s perception of a societal problem, I wish to extend my personal thanks to you for eliminating yourself as a burden to the rest of society. As Nobel Prize novelist and poet Anatole France so rightly pointed out, “Those who have given themselves the most concern about the happiness of peoples have made their neighbors very miserable.”