On the Efficacy of Joining Crusades

Posted on March 31, 2015 by Robert Ringer


With the presidential campaigns starting to heat up, bogus crusades like the war on women, income inequality, and “institutionalized” racism are heating up right along with them. Yep, balderdash as they may be, phony crusades are back in vogue with millions of folks who are naïve, uninformed, or just plain dishonest.

If everyone who had ever joined a movement, cause, or crusade had carefully analyzed the realities of the group’s purpose in advance, I suspect that most crusades throughout history would have disappeared without a whimper for lack of support. In part, this explains why so many hard-core followers of crusades are young adults. Once an individual has had some real-world experience under his belt, he is likely to think twice before wasting his finite supply of time and energy on a cause that others happen to believe is worthy.

What few people fail to see is that in many respects there is not strength in numbers, but weakness. Suppose, for example, that you wish to help “the poor.” There is no question that charity is a noble activity, assuming you can afford the time and/or money to engage in it. If it makes you feel good to help those who are less fortunate than you, by all means do so.

But rather than waste time becoming involved in the muddled bureaucracy of some organization where you would have to confer with others over such questions as who qualifies as “the poor” and what, precisely, should be done to help such people, would it not be easier, faster, and more efficient to make all necessary decisions unilaterally and take immediate action yourself?

All you would need to do is decide which person or persons you deem to be poor, then decide how much of your money you would like them to have. Best of all, you could personally deliver the money to them — no middleman necessary, thank you. And, just think, you could do all this without having to stop and consult with anyone else.

Having accomplished your purpose, you could then about your day-to-day pursuits without harassing friends, neighbors, or strangers about your beliefs. Simple, efficient, immediate results — the kind of results that are all but impossible to achieve through group action.

If you acted in precisely the above manner, I would be inclined to believe you if you told me you had a desire to help the poor. But if you tried to hard-sell me on joining a charitable organization to help those who are in financial need, I’d have to look you over real carefully and ask a whole bunch of questions that you probably either couldn’t answer or would prefer not to.

Since it’s very easy to help others if that is your true intent, I’m skeptical about the motives of do‑gooders who form bureaucratic organizations to carry out charitable and “public good” projects. The first thing I look for in such people is a big ego; second, I look for an ulterior motive.

The next time you’re tempted to work for, or contribute to, a charity, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have firsthand knowledge of exactly how the money I’m raising is going to be spent?
  • Can I be certain it is being used to help those whom the group purports to be aiding?
  • And, if so, do I really know what percentage of the money, after bureaucratic waste, will actually end up in the hands of the designated recipients?

Even if a crusade is successful (and keeping mind that successful is a subjective term), you have no way of knowing that you will live long enough to witness the results. It seems to me that to work on a crusade all your life and not be around to see its fruition would be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if you think about all the time and energy you’ve invested in the cause — time and energy that could have been used to better your own life.

But there’s an even worse fate possible: What if the group’s stated purpose is accomplished during your lifetime, but the results turn out to be very different from what you had in mind all those years that you were donating your valuable time-and-energy resources to help bring them about? Although most groups never come close to achieving their stated objectives, disillusionment is the rule rather than the exception for those that do.

The reason for this is obvious: Given that each person in an organization is unique, your perception of the group’s purpose and the perceptions of every other member of the group — especially that of the group’s leader — are likely to be quite different.

You can be certain that the masses in the early years of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia were not envisioning the same results as the leaders who proclaimed that communism would free them. As in George Orwell’s 1984, they had no idea that the freedom promised by the Bolshevik leaders would translate into slavery. Ditto with Castro’s Cuba, Mao’s China, and Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam.

Finally, the hardest reality of all for crusade supporters to grasp: Your own personal growth in knowledge and reasoning power may shed a whole new light on a cause you once thought to be worthwhile. New facts continually arise that may take the glitter off a once seemingly worthy cause.

Bestselling author and futurist Alvin Toffler (Future Shock, The Third Wave, Power Shift) once wrote that when he was a Marxist in his late teens and early twenties, he, “like many young people, thought [he] had all the answers.” He went on to write, “I soon learned that my ‘answers’ were partial, one-sided, and obsolete.”

Any way you slice it, in most cases joining a crusade is hard to justify. Many people join a crusade just to conform, which means they are acting irrationally. Or for companionship with “like-minded” people, which means they are being dishonest with the other members of the group. And, I suspect, many join crusades, knowingly or unknowingly, for nothing more than ego satisfaction, which is the worst of all possible reasons because it tends to lead to evermore irrational actions.

Finally, if you join a crusade only because you are frustrated with your own life, you’re taking the easy way out in order to avoid real solutions to your problems — not to mention inviting additional frustration into your life as a result of not being able to get others to see things your way.

Free advice: If you want to become a true believer, learn to believe in yourself. Not only will it lead to a richer and fuller life, you will be making a greater contribution to society and the world will be a much better place for it.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.