When someone recruits you for a Cause Greater Than Yourself, run, especially if it’s a government doing the recruiting.
This time of year prompts tributes to Causes Greater Than Yourself (CGTY). You’re to count your blessings and rededicate yourself to one or more such causes. Christianity may be on the wane, however, a panoply of secular CGTY have sprung up to replace it and its good works, purportedly filling voids in souls. What’s best not to think about—if you wish to preserve your sanity—is how much of your life you’re devoting to causes less than yourself.
The widow of a dead soldier asks the questions, perhaps as she glances at the flag that draped her husband’s coffin, folded into its triangle, displayed in its case on the fireplace mantel. A veteran, broken in body, mind, and spirit, living in an apartment through the thin walls of which he can hear the neighboring couple when they make either love or war, asks the questions as he drains his coffee laced with whiskey. Was it worth it? Did they lose what they lost in a cause greater than themselves? These are questions those who have lost nothing or have everything don’t ask, but torment those who have lost.
For some the answer is yes. The“righteous cause” rhetoric is out the window with the first combat or IED. What remains, what’s real, are survival and your fellow soldiers. Military annals are full of the heroism of those who gave some or all to save their brothers, heroism that transcends the official reasons for war. They were wounded or killed for those they cared about, who cared about them and would have done the same. If they survived, they have that comfort; if they didn’t, their loved ones do.
Military annals are also full of senseless wars waged for stupid and corrupt reasons. The US government has added many such chapters in pursuit of a global order subservient to its commercial and political interests. These interests have no connection to the actual defense of the United States. Politicians, the military and intelligence bureaucracies, contractors, and US allies, including freeloading welfare states and repressive regimes, reap the benefits. Those doing the fighting bear the cost.
To say that those who pay—idealistic, perhaps naively so, often young and in the prime of their lives—are serving causes greater than themselves is to make a mockery of the concept. They are sacrificed to empire building, hypocrisy, and corruption. They and their loved ones can only conclude, with understandable bitterness, that their sacrifices were not worth it.
Nothing can exceed or match such sacrifice. Unfortunately, sacrificing good to evil is standard operating procedure for governments. The mother lode for warfare and everything else governments do is what they extract from the productive. What producers pay is not comparable to losing life or limb in combat, and some of their taxes go to the those doing the fighting or those who previously fought. However, that’s only a small percentage of the government’s budget. For the rest of it, think of the time and effort those taxes represent: trillions of hours. For the productive, it’s a meaningful portion of their lives, their irretrievable time. Is it worth it? Do they lose for causes greater than themselves?
Only idiots irredeemably beyond useful would answer those questions in the affirmative. Most taxes go into someone else’s pocket, with a not insignificant diversion to Washington, the nation’s richest metropolitan area. They fund programs that make problems worse—like Obamacare—and all those senseless wars. They pay salaries for regulators enforcing a Himalayan stack of laws and regulations that make it difficult or impossible for producers to produce. Despite the trillions the government extracts, it cannot make ends meet, so a chunk of taxes goes towards interest on the ever-increasing debt. Regardless of whether its citizens can fund themselves, the government always finds a way to fund itself.
THE PRIME DECEIT IS THAT
THEY CARE ABOUT YOU
Speaking of taxes going into someone else’s pocket, did a single producer get a nice Thank You note or holiday card this Christmas season? You’d think that a few of the millions of beneficiaries of government’s coercive redistribution might express some gratitude to those from whence their bounty was extracted. It never happens. Many believe they are entitled to what they get, that producers should be grateful for the opportunity to devote themselves to a cause greater than themselves—supporting the unproductive.
With religious fervor “social justice” CGTY are pushed by adherents who mostly shun traditional religion: income equality, environmental preservation at all costs,
global warmin g climate change, the rights of heretofore marginalized sexual and gender minorities, and open immigration. These CGTY are given halos like “holistic, “dreamers” “pay it forward,” and “give back.” You’d be hard pressed to pick up a popular periodical devoid of the lingo. Corporate America, ever attuned to shifting trends, features this goo in its advertising, press releases, and annual reports. Whole Foods and Tesla make purchasing organic vegetables or electric cars CGTY. Starbucks sells a water called Ethos—morally transcendent H20!
The idea is to turn all the right causes into CGTY. They have a common leitmotif: elevate the collective, diminish the individual. It’s absurd to say: “Do it for a cause greater than yourself, do it for yourself.” That’s why it’s always: “Do it for fill in the blank collective.” Only a few hardy individualists ever resist the crowd and its causes, usually at great personal cost. For the rest, it’s join now, and often, regret later.
It is SLL’s New Year’s wish that you freely choose the causes you deem worthy of your time, energy, and money, and spend not one second more than you’re compelled to on causes less than yourself.