I don’t know if this is universal or not, but I have heroic aspirations. I think many of us do. We want to be part of a story of overcoming. We want to fight for a cause. At least, I do. Maybe you do too.
Leave it to the evolutionary psychologists to hypothesize why that might be. We’re story-telling animals, and we seem to like it best when the stories are epic. This is part of how we find meaning. How we make meaning for ourselves. Beyond that, I don’t know.
I wish I had something more profound to say about this, but I don’t think I do.
What I have is causes that I think are worth fighting for. Formally speaking, they’re all tokens of the type “stand up for the defenseless”. They’re all about using power for the sake of the powerless. They’re about standing to bullies, to cruel people and practices. They’re about dreaming of a future with less suffering and more joy than the present. They’re my contributions to the project of diminishing misery, wherever I find it, and to the project of magnifying happiness, or at least the possibility of happiness.
My causes? Here are the top five.
(1) Fighting misogyny. Standing against the assholes who would belittle and beat women. Striving to stand against and correct my own inner douchebag.
(2) Fighting homophobia. Resisting the policing of stupid gender norms according to which men can’t cry, feel, or empathize, and according to which women can’t think, can’t be strong, can’t contribute more to the world than their sexual appeal to heterosexual men. Celebrating the beauty of nonviolent love, whatever its object.
(3) Fighting cruelty to animals. Making visible the unnecessary suffering of our fellow sentient creatures. Breaking through artificial limits to empathetic concern for non-human others. Appreciating the awesome complexity and beauty of sentient life.
(4) Fighting superstitious sanctifications of tradition for tradition’s sake. Revealing the errors of religious and magical thinking. Empowering individuals to make their own decisions responsibly.
(5) Fighting the economic magnification of human productive differences. Rejecting the supposed necessity and ineliminability of poverty. Critiquing acquisitiveness, greed, materialism, and, yes, rich people–at least tho ones who refuse solidarity with the poor.
These are my causes.
What are yours?