The Essence of Social Causes

Social causes of all kinds can be summed up by the following:
"The needs of the few outweigh the wants of the many."

Or maybe let's expand it and make it more poetic, 
"The needs or rights of any outweigh the wants or desires of the many."

All that changes between various social causes is the specifics of the 'any' here. The 'any' may be a minority group, homeless people, or future generations. Or it may even be voiceless animals or a community of merely a handful of people. Here are some examples of this phrase in action...
  • A startup's desire for growth is outweighed by the well-being of society.
  • A business's desire for a higher profit is outweighed by the employees' right to a living wage.
  • A resident's desire for an area free of homeless people is outweighed by the homeless person's right to survive.
  • Our desire not to move over fossil fuels is outweighed by the future generations' right to a habitable planet.
  • One's desire for a street-animal-free street is outweighed by the animal's right to live.
This quote also underlines why conflicts occur over social causes. It is easy to confuse our needs and rights with our wants and desires. No one likes it when their needs or rights are attacked. Who would not like to have all four fulfilled?

But if you hate a cause, think of what you're losing. Are you losing something you need or merely a desire? A right or merely a want? And are you really losing the desire or want, or do you merely think you will? If you will lose them, what's the probability of it happening? What are the chances of some damage actually happening to you? Are you falling prey to someone who has a vested interest in convincing you of a higher likelihood of that damage? If so, then who is the real culprit? The simplest or the quickest answers are not always logically correct.

And what is the affected party gaining? Are they merely gaining a right that will have no material effect on your life? Are they simply fulfilling their needs? Needs that you might already have fulfilled for yourself. Needs that, if fulfilled for them, might even have a positive impact on society as a whole. Positive impact that would eventually trickle down to your or your loved ones' lives. Most situations in the world, luckily, are not zero-sum games.

While inspired in its structure by the philosophical principle of utilitarianism, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," my quote completely opposes it. Maybe that's why most activists or volunteers are hated in their time. Their choices seem illogical. Many times, they focus on the needs and rights of the few. Many times, they disregard what is obviously profitable or desirable for society in the short run for some hypothetical benefit in the long run. Sometimes, their stand seems to only have a personal or emotional basis, even though it doesn't. Many times, their beliefs are just ahead of their time and are understandably challenging for the people in their time to understand. That leads to some conflict, which is understandable. Or sometimes a lot of conflict. Sometimes, it leads to violence. Sometimes, it leads to lost lives. Those are not understandable.

But they're often looked up to by at least a minority in their time. And they are surely celebrated and looked up to as pioneers after a few decades or centuries by everyone. The collective conscience of society eventually evolves and gives way. The world doesn't become a better place each day, but contrary to what you might feel as a reader of the daily news, it surely becomes a better place each decade. The largest glaciers often look stagnant.

Social causes, at the end of the day, are about correcting the mistakes of others. They are about reducing the collective sins of humanity. A few people's negative or indifferent actions, even if done without any malintent, need to be balanced by someone. Someone needs to take responsibility. Someone needs to take the bullet. Unfortunately, the latter sometimes ceases to be a figure of speech.

A social volunteer's life is funny. They want to be out of business. They want the cause to become moot. They want society to be fixed and for them to not be needed. More often than not, they are fighting a losing battle with a small glimmer of hope to win. The losses come daily, and the victory may never come. (This reminds me of entrepreneurship).

Here's an example from my life. A world without street animals is a happier world for me. I get a few minutes of happiness petting them and days of sorrow when they get hurt or die, often from cruelty. The saddest sight for me is to see a new litter of adorable puppies or kittens. Seeing them on the streets reminds me of the biases we have against indigenous or natural breeds.

I hate street dogs and cats. Because I don't want them to be on the streets! I don't want more of them to be born and be subjected to all sorts of cruelty. I want them to be inside homes where they belong and to fulfill the purpose humanity created and bred them for. When that happens, I will no longer be needed, and then I can devote my time to other stuff – other causes.

This essay is not in support of your least-liked social cause. It just helps one understand the other party's perspective, something that someone on any side of a social cause, for or against, should do a little bit more for the betterment of the world.