By: Keith Miles
It does seem that mankind needs a cause to which one is committed, devoted and prepared to fight for intellectually and sometimes physically. In this past that desire has been fulfilled in a number of ways.
It may be by devotion throughout an adult life such as a monk or nun, or a doctor or a scientist or charity worker. But sometimes the opposite happens by being a ‘rebel without a cause’ meaning dissatisfaction with society without a clear aim. And sometimes by a strange combination of both.
It does seem that the fall in religious observance particularly in advanced countries has resulted in the youth seeking causes in a quasi religious way. We see extremes of this in the demonstrations that take place sometimes irrationally. Examples are animal welfare extremists who place bombs or harass scientists, or the climate change activists who when they are wealthy people use private jets to attend meetings and cause more CO2 going into the atmosphere from one flight than most of us would in a year.
There is obviously a clear distinction between causes that are constructive , causes that are benign , and causes that are destructive .
Examples of benign causes are fanatical and all absorbing support for a sports team, or pop group or film star. Also artists who are absorbed in their art form. These only become negative if the one holding the cause neglects their duties to family or friends or themselves by missing work or education to follow their ‘cause’.
Destructive causes are where a person gets an obsession so much that they pursue the cause in a violent or illegal way. The example that I gave above of animal welfare extremists is one, and another one is to join and work for a political system that believes in violence, such as communism or fascism, or even a militant religion. These sort of causes believe in forcing their views on the majority. Some of the early communists who were idealists but became disillusioned by the methods used and left the party or like Angela Vode or Milovan Djilas were thrown out.
Causes that are constructive are mostly religious or charitable, sometimes political, sometimes scientific. They usually attract deep believers in the objectives of the cause, and those who willingly dedicate their lives to the objectives, but also they attract many others as supporters who see goodness in their beliefs. They also attract followers who, whilst not completely dedicated, are happy to be part of the process. Patriots are constructive believers in a cause and not to be confused with nationalists. Conservatives who are wrongly sometimes seen as negative usually fit into this category because they believe in keeping the best of the inherited traditions and structure but accept that change can be good.
Sometimes there is a confusion as to which category some enthusiasts fit so that Climate change activists who have an obsessive cause and are convinced that all is man-made are in many ways destructive, but those who accept that climate change is taking place and it is a mixture of reasons have a legitimate and constructive cause to fight for.
Other examples of partly destructive and partly good causes can be found such as the militant evangelism of the Catholic Church in the early days of colonialism in South America, and some protestant sects in North America who wanted to keep Catholics out of political structures.
This year will mark the 30 years since Slovenia’s declaration of independence which one can say was a noble cause for many Slovenes for probably over more than one hundred years. In the words of the opening sentence this was a cause that many were committed and prepared to fight for intellectually and sometimes physically. This was not a confused cause but a clear and constructive one as far as the vast majority of citizens of Slovenia were concerned.
Only one current confused cause comes to mind and that is the European Union. Do the majority of citizens in the EU and Slovenia see it as a cause to die for? Probably not the majority but a minority see its evolution as a quasi religious objective and accept the eventual destruction of the nation state and national sovereignty. Most Slovenes in my view have strong reservations of this objective especially as they wished and hoped for self government for hundreds of years which they achieved in 1991.
Keith Miles is an academic, retired financier and publicist. He is the honorary president of the British-Slovene Society. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s degree in philosophy (MA) and has worked as a financier and auditor in both the public and private sectors for more than 40 years, mainly in the UK.