“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show”; that’s how David Copperfield starts. These words show that, through our actions, we can approve of ourselves and hold treasured positions in others’ lives. This desire is present throughout storytelling, from epic poems like Homer’s Iliad to the Marvel films we flock to cinemas to see now. Such consistency suggests that this is no mere fashion; it’s part of humanity.
Finding ethical purpose and meaning had become crucial to me by the time I left university. I searched for these things in talks, books, movies, documentaries and even business, but the recommendations seemed too general in practice. Eventually, I was fortunate to come across Peter Singer’s “The why and how of effective altruism” TED talk. I found its content deeply compelling and would recommend it to anyone looking to develop their understanding of effective charitable giving.
I was later educated and inspired by EA organisations including The Life You Can Save, Giving What We Can and GiveWell, and by individuals like Toby Ord and Will MacAskill. It wasn’t long before I pledged to give 10% of my income to the Against Malaria Foundation and Schistosomiasis Control Initiative.
Giving demonstrates that ethics aren’t opposed to our self-interest; we wouldn’t be so interested in stories of heroes if it was. Meeting notions of helping others with cynicism is fashionable, but the happiness experienced by the giver and recipient is concrete and well documented. What’s more, if we’re honest with ourselves, peeling back the veil of what is fashionable, we know this intuitively. It’s surely an intuition worth following.