In his book, United, Senator Cory Booker describes a woman he met who shaped his life when he was living in a high rise housing unit in Newark, New Jersey named Ms. Virginia Jones. She was the leader of the Tenants Association, and a strong leader advocating for more support for the families stuck in Brick Tower, the building that she and Booker lived in when they met.
Booker had many direct interactions with Ms. Jones, as did almost everyone living in the building, and he was struck by her leadership. Reflecting on her leadership he writes, “I would come to know that Ms. Jones embodied a critical ideal of leadership: you can’t lead the people unless you love the people, she was a leader in that community because people knew she loved them, no matter what. She had an infinite reservoir of love.”
Many people want to be in leadership positions and want to be loved by the people around them, but are unable to truly connect with the people in their community or organization. The lesson Booker learned from Ms. Jones is that before you can receive the love of others, you must first become outwardly loving, interested in connecting with others, and truly committed to being there for the people around you. By showing your love for the people around you, you can build trust and develop the leadership skills necessary to receive that same love in a reciprocal fashion.
Ms. Jones challenged Booker and challenged the people in the community to become something better and to become more responsive to their common needs. She looked out for the community because she loved the community. She was not looking out only for herself out of self love, and as a result she was loved and respected by the rest of the community.
Peter Singer address some of the criticism of the philosophy surrounding effective altruism in his book, The Most Good You Can Do. He writes that effective altruists are criticized from a parenting standpoint when they focus on the importance of the lives of every child and not just their own. This point of view for effective altruists expands beyond valuing all children within a neighborhood, community, or state as being truly equal, and looks at all children across the globe as being equal. It is a challenging idea because of the bias we accept in providing as much as possible for our children to ensure that they have every advantage possible in life. Part of our culture values the idea of being able to provide everything our children want, and we see being unable to meet their desires as a lack of success. This has created a mindset for many individuals where we should not sacrifice our children’s desires, even if that means we are going to try and bring the quality of life for other children to an equal level. However, for an effective altruist, all lives are equally important because all lives can face the same suffering and can also potentially produce the same good for the world. When it comes to the love an effective altruist would show his of her child, Singer writes,
“Critics of effective altruism often suggest … that there is something odd or unnatural about being moved by the “strictly intellectual” understanding that a child in Pakistan or Zambia is just as valuable as your own child. But … Loving your own child does not mean you have to be so dazzled by your love that you are unable to see that there is a point of view from which other children matter just as much as your own or that this perspective is unable to have an impact on the way you live.”
What Singer seems to be arguing is not that all effective altruists focus more on other children than they do their own children, or that they love their own children less than other parents love their children. Singer is suggesting that effective altruists have access to perspectives that many others never consider. Being able to see the world from additional perspectives may not change the way they feel toward their own child, but it may help to change the way they feel about children across the world who they will never see.