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Better Barrels and the Creation of (super)Heroes

Brooklyn Superhero Supply on Flickr[Refill your superhero supplies on Flickr by sodapop]

This has been one busy, yet transformational, month for me.

It all started with my participation in TED 2008 in Aspen, Colorado. TED, for those of you who haven't heard of it, stands for Technology Entertainment Design, and it is an invitation-based conference. It is also, bar-none, the most inspirational conference I've ever attended. Inspirational because each and every one of the speakers weren't just talking about small ideas and weren't just doing smart, interesting things. Inspirational because each and every one of the speakers were talking about BIG, earth-shattering ideas and doing incredibly world-changing things. And they all had incredible passion. Incredible. This, coupled with the fact that the attendees were hand-chosen as world-changers themselves made for a really transformative experience.

But the one drawback for me was, because of the prohibitive cost ($3000-6000+) of attending, many world-changers I know of weren't able to be part of it. AND because of that barrier, a smaller group gets moved to the level that I was moved. I sat there wanting to take that energy and spread it to a wider group of people...especially people who may never get to be in that room.

Especially after a talk by Dr. Philip Zimbardo (otherwise known as Dr. Z) on The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

Dr. Z's basic premise is this: There are no 'bad apples', only bad barrels. Inside of each of us is the propensity to act like a hero or act like a villian. He has a great deal of amazing research to back this up. He was behind the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 that took a healthy, nice group of middle-class kids and put them under conditions that led to the kids playing 'guards' treating the kids playing 'prisoners' so inhumanely, they had to call the experiment off. The amount of time to the shut-down of the experiment? 6 days. Similarly, Zimbardo discusses Abu Ghraib as a site for creating a similarly 'evil creation' environment, leading everyday 'nice' soldiers to treat their prisoners with sadism and extreme cruelty and humiliation. The book cites multiple examples around the world, including the awful genocide in Rwanda, where people raped and slaughtered former friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers.

Just writing that paragraph emotionally kills me. But the evidence astoundingly points to the bad barrels theory. Zimbardo does not take the responsibility off of the apples in that barrel, but the evidence that 'nice' people can turn evil is compelling. The beauty of this theory is that it gives us a clue as to the conditions for the creation of evil acts, which we can then avoid, and similarly, gives us a clue as to the opposite conditions: the conditions to create heroic acts.

And that is when it dawned on me: what if we had a *camp to create heroes? What if I put together a (super)HeroCamp to not only create heroes, but to create heroes that create MORE heroes? If I could sit down with many of those people I was missing at TED and come up with a plan to build better barrels....what would happen? So, I set up the wiki page and tweeted my intentions, getting alot of instant support.

So, this August in Vancouver, BC, Canada, a legion of Heroes will gather around the idea to create legions of Heroes. We've picked a narrow area to start with so that we can really focus a program: education. Over the duration of 4-5 days, we will come up with a plan that is easily executable by legions of others and the materials (website, print materials, etc.) that can help anyone interested to this spread it further.

Or, that's the hope anyway. :)

My new goal is to look at creating the conditions in as many places possible to create (super)Heroes and radically subvert those barrels that create villians. Ideas are welcome and your involvement is necessary. I know there are many (super)Heroes that read this blog. :)