If you watched the recently posted video Funny Hats, Funny Faces, you will note that I have quite a collection of unusual hats. You can see most of them in the video 'Funny Hats, Funny Faces'.
For those who don't know me personally, let me assure you that this fabulous collection does not stay confined to my flat. I often make a point of wearing a piece of marvellous head gear whenever I go about my daily business of doing nothing much really. Occasionally, I am in a rush and I forget, on which occasions I am able to wander the streets of Sheffield unrecognised. I am always on the lookout for new hats. Not just any old hats, mind you. There has to be something unique about them. If I come across another person with the exact same hat, I am likely to be keenly disappointed. If anyone has any tips about where I can get myself another unique hat, then please let me know.
Sometimes people wonder why I do this. Perhaps you are wondering now. If so, good! Here are some of the possible reasons which friends, acquaintances, arch enemies and bus drivers have suggested in the past:-
I am a great big self-obsessed poser.
I am trying to compensate for an underlying lack of self-confidence.
I am trying to draw attention to myself when out in public.
None of these are in fact correct. What's that you say? Yes, I am quite sure. I will now explain the real reason. I wear unusual hats because they are a tangible physical reminder to me that I do not have to be 'normal'. I do not have to fit in with what everyone else considers fashionable. I do not have to give a monkey's what other people think of me. I am an individual. Let me make it clear that it is not the hats themselves that make me an individual. That I simply am, as we all are. But the hats remind me of that fact, so that I go through life making my own decisions and do not succumb to the suffocating pressure to be 'normal' and to fit in that comes at us from all angles.
That leads me on to mentioning a video I recently watched from TED. You can watch the video below.
In this video, Philip Zimbardo discusses what it is that leads previously quite 'ordinary' people to commit extraordinary atrocities. I recommend that you stick with the video through to the end where he also reveals what he thinks it is that makes others become 'ordinary heroes' in the same situations.
In summary, the studies which Zimbardo has been involved in indicate that the potential for good and the potential for evil is in every one of us. Certain extreme circumstances and environments will tend to push us either one way or another. The things which make people much more likely to commit evil deeds are conformity, anonymity and lack of accountability. These are the very things that organisations such as the armed forces actively promote. Dressing everyone in uniform, teaching them to follow the orders of superior officers without question, deliberately encouraging them to think that they are not individuals and are not accountable for their actions. People are deliberately dehumanised and once this happens, it is very likely that they can easily commit acts which we would describe as 'inhuman'. On the other side of the coin, the things which make people act heroically are a strong sense of individuality and unshakable personal principles that cannot be affected by peer group or authority pressure. These people are completely personally accountable for their actions and make decisions accordingly.
It appears to me that, unfortunately, our society as a whole is geared mainly towards encouraging conformity and stamping out individuality. Schools dress children in uniform from an early age. The exam system tests their ability to repeat what someone else thinks rather than to think for themselves. In offices up and down the land employees are encouraged to stick to a dress code and follow rigid corporate rules. Politicians have to follow the party whip rather than vote freely for what they think is right. Fashion magazines encourage us to follow trends rather than to buck them. Television and the press encourage us to forget our own unique lives and our own potential and to instead live our lives through celebrities, reality TV contestants or even fictional soap characters.
Well bollocks to that! To quote a Style Council song, 'We don't have to take this crap. We don't have to sit back and relax. We can actually try changing it.'
My hats are a physical reminder to me to do that every day. I am not a follower. I am an individual. I am not a sheep. I am a wolf. I am Pete Hughes and I will decide for myself how my life unfolds. Forward I will stride, shoulder to shoulder with my friends and help create a better world. Who is with me?
"If you blunder for ten years while thinking for yourself, that is rich treasure when compared with living these ten years under the mental domination of [others]."
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