“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” – Edmund Burke

Go read this story on CNN about a two and a half hour rape of a 15 year old at a San Francisco high school function as nearly two dozen people stood around did nothing, or worse, joined in. No one called 911. No one got help. Very reminiscent of the Kitty Genovese case and the bystander effect.

How do you stop something like this?

How do you counteract something like this?

How do you prevent something like this from ever happening in the first place?

Philip Zimbardo, of the Stanford Prison Experiment, has an elegant solution. The problem is the diffusion of responsibility. When a group of people are involved, no one person feels responsible. Only someone who steps forward, someone willing to take risks of social and physical violence, someone willing to bear the burden of breaking a conforming mindset can stop this.

In short, a hero.

Watch this TED talk featuring this discussion:

Dr. Zimbardo’s idea of hero courses is a good one, but probably won’t come to a school, church, or workplace near you any time soon. So how do you get started on this today? His idea of heroic imagination has deep, deep roots, stretching back over thousands of years, across multiple continents. At Stephen K. Hayes’ Evocation seminar, one of the exercises done by participants was a detailed exploration of what our inner superhero looks like, sounds like, and acts like. While it’s impossible to recreate even a fraction of that seminar in the bits and bytes of a blog post, I’ll leave you with a question you can ponder, one that will get you that first step down the path towards finding your own superhero.

Instead of thinking about superhero powers, think about superhero actions.

If you had all the superhero powers you wanted and needed, what would you as a hero stand for, and what in all of the world would you first fight against?

That single question will tell you not the kind of superhero that exists in your daydreams, but the one that exists inside of you right now.

What do you stand for?
What do you stand against?

Think about that as you ponder the San Francisco rape, the Kitty Genovese bystander effect, and Dr. Zimbardo’s lecture. That will be the first step towards awakening your superhero and the superheroes of all those around you.

Do it soon. Do it now. Right now, more than ever, our world needs as many heroes as it can get – including you.

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