One of my favourite quotes from dramatist WS Gilbert is: “When everyone is somebody then no one is anybody.” Think about its wisdom. Inadvertently it has been my life’s guiding force. I have never been able to tolerate let alone understand mediocrity or dullness. Anonymity was never for me, no matter how hard I tried (and I did try occasionally!).
We live in dull times. For all the so-called liberating elements of recent trends, the reality is that there are fewer characters or individuals. The risks are too great. Social media has a nasty and vindictive streak. If you are different from the rest of the pack, or say something controversial, the mob attacks you. It is nasty and unpleasant. The mob has no conscience. I left Twitter because of it.
"Over the years I have had to endure a number of very dull bosses"
In my first year at secondary school (The Salesian College in Battersea) I was asked in an exam question to define ‘adolescence’ and to outline remedies. I had no idea aged ten what adolescence was so I wrote about it as if it was a disease. I was rewarded with a top mark. My teacher thought I had been very thoughtful and perceptive! It still makes me smile...
Adolescence is a temporary phase and soon passes. Dullness on the other hand is a lifelong affliction. Over the years I have had to endure a number of very dull bosses. I am too kind to name them! Amusingly, they never had no idea just how dull they were. This caused much merriment amongst the rest of us.
Dullness and mediocrity have come to symbolise so many elements of modern life. Just look at the House of Commons. Putting to one side Boris, where are the characters? There are none.
Why is this? At its most generic we now live in a society which is obsessed about the collective rather than the individual. The state grows ever more powerful which inevitably diminishes the role and status of the individual. It means, just as night follows day, that dullness now reigns supreme. It just isn’t worth the effort being different.
I have spent my entire life trying to be different to the rest of the crowd. I never wanted to be part of the mob. I wanted to assert from a very early age that I was different in every possible way. I loved arguing and was a proverbial pain in the bum even when I worked (aged 14) in Barry The Barbers washing guys’ hair, brushing their discarded hair on the floor and offering them condoms as they left!
Fast-forward to now. I am still that pain in the bum. I say what I think and am not afraid to annoy or even cause offence. The difference is that I have hopefully grown up and want ultimately to make people smile and chuckle. Life is too short. I don’t like not being nice!
So I am now guided by Ken Dodd in his famous song Happiness: “Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess. I thank the Lord that I’ve been blessed with more than my share of happiness!” Such wise words.
Written by Peter Bingle, founder of agency Terrapin Communications
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