Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I belong

Held over in the Las Vegas airport. Just don’t have the energy to work like I should be doing, so maybe a little bloggage...

I’ve mentioned (ie, rambled on and on about) this before, but today the voices say to talk more about a basic human motivation: the need to belong.

We used to need a tribe to survive. To protect us from starvation, other tribes, wild turtles, whatever.

We don’t necessarily need the tribe any more – in our society one may survive without meaningful connections to other people, or else people like Gloria Allred and Dick Cheney and Nancy Grace would die because everyone hates them.

But at an instinctive level we still want the protection of the clan.

Even more important, we desperately need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It distances us from the reality of our own insignificance, it gives our lives more meaning, it makes things matter more.

Have you ever considered how much we do can be tied back at least in some measure to a need for membership, a need to identify with a group, an idea, a cause?

Consider the following things, and how much the idea of membership underlies our actions related to each issue. Of course there are always other factors, but I believe that Belonging is a significant influence in every case.

Family loyalty
Often if our family sucks* we stick with them anyway. Sometimes this is because we need them, but more often it’s about identity and belonging.
Adopted children search for their birth parents. Feeling part of a family, a lineage, a tradition is powerful. And no matter how much we love our adopted parents and they us, as irrational as it is, we want to know what we’re a part of by birthright; we want as much framework as possible within which to exist.

Patriotism is often irrational in the extreme. Everyone thinks their country is the best country. They can’t all be right, of course, but consider what we get out of that: belonging, membership in something good. So we’re gung-ho to defend our country with all its warts, even if it’s the most wart-filled, war-torn, starving, and corruption-riddled state ever. We’re highly invested in our national membership, in Belonging – what we belong *to* is secondary.

How we dress is often about membership (Goths, anyone?); group identity often influences how we dress even more than utility does, which speaks volumes to me about the power of the membership concept.

Brand loyalty
Chevy vs Ford, Mac vs PC, Democrat vs Republican, wine, pizza, electronics, whatever.

Certainly religion has more behind it than merely identity; but whatever else it does, religion gives us an extremely powerful sense of belonging, of membership.

Bumper stickers
Some are simply humor or political activism, but a huge percentage are a statement of membership, of identity.

What is sports fandom about? First, about making things matter: unless I’m betting the groceries, whether the Seattle Seahawks win or not has virtually zero effect on my life, but if I go to a game it’s 10 times as enjoyable to yell myself hoarse for “my” team.
But second, it’s about Membership. Wearing the jersey of your team is a statement of identity, of belonging.
Fans of entertainers also get membership in the group of People Who Love X; it creates a bond, a group, a way to belong with others.

Social Clubs
Rotary, Elks, Moose, whatever.

Regional Identification
We respond positively to meeting Tracy from our home town even if we have far more in common with Kelly who grew up 1,000 miles away.

Simple statement of preference
When expressing our preferences, we sometimes say “I prefer ______.” But we often say “I’m a ____” (“I’m a country girl” “I’m a Budweiser guy” etc.) as well. Why? Answer: we identify ourselves with something bigger; we’ve established membership rather than merely expressing a personal preference.
Note: this membership/identity factor is especially strong in how we express our taste in music.

The above are just the surface; the more you start thinking about this, the more you see the underlying pattern of a need for membership driving much of what we do. Try it sometime. What other human activities can you think of that suggest a need for belonging?

*To my family: I’m not talking about you.


At Wed Oct 17, 09:59:00 AM PDT, Blogger unca said...

And how about all these "communities"? Long ago, a community was a geographic term. Now it includes everybody who has any idea, diseases, hobby in common (e.g., "the hemmoroid community")

At Wed Oct 17, 03:27:00 PM PDT, Blogger blogball said...

Good point about the community thing unca. I never quite understood it when I hear it used as the Gay Community or the African American Community or the Italian American Community or the Christian Community supports a particular politician or proposition as if they all think in lockstep because of the color of their skin or their creed or their sexual orientation. Where are those community meetings held that voted and decided this for all of those people?

Sorry to get off the subject.
I thought of Cripps or Bloods , paper or plastic, boxers or briefs, Pro or con on the designator hitter rule, tattoos & piercings, Do you like pro wrestling? Everything is a conspiracy, leg man or breast man, Keith Olbermann or Bill O'Reilly just to name a few.

At Wed Oct 17, 09:40:00 PM PDT, Blogger Preben & Ellen said...

we missed you in vegas by 2 days!!! that would have been so fun to see you :)

At Thu Oct 18, 12:30:00 PM PDT, Blogger bryan torre said...

excellent examples, guys.
sorry to miss you, engers!


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