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Sunday, 4 April 2010

Taking Sides



I've often observed this about siblings: they may fight like cats and dogs, but woe betide anyone from outside the family who tries to come between them.

Now, I'm an only child so I don't have personal experience of it, but I've noticed a couple of similar examples from beyond the family sphere.

In Oxford, the student press manages to fill its pages with tales of bitter college rivalries - yet Cambridge is the enemy who readily unites students from disparate halls to form teams for Blues matches. Take one step further out, into the wider world, and I've also noticed that Oxford and Cambridge alumni will tend to put aside their rivalry and acknowledge a mutual respect once the backdrop becomes sufficiently diverse. It seems to be grounded in the commonality of experience: there's no love lost between the institutions, but ultimately there's more the same than different in the collegiate environments with their chapels and quadrangles, the high expectations and intensity of study, and all the eccentric traditions and formal clothes and bizarre terminology.

There's a similar relationship between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Rivals across the Pennines ever since the Wars of the Roses, but we'll close ranks when faced with 'southerners'.

It seems to be part of the human condition to identify groups of "same" and "other" - but almost any individual can be in either group depending on who else is around.

Have you noticed this in your life? What groups are you a part of, and do they form these concentric rings?

11 comments:

Jacqueline said...

You are so true, this does happen, but my brain is too fried at the moment to think how this works in my life :)

liliannattel said...

I often notice this because "us" and "them" is at the root of so much pain on every social and political level. And even beyond what is externally defined, many people feel like outsiders once you get talking to them, all for different reasons. If that sense of threat could be channeled constructively, for eg to deal with climate change and environmental degradation, it would be awe inspiring.

Jim Murdoch said...

We have the same here. In fact my most recent post mentions the centuries long animosity that exists between Glasgow and Edinburgh but we're all Scots and have no time for the English. Where 'England' begins though depends. We have an affinity with the working class of the North but the further south you live the more likely we are to take an immediate dislike to you.

lakeviewer said...

Interesting! We still have tribal feelings, I guess.

Vanillastrawberryspringfields said...

I never really went thru this ...
but so wanna wish u a fab Easter and sparkling super day!!!!

Heidi Ashworth said...

I am one of 8 children and yes, it is all true. I even have a problem with my husband criticizing one of my siblings even when I am bawling my head off at something mean they did or said. I was lucky enough to visit England once and I remember driving along a road that divided England from Wales. It struck me as so odd to be just across the street from citizens from another country (we have so much land and fences and other barriers between the U.S. and Mexico or Canada)which prompted me to ask my friend if they got along. It was this person's opinion that they (the English and the Welsh) hated each other. Hundreds of generations of border skirmishes would do that, I guess. However, I am pretty darn sure that when it's a Brit, whether from England, Wales, Ireland or Scotland, against an American or someone from another country, the Brit's would rally around one another.

ladyfi said...

So true. An observant post... Unfortunately it's this us and them attitude that can lead to so many problems in life...

Jeanne said...

Not only noticed it, but, as a manager, exploited it to build cohesive teams!

Dedene said...

I have no siblings either. But for sure, there are always the "us" and the "them". The French are very good about making clans.

Tabor said...

I think this goes back to our animal biology. When you stick with 'your own kind' you are more likely to get a share of the food and some assistance in avoiding the enemies. Humans have just taken it to the intellectual level.

Louise | Italy said...

I think the same can be said for countries. We may fight amongst ourselves, and most bitterly, but when there's a (real or trumped up) war to be fought, we're all Churchill spirit. It's primaeval!

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