Sunday, 4 April 2010
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?