As soon as we are born, we are unconsciously forced to belong to various groups, concepts, people, places or ideas! It only gets worse as we grow up.

It all starts with gender grouping; the blues versus the pinks. Parents decorate their rooms and buy them tiny toddler clothes matching the relevant color code even before the baby is born. The first toys are distinguishing, too; dolls for girls and die-cast cars, squirt guns or soldiers for boys. No wonder neither gender can truly understand the other later in adulthood as they were never let free enough to share a common experience in earlier play times. Just observe the animal world closest to us! Can you figure out the gender of a nearby stray cat or a dog just by watching them play? Both sexes of both animals seem to be enjoying whether they are playing with a ball of yarn or fetching a thrown stick. Shouldn’t we have chosen different toys for our dear pets of opposite genders?

Image Credit: Smithsonian Magazine

When a baby reaches the age of perception, they are told to behave in certain ways in accordance with the set of unspoken norms of the first group they were forced into. Boys are strong! Boys don’t cry! Girls are princesses! Girls must be pretty! Later, the very same gender group also makes an attempt to choose the child’s future profession. Boys are encouraged to be soldiers, constructors and engineers while girls are chased into professions mostly involving interior design, healthcare and culinary arts. Luckily, more and more occupations are becoming gender-less now, such as teachers, doctors, lawyers, artists and scientists. Perhaps because education, fighting for rights, arts and science are far more vital to fit into one sex… or a group..

Other initial forced groupings include religion and national identity, which solely depends on the geography we are born into…

All contemporary religions promote one God, yet we have numerous religions constantly at cold war with each other! It’s like living on the same old planet, but believing that we live in the multi verse of a distant star. Sadly, the distance among our beliefs is far more than any distant planet we might one day travel to. Again in our nearby surroundings, we don’t observe an organised army of mice (whose DNA is 98% similar to human DNA) marching to destroy a group of chimpanzees (whose DNA is 99% similar to human DNA) just because they want to make them accept that cheese is better than bananas!

We live on one planet, where we share common resources like the air, the seas and oceans and forests, yet there are over 200 countries ready to go to war with each other if a severe conflict takes place, willing to contaminate or even destroy the shared necessities of a better shared future. Militaristic tendencies, diplomatic shenanigans and narcissistic leaders are directing our planet into a gradual demise, but we won’t even care if the group we belong to, is victorious in the end. Most works of science fiction tells us stories about an alien invasion of Earth. Why are we assuming the aliens are so violent, land grabbing fanatics and resource hunters like us? Just like the rat-chimpanzee example previously mentioned, mice won’t form armies to claim land and resources from chimpanzees. They will coexist provided they aren’t each other’s natural prey and predator. On a small note; we share half (about 50%) of our DNA with bananas and we will probably share less with aliens from distant corners of our galaxy, yet we still assume they will visit Earth to conquer it!

The urge to belong into a group or groups never stops and this time it becomes willingly.

We support foreign sports teams across the globe, we vote for a political party even if we don’t agree to most of its projects. We establish fan clubs for certain celebrities, we become activists or pacifists, flat-earthers, heavy metal groupies, Cthulhu worshipers, hard core gamers, conspiracy theorists and more… We were forced into certain groups after we were born and perhaps later in life, we are just trying to expand our options to connect with others. Otherwise, how can a Muslim woman born in the Middle East connect with a Christian man living across the globe?

The lengths we go, just to connect!!!

3 thoughts on “Longing for Belonging: Why we feel the need to Connect

  1. It seems that in our societies defining the Other is necessary to strengthen the cohesion of the group itself and to define it. Your article requires the confluence of sociobiological, psychobiological, social psychology, gender analysis … but above all, the confluence of the different sciences to explain the complexity of human behavior both individually and in society. The Consilience demanded by scientists like Wilson, Godfrey-Smith and others and which seems to encounter the same difficulties as the inter-group understanding that it tries to explain. And a deep reflection on each of the issues you mention.
    About gender, we are experiencing the paradox of a global feminist response such as had never occurred since the 60-70s. At the same time, the behaviors of young people (especially men) seem to go back centuries in terms of sexist attitudes. In my opinion, the biggest mistake of feminism of the 60-70s was attributing the whole problem to culture, forgetting the biological bases of behaviors. The wrong analysis leads to insufficient proposals. For example, violence and harassment by men against women are not only
    due to pink and blue, although pink and blue are intended to signal all the good and less good that biology entails.
    About any kind of social groups (religious, political, patriotic…) we live another paradox. Greater need for identity in the globalized world. The necessary construction of The Other to strengthen our cohesion and belonging to a specific group. As a consequence, permanent rivalry.
    Even in the midst of a terrible pandemic more global than the market economy, its analysis and treatment is a reason for political rivalry, for social differentiation. Not everyone suffers it in the same way.

    Finally, intelligence, technological capacity, that which makes us proud as a “chosen species” cannot escape our biology either. We are the most predatory species. Perhaps, if we survive ourselves and the disasters we cause, millions of years of evolution can get a human brain freed from the predatory drive. Perhaps he could no longer call himself human. A new species. A world like that happy Precambrian Arcadia that some paleontologists have believed to find in fossil remains of living beings without shells, spikes, claws, or any defensive-offensive form in which each one peacefully grazed for a planet without struggles.

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