This speaks to me.
In a globalised, consumerist society, identity seems much less something we inherit and increasingly something we can choose, shape or discard…On the one hand, we have an urge to affirm our own individuality and differentiate ourselves from some of the more suffocating aspects of our traditional identities. On the other, this is offset by a continuing human need to belong, to remain anchored in something collective.
That’s that alternation or ambivalence between attachment and autonomy again. We want both, and since they’re pretty fundamentally opposed, we often find ourselves tossed back and forth between them. ‘I love you go away’ syndrome. There’s no place like home when can I leave. I feel so secure, I’m suffocating.
If ties to party, class, faith and nation can no longer be relied upon to generate the foundations of a cohesive society, it is also not clear that the flexible, consumerist approach to identity is an adequate replacement…We already know a great deal about why our encounter culture is so valuable. The American sociologist Mark Granovetter captured it well when he spoke of “the strength of weak ties.”…Having the right mix of strong and weak ties is an essential component of people’s quality of life, no matter where they lie on the income scale…Granovetter’s work has greatly influenced subsequent research on social capital – the social ties, bonds, values and loyalties that we hold in common and which help knit our society together…Further evidence of the value of encounter culture comes from social psychology. Fifty years since it was first expounded by Gordon Allport, the so-called “contact hypothesis” has shown that under the right conditions, increasing the level of contact between different groups is enough to generate more favourable relationships between them…We need to recognise the vast swathes of potential encounter culture that exists within the arts, sport and culture.
Read the whole thing, as the saying goes.