Badges of belonging

I was working in Rotorua last week, the locals call it Rotovegas, no full blown casinos here, but the usual complement of one armed bandits that leave their mark on society, much the same way as dogs pee on lampposts, not really, visible, but if you hang around long enough you can smell that they have been there and like an unneutered dog, their offspring are visible not just on the mean streets but right through society, heartbreak poverty crime, like uncontrolled mangy, marauding, menacing mongrels, mooching through the streets.

I didn’t intend to move down that path, but it fits into the next part of what I wanted to say.  I blogged the other week about how everyone wants to belong as I was working in Rotorua I was observing the badges that people were wearing.  Not necessarily badges that say member of this group or that group although some people were wearing these but clothing, sunglasses, jewellery, cars, and lanyards.  It was the lanyards that I saw that sparked this blog, I am sure that you have seen them, most often branded with company logos.  My first memory of these is associated with a learning institution that saw an opportunity to build their brand and encourage a sense of belonging.  The lanyards most often used for key holders were an integral part of the uniform that they adopted.

The group in society that adopted this were most often the disaffected, downtrodden and on the margins.  This was an interesting phenomena and at first I thought badges were  pretty naff, and to be honest showed a lack of class, but as I examined a that attitude and be how badging  reflects itself in our society I have come to a different point of view.  A sense of belonging is one of the things that features in hierarchies of needs.  Changes in our society have eroding a sense of belonging and the forms that establishing that have morphed considerably.  Traditional forms of belonging generally fell into things like class, which in New Zealand often meant what work you did, religion, family and ethnicity. We have seen many things in society that have torn apart these institutions of belonging especially in the last years that I am cognisant of.  These changes have mostly affected what used to be referred to as the working class, generally those who have not progressed very much in the education system.

These people have become the most vulnerable to changes in society, with unemployment affected this group in society markedly, unfortunately the demographic of this group is most often marked by Maaori being represented disproportionately.  The reasons for this are varied and too complex to enter into here but suffice to say they are over represented.  It is this group who have taken to badging with some enthusiasm.  The obvious badges are the jackets and the lanyards, but it extends itself from this to the clothes that they wear and the colours of those clothes.  I have heard comments about this as being low class, trailer trash, and to be honest I have caught myself thinking along those lines but reflection on this tells a different story.

The practice of badging is not confined to those who are less well of in society, it is prevalent in all sectors of society, the difference is the tokens, emblems or artefacts that are used to denote or mark the belonging to a group.  These symbols are not so obvious at first glance but they are clearly obvious to those who are in the know.  One of those symbols that have become fashionable are the car stickers denoting members of your family.  They come in many forms and you can personalise the configuration, other symbols are brand name clothing, cars, jewellery, and even phone numbers.  Over the next couple of blogs I will have a look at this need to belong and how it can be negative and positive.  What I wanted to say is that before condemning those who wear badges that you don’t identify with have a look at the badges you wear and reflect on how those badges reflect your identity.

Till next time, live, laugh and love.



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