Thursday, May 17, 2012

What does it take to change your stripes?

I went to see the Melbourne Rebels play the Crusaders on Saturday night.  I again sat with the Rebel Army, and had a great time.  Its really enjoyable cheering for your home team, even if neither you nor the players grew up in the City.

There was a young guy (maybe early 20s) proudly wearing a Crusaders jumper, also sitting with the Rebel Army.  He was getting a hard time, but to his credit came up and congratulated the army after the game.  I asked him if he lived in Melbourne and he said he did.  Then I asked him why he didn't cheer for his 'home' side.  His answer was "You never change your colours.".  I asked him to look around at the motley bunch of expat NZers, South Africans, British people - some who had been waiting for decades for Rugby to come to Melbourne.  "Don't you realise that all of these people have changed their colours?  And we're all part of something here, come join us".  He thought about this a little more, and repeated again "Nope, I went through the earthquake last year, I'm Red and Black through and through.  You never change your colours."

This got me thinking.  So what does it take to change your colours?  I've supported the Hurricanes for 15 years, but only because my province, Manawatu, is part of the Wellington region.  This year when the Hurricanes dropped Manawatu's star All Black, Aaron Cruden I've actually swapped to the Chiefs.  But there's something about the Melbourne team, as I've said before. It's well organised, and a great venue, its something to belong to.  Plus, its nice to barrack for the underdogs, especially when they play so well at home.

This got me thinking about other types of teams that people support.  What about Politics?  A famous quote suggests we change in our 20s: "A man who is not a socialist at 20 has no heart;  If he is still a socialist at 30 he has no brain".  I know that I certainly changed my vote between these ages.  I once challenged a good friend of mine about Labour's policies in NZ.  He agreed with me, but essentially conceded, "They're my team, I stick with them".

When governments change, inevitably it is not just the swinging voters that decide the election, it is usually a core shift amongst people that have previously followed a pattern.  How often do you hear such stories as "My Dad voted x for 50 years, but this time he changed".  At what point, does a voter consider a political party to be their team.  Given that there are many instances of Politicians and staff defecting or setting up new parties, I would suggest that some voters more loyalty to the party than party members themselves.

I also wonder at what point does a person's region or country of origin also define their "team".  When new immigrants or refugees arrive to a country, there is a general expectation that they will "join up" - adopt the culture and customs of that country and become "Kiwis" or "Aussies".  In comparison to the Crusaders supporter above, it seems we place a double standard on those that join us, to ourselves when we migrate.   

There are many ways that people or organisations attempt to influence culture to - advertising, media and the Internet are the obvious examples.  There are many thousands employed to argue, persuade and coerce.  The power of social influence has been enhavced by Technology.  I would suggest that the process of assimilation (or changing teams to suit one's environment) is often a slow process which follows social gravitation to people within the new location. 

The world is now littered with expat New Zealanders, and New Zealand has become a home for people from around the world.  It would be interesting to measure how long it takes for New Zealanders to assimilate once they leave the shores. 

So, ask yourself, at what point would you change your team in your current setting?  Can you honestly say that you held the same political views now as 20 years ago, or that you won't change in 20 years?

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