Essay by viviviviHigh School, 11th gradeA, October 2008

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BELONGING: being a member or part of a certain group or form.

An understanding of belonging is essential as it is an inherent human condition. One either belongs or does not belong to an existing entity.

There are many different groups people belong to. Some include family, peer/social groups, teams, clubs, cultural groups, school, work, nationality/country and lifestyles.

To belong beyond/without a doubt, one needs to fit the expectations/norms of that particular group for instance, to belong to a school community one must be prepared to attend school classes and cooperate with the staff and fellow students, otherwise there is the risk of expulsion.

An individual's identity is closely interrelated with belonging. Groups are formed due to the similarities/shared interests of its members. Characteristics such as age, gender, location/environment, family, socio-economic status, dominant culture, friends, race/cultural heritage, political views, education, heredity and lifestyle are powerful forces pulling people towards particular groups.

We all enjoy the security of the familiar and it is easy to feel frightened when moving into the unknown, the road we haven't travelled.

Belonging is often used as a safety blanket. People use it to differentiate between groups. A prime example of this is bigotry. The Cronulla riots were the result of irrational racist remarks exchanged between the Lebanese and the Caucasians. Violence, harassment and vilification were present and social groups were established and strengthened purely based on race/cultural group - leading to divisions within the community, ongoing discrimination and social unrest.

Past experiences can teach us life lessons in relation to belonging. "When we begin to understand the forces that drive us to belong, we develop empathy for others and personal insight." Once this happens social barriers break down. One realises that to ensure they belong and are accepted within society they must stop...