The letter arrived at home. It was thin and flimsy, far too unobtrusive to be a bill. When I opened it, I found a sticker inside. It filled me with the same joy that receiving a sticker gives a young child, but even more so than the little gold stars we used to be offered in school, because this sticker was bigger- the kind designed to be put on your car.
Think of three things which define you. Three traits which make you who you are.
A sport that you do or follow. The field you work in. Your belief in a god, or a lack thereof. Maybe you think pineapple on pizza is an abomination, or maybe you're deluded.
There are a handful of personality knick-knacks which make you who you are. They may not be the ones I've listed, but they're somewhere in you. Chances are they're the things which best be avoided with you at dinner parties unless one wants to find themselves trapped in a conversation where your morals bend under the weight of the absolute codswallop about Peruvian basket weaving or something of the sort you are listening to, until you decide that in this context it is perfectly acceptable to lie about your need for the bathroom and your intent to return afterwards.
Humans have a primal urge to identify to a tribe. It is an integral part of the fabric of our society- from fans of sports teams, to school leavers. Politics to gangs. Religion to racism. It's all about the inborn desire for being a part of something. We want to share things in common with others, because similarity infers connection. If we have things in common with others, they'll probably like us, and friends are better than enemies when it comes to surviving.
Ask Maslow about it. When he wrote the Hierarchy of Needs, he concluded that connection and belonging were so crucial to humans flourishing that he made it the next most important thing after security. Food and water, safety from getting bashed, and then people who like us and who are like us- the basics we need to survive and thrive.
In modern day society, we still found ourselves divided up into little circles of our preferences or our past. We look for groups we can relate to and we cling onto them, many of them, weaving this big overlapping mesh of societal fabric in the process.
I prefer tea to coffee, I went to Christchurch Boys' High School, I do triathlon, I'm from Christchurch - these are some of the little circles I am a member of, alongside you in some of them most likely. If we met and had one of them in common, we would talk about it and bond over it.
My apartment building has a social club. The reason for the club is that we are all undoubtedly connected by the same plumbing system, and little else. They still love to meet up for a chat once a month.
Even those who aim to stand apart do so in order to stand beside all of the others who want to be different. Like the nervous kid on the first day of school, we just want to fit in and be liked within some group of society.
And when you find that place, ladies and gentlemen, the place where you really fit in and belong, above all other tribes? That is where bumper stickers begin to appear.
The power of connection and acceptance is self-evident, in that it can compel a person to plaster a bumper sticker on the back of their car. The immense pride of being part of something, the announcement that "I don't mind if you don't like me or my niche interest, because there are other people like me, and I've got this sticker right here to prove it" is an extraordinary thing.
The bumper sticker-stickers want those who are also part of their tribe to be able to identify them, and they want the people who aren't part of their tribe to look on in awe. There could be no more bold way to proclaim your connection to a tribe than by turning your car into a billboard for it- other than to have it tattooed across your face, which happened for a few centuries before cars existed.
There is a certain beauty in the self-assurance that comes with a bumper sticker, because when you see one, you know that person has found themselves, and they've found their tribe. They've got the confidence that comes from it, and the bumper sticker to prove it as well. Good on them.
So when I got this bumper sticker, of course I did the obvious. I stuck it on my car- because everyone wants to feel a part of something. Now it adorns the rear window, making the car undeniably uglier, but making it part of my tribe.