Authenticity can be a tricky thing. Much of our culture right now is born out of a craving for what is really real, truly authentic. What started as a hipster sub-culture only a handful of years ago has given way to pervasive obsession with fifties hairstyles and organic, non-GMO anything and everything.
I’m down with this movement. I like it.
I prefer non-corporatized, non-homogenous culture that buys local instead of snarfing McDonalds cheeseburgers and sees the simple pleasure of a well-crafted coffee drink as something closer to the heart of life than the sheer pursuit of the Almighty D$llar.
There seems to be something, I dunno, Catholic about it all.
This rallying cry of authenticity extends to how many want to live their lives at a level even deeper than their eyewear choice. Many Millennials often shorns career paths that might turn them into corporate drones, cause them to neglect their passions, or corrupt their values. I have a lot of friends who would rather deliver pizzas and be “true to themselves” than pursue a 9-5 that might end up sucking out their soul. The pluses and minuses of such a career decision notwithstanding, the craving for authenticity is clear.
Up to this point, I’m pretty okay with what could be labeled the “authenticity movement.” There’s just one trend which has developed alongside it that I take issue with: It's increasingly common to conflate the idea of “being authentic” with “being the worst version of myself.”
It's obvious the way that the authenticity rallying cry has affected our culture in larger ways. Our way of life is currently splintering because our moral code has become, “Be exactly who you are and who you are is basically how you feel in the moment.” Don't regret that thing you did: in the moment you really wanted it.
That's been written about before. But what about the little ways in which the “authenticity movement” can be dangerous?
Maybe its drinking a little too much but, like, hey, at least you’re being real. Maybe you keep that swearing habit around as a comfortable little vice because like, you’re just being who you really are. Maybe you are rude to people (either to them or behind their back) but at least you “tell it like it is.” Maybe you’re unprofessional in a business setting, or inappropriately irreverent about sacred things, or grumpy because you’re PMSing but at least you haven’t bought into the lies that our ancestors did about falling into line and acting homogenously by repressing what they really felt.
And here’s where my issue comes in. Is authenticity really just the removal of our inhibitions or filters? Is someone striving after virtue, doing the best to eradicate those little foibles, being somehow inauthentic?
I guess at the heart of what I’m asking is, “Are drunk people really more honest?”
Isn’t there something about that little filter which knows not to just say exactly what you think or eat whatever’s in front of you or, like Sparky, hump whatever we want in the moment. Are our opinions, our likes and dislikes, really the sole arbiters of what is good?
Are we really that narcissistic?
I guess my only point is simply to propose that maybe there’s something authentically human about trying to conform your actions, even the small ones, to an ideal, whether moral or of etiquette. Maybe you’re not being fake if you go to a party and just smile at people and make small talk even when you don’t feel like it.
Maybe the slow, painful process of eradicating our vices, even the ones that truly are part of “who we are” is at the heart of what it means to be human.