I had a thought today about the relationship between “authenticity” and conformity.
First of all, there are many margins of “authenticity”; generally I think the standard view is that the poorer you are/more hardships you face = the more authentic you are and also that the more truthful/honest (inability to be affected by others) you are the more authentic you are. Another margin is that your authenticity is decided largely by your experience as a youth. Jay-z is authentic because he’s from Marcy projects; even though he’s been one of the richest media moguls since his early 20s. A person who is say the son of a wealthy industrialist, but fell on hard times is still defined by his experience as a spoiled teenager. In other words, he can’t truly relate to someone who grew up poor.
So those thoughts are kind of a primer. In music, the idea of wiggers and that white people who like rap music are posers has always really bothered me. This also applies to other groups like Asians. I grew up in the 90s when this idea was in full effect and it’s exemplified in a litany of movies, tv shows, and music videos. Think Jamie Kennedy. Implicit in the idea of wiggers is that white people should objectively like rock music first and foremost and that they would only like something like rap in a touristy semi-fake way. Rockism. In other words, you are white and you are supposed to like rock. That is your authentic self as a white person. I’m making this number up, but let’s say in the 90s you are that 5% of white persons that likes rap; society labels you a poser. You are pretending to like something you really don’t understand. Which led me to a thought that a big part of authenticity is what the average person in “your” group is supposed to like. You will be more authentic if you conform to what those in your group are supposed to like.
Here is a puzzle that I think makes my point clearer. I often find that it is inauthentic when people have very heavy accents. Unlike most, I think wow they are trying really hard to talk different. Yet, in society we often view those with the heaviest accents as the most authentic people from their group or area. Holding other things equal, those in the south with a heavier southern drawl are viewed as more authentic. People with a cockney accent are viewed as more authentic than someone without a cockney accent. Irish people with a heavy Irish accent are viewed as a more authentic Irish person. I view accents as kind of conforming the way you talk with what people in your area or tribe are supposed to talk like. People become more authentic by conforming to what is expected of them on a group level. Kind of disturbing. Maybe there is some human nature/genetics explanation for some speech patterns and that all Irish people talk a certain way, but I find that very hard to believe. When you visit a big multinational corporation in Ireland and a similar one in America; they basically speak the same robotic non accenty English (I’ve heard this referred to as Citibank English). Anyways, that’s my thought and I know there is more to authenticity than that. But, being authentic because you are acting how you are supposed to act is disturbing to me.