Sunday, March 12, 2006

The sham of "authenticity"

Why do we assail one another with the false notion of authenticity? I wonder whether the presence of the "other" is what prompts both individuals and communities to defend their sense of self. In light of the political realities of oppression, such reactions are natural in that "authentic" borderlines appear to be a prerequisite for justice. If individuals simply acquiesce to the ideology and demands of the dominant group and assimilate to their demands, then the battle has been lost.

Nevertheless, to argue for authenticity merely buys into the judgments of the majority. If diversity is word, shouldn't authenticity be that against which we strive?

It seems to me that is also a problem amongst Christians who define themselves over against who they are not. So-called "authentic Christianity" is defined within narrow doctrinal, ideological, or ethical concerns. Anyone beyond the pale of such strictures is labeled a heretic, or simply, "one of them."

In our world today, I wonder whether the category of "authenticity" remains viable. Cultures and peoples are commodified by our markets so that "foreign" or "alien" ways of life are domesticated, that is, reduced to the minimal core so that we can all consume some small part of an other's life. Even more, authenticity remains the weapon of the powerful, the apparatus of cultural overseers.