In these increasingly digital yet tactility deficient times, where Post-Truth is the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year; advances in technology are raising questions about what a ‘real’ human is; and, laid-off workers turned out in droves to elect a man who claims he’ll serve their immediate employment concerns while deporting that nice family down the road and denying climate change among other questionable policy stances, discussions on authenticity are needed more than ever.
Interestingly, it is now 4 consecutive years where the notable words of the preceding 12 months have been associated with some degree of inauthenticity. Last year it was Face of Tears of Joy emoji, 2014 was Vape and 2013 Selfie. Each of these words (2016 included) crossed the Atlantic (and thus the entire English speaking world) in being selected as both the UK and US Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year. Ironically, a contender for the 2016 Word of the Year, Woke (which embodies the fight against a Post-Truth world) lost out, as has its originally intended meaning, now relegated to hash tags accompanying disposable, vacuous 160 character thought bubbles.
This post departs from a dialogue that Daniel Paul Marshall began, asking his readers to share their definition of authenticity. Daniel’s intention is to harness the sentiments of the dialogues, and oscillate “…between blocks of my personal research, perhaps tradition as regards society, specifics, probably Korea & how it has warped, then switch to a sort of dialogue written in the format of a play…” I have no doubt whatever form it takes, it will be an engaging read.
My foray into the dialogue on authenticity was an attempt at an all-encompassing, one-size fits all definition:
Something or someone with qualities that haven’t/aren’t tainted by an interaction / passing of years / observation / consumption / public perception.
Daniel being ever inquisitive (I quickly learnt) fired back many questions that forced me to re-think, elaborate, and test my definition against possible exceptions as well as demarcating the blurry line between Original and Authentic.
The initial dialogue was weeks ago and continued in a second post on Daniel’s blog where he focused the discussion around travel. His question then was “… what do you think is involved to make an ‘authentic’ travel experience?”
To which my initial (lengthy) response was:
Authentic travel experiences, in my opinion, are mainly influenced by the mindset of the traveler and the openness to immerse in local cultures in a respectful manner. Get that right, and it will be authentic, because you’ll get an insight into the present day culture of the place you are visiting. I know some people think authentic has to be going to a place that has no other tourists and the locals have not been exposed to outside influences, but you’d need to time travel if that is what you’re after (in my opinion). 2 authentic experiences I have had that stand out was bumping into locals in Grimyachinsk as my friend and I were going to brave a cold swim in Lake Baikal (and get 10 extra years of life or something…). These incredibly generous people suggested we come back to their place for lunch once we were done- we were totally immersed in the spirit of it all and didn’t think twice about saying yes and in doing so, learnt a little more about their piece of the world. The other one was travelling through Mongolia and being invited in for milk tea or a fermented brew whenever we chanced upon a ger in the sparsely populated steppes. The gers almost all had satellite dishes and a TV inside, but it was an authentic experience as it provided an insight into the customs and culture that were true at that point in time. Neither of these experiences could be purchased or booked- they were part of just ‘being’ in the place and in those moments.
But it didn’t end there. In the comments of a microfiction piece I posted last week, Daniel and I returned to familiar ground, and others bloggers joined the dialogue. What better way to strengthen our virtual connections and add a dose of real than to discuss our thoughts on authenticity? I hope it will inspire a chain reaction of thoughts on what it means to each of us; in turn allowing a connection with our true selves and either re-defining or confirming what we are willing to accept or ready to fight against in the world around us, halting the mass migration toward a mono-culture where a word such as ‘post-truth’ can warrant prolific use.
Please share your thoughts (here or on *Daniel’s blog) on what authenticity means to you, in a specific area or a broad meaning you feel holds water regardless of context.
*If you do comment on Daniel’s blog, bear in mind that he is offline for a couple of weeks but would no doubt love to read and respond to your comments on his return (a little payback for the Spanish Inquisition I underwent haha).