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Sartre, Nietzsche, Solzhenitsyn, J Cole and Noname: Why Authenticity Matters

Authenticity is something that I deeply care about. Authenticity in everything. I was the kid that wanted to know how the magic trick worked and it actually wouldn’t ruin the trick for me. It’s this innate quest of human curiosity that has led to some of our greatest findings in science, philosophy, art and culture. These findings were made by people trying to make out what the fundamentals of reality were. People like Francis Bacon, René Descartes and Dave Chappelle, despite exploring different mediums, are all in search of the same authenticity in reality.

Modern Science and Scientific theory tries to find the objective truths that can be recreated, while a lot of philosophy and art try to find the truths in the subjective experience, emotions, motivations and ideas. Those findings by artists, philosophers and scientists are the makeup of our modern society. The term "democracy" first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens during classical antiquity. The artists innovated architecture, cities and created the culture we live in. And scientists along with artists had scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements that provided us with the luxury of comfort that many of us live with today. And so I uphold authenticity to be a core value in my being and in how I maneuver through life.

I’m 21 years old and I’m starting to realize that I know more than I can actually know. What I mean by that is, my curiosity has provided me with a level of theoretical knowledge that well surpasses my lived experience. And we live in the Information Age, so the rapid pace in which we consume information can leave us feeling more informed than we actually are. And because of that we have a bunch of fake self help gurus that are providing advice without actually having any lived experience. These people don’t think they’re lying, but they’re just inauthentically regurgitating something they heard from someone else, who was regurgitating what they heard from someone else. And that’s basically what social media is right now as well.

The invention of social media has given us the capacity of global communication which is unprecedented. But it also made everyone’s opinion valid because of how we consume information. The President's tweet is just as, if not less valid than some influencer with a billion followers. Ninja, the guy that plays Fortnite for a living, is as influential and has an opinion which is as valid as any world leader. And that’s created an odd moment in time.

I go on Twitter and it’s impossible not to be consumed by the haikus of outrage which is the current cesspool of Twitter. I got on Twitter when I was in 7th grade and it was strictly for jokes. And now every tweet is viewed as a statement. Which is why cancel culture exists. Certain things that were allowed to be said in jest 10 years ago are viewed as statements now in the context of our current culture where what’s tolerated and “socially acceptable” has shifted. And so everyone shares their opinions as gospel and condemns other people’s opinions, or even discredits someone’s opinion because of something they said a decade ago.

Most people on Twitter are between the ages of 18-34. And all of these people who are relatively young, with clearly limited experience, are giving each other moral absolutes to live by and bullying each other for not complying to their arbitrary rules within the confines of 140 characters. It’s literally the blind leading the blind. Political activists and politicians are subjected to confining their speech and having billions of people react to 140 characters. There’s no such thing as a fully fleshed out and successful mode of being that can be broken down to 140 characters. And the person who is giving this mode of being is a lot of times an inexperienced and flawed human, like everyone else.

But the reason why this person believes they can impose their mode of being on the world is because we all have platforms and voices to share our opinions, and everyone’s opinion is valid. And the problem is not with the expression of one's opinion but with the fact that the opinion has no base, cause it’s not really your opinion. A lot of times It’s an uninformed opinion simply by the fact that most of your knowledge is actually someone else’s idea. The idea is not yours and is not authentic. It's a sample from someone else's lived experience, which is helpful in some ways because you are easily grasping something that took someone a long time to figure out, but again you can’t know it to be true because it's not your truth.

Many people are using terms like abolishment, defunding and socialism as catchphrases when they have done absolutely no reading on the concepts. It's a trend at the moment and so people hop on without having to do the work. Their favourite influencer heard the term from their favourite rapper which has barely done any readings themselves. J Cole is a conscious rapper and has become a youth leader and role model against his will because of his level of influence. Earlier this week after a back and forth with Chicago rapper and activist Noname, J Cole admitted that he should not be viewed as a leader because he hasn’t done the necessary research and readings.

Because of the level at which we consume information it’s easy to feel informed when we’re actually not informed at all. A large point of learning is to be able to break down a concept, understand it, critically think about it, utilize it in practice and be able to explain it to someone else. But now we’re just leaning on buzzwords and memes while remaining misinformed and uninformed. And this isn’t about the validity or practicality of the concepts, it's strictly about the inauthentic spread of concepts because it's the cool thing to do as opposed to a critically thought out view point.

People get defensive and argumentative about what they know because they associate who they authentically are with their intellect and that's just not true. And that’s why authenticity is important to me. It’s easy to associate who I authentically am with what I know but I can easily unravel a lot of the sample size information I have stored, which is why I understand that what I know isn’t authentically me. I’m not completely my ideas because like I said, most of my ideas aren’t even mine.

But I’m also not completely my feelings and motivations because a lot of those were instilled in me through my parents, schools, religion and society around me. And I’m not completely who I am in relation to the world I occupy because I know there’s a distinction between how I’m perceived and who I am.

Jean Paul Sartre once said “Hell is other people” The line comes from a 1944 existentialist play by the French philosopher called No Exit. In the play, three people are trapped in Hell — which is a single room — and ultimately, while confessing their sins to one another, end up falling into a bizarre love triangle. The confinement of the characters extends beyond their physical holding room: they are trapped by the judgments of their cellmates. That's why one of the characters says, "Hell is other people" — because of how we are unable to escape the watchful gaze of everyone around us. "By there mere appearance of the Other," says Sartre in Being and Nothingness, "I am put in the position of passing judgment on myself as on an object, for it is as an object that I appear to the Other."

If you’re in a park alone, then you are only the observer, the park presents itself to you with trees above your head and a chipmunk running around, but once another person enters the park, you are now an object, forced to react according to how you want to be perceived, which ultimately isn’t your completely authentic mode of being. So who and what are we?

Again, I’m 21 so I have no idea. That is our exploration. And that’s why authenticity is important. The fundamentals of truth are experiential and the accurate transferring of truth is what maintains the fabrics of reality. I’m a person so I’m insecure, I’m self centred and I tend to want to feed my ego. I’ve said things that I didn’t necessarily believe to boost my self esteem, impress someone or win an argument. And instantly I feel this dissonance within me. Something feels off and it doesn’t feel good. And whether we know it or not, we lead the world a step closer to chaos.

The point of transferring information is to help one another and ultimately the species and ourselves progress through the landscape. And most of us have a vague understanding of our responsibilities to the world around us. Which is why we take out the trash, pay our taxes, vote, protest, speak out against injustice, help our friends and family. In my personal experience, individuals are usually empathetic and will go out of their way to help someone else. But we all get jaded in our own worlds and get caught up in status seeking and self aggrandizement. And we end up being incongruent with the essence of our being.

That's why I believe the journey of authentic self exploration is necessary. We live in an obviously imperfect world. A large reason why the world is imperfect is because of people. Its largely because of human malevolence such as greed and hatred that has added on to the already tragic nature of life. Tragedies are stuff like earthquakes and the death of ourselves and loved ones that we can’t control. Malevolence is unnecessary evil brought about by human nature. Things like the Jewish Holocaust, Wars and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade are acts of human malevolence. They were atrocities committed for human gain. And to understand the motivations behind it is to seek those motivations within ourselves.

We live in our world of hustle culture and positivity, but a lot of the time we can live in positive illusions. And the problem with that is we are shunning aspects of human nature that exist and living in a society made of lies. On these issues, the thinking of Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of Soviet communism’s most trenchant critics, deserves special attention. When Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, he built his Nobel lecture around a Russian proverb: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world”. Simple truths, he argued, are always a threat to totalitarianism.

In his 1974 essay, Live Not by Lies, Solzhenitsyn suggested that to end repression, people needed to resist lies and learn to live “by truth”. “Never knowingly support lies,” he declared. While he acknowledged that that could be risky, to put it mildly, he saw it as a kind of minimalist strategy, one within everyone’s reach.

Dissidents and reformers alike read Live Not by Lies as a vision for a different kind of society. One man impressed with Solzhenitsyn’s thinking was the Czech dramatist and future president, Václav Havel. In his 1978 essay, The Power of the Powerless, Havel suggested that people “need not accept the lie”. He imagines a greengrocer who stops putting up slogans he disagrees with and voting in fake elections, and starts to say what he really thinks at political meetings – breaking the “rules of the game” that underpin the system. In finding the strength to follow his conscience, Havel suggests, the man makes an attempt to live “within the truth”.

The notion of “living in truth” points to the idea that being truthful isn’t just a matter of uttering true statements, but also about becoming a truthful person in the fullest sense. Truthfulness and integrity are entwined. Nipsey Hussle was quoted as saying “Integrity is what you do when no one is looking”. That statement is true because if you remain authentic then you’ll react accordingly regardless of the circumstance.

We live in an era of moral relativism so it's hard to say what's moral and what's immoral but it seems as though what's immoral are actions we know will harm us and those around us if we partake in them, and we do them anyway. And that seems to be a universal concept because it's not specific to details. But if you act authentically and critically think about the details of the circumstance, and then act with integrity, you are pushing the world forward.

And in acting and creating authentically, you find more of yourself, understand where your values and morals lie and are able to act upon those findings in the world. Creating art is a very vulnerable position to be in. You are exposing yourself to the world to be judged. And in doing so you allow for scrutiny. And what many people, including myself, tend to start out doing is using cliches and shying away from the essence of who we are. When I’m making beats I tried to make beats that sounded similar to something I’ve heard before, and when I’d write articles I’d say cliches that I didn’t completely agree with to avoid scrutiny, so that if someone were to attack I could feel as though, at least they didn’t attack my actual thoughts.

But by doing that I stop myself from experiencing the joys of expression and learning about my authentic self and my beliefs. And we can also tend to live that way. We tend to stick to other people's ideas, values and views on morality. And in living life that way, we limit ourselves from experiencing an authentic version of life, which ultimately will leave us unprepared for life. If authentic experience is the way to learn, then avoiding living an authentic life and authentically understanding ourselves is preventing us from being prepared for the tragedies that life has in store.

Philosopher Friederich Nietzsche believed of the authentic man as the following: Someone who elevates himself over others in order to transcend the limits of conventional morality in an attempt to decide for oneself about good and evil, without regard for the virtues “on account of which we hold our grandfathers in esteem.” Nietzsche rejects the idea of religious virtues due to the lack of questioning by the individual.

One must avoid what he calls “herding animal morality,” if he is to find authenticity. To “stand alone” and avoid religiously constructed principles, it is essential to be “strong and original enough to initiate opposite estimates of value, to transvaluate and invert ‘eternal valuations.’” One must be a free thinker and theorize views outside of their predilections. Nietzsche placed the responsibilities on the individual to take an active part in the shaping of one’s beliefs and then to be willing to act on that belief. For Nietzsche, the secular mentality is a form of weakness and, for authenticity to be achieved, one must truly transcend conventional morality.

Ultimately I seek authenticity above all else. In a world where it's socially acceptable for people in power to lie, and for people to posture and deceive to feed their egos, we need authenticity more than ever. A lot of us are privileged enough to live in parts of the world where we’re not hungry all the time, we’re not cold all the time and it's relatively easy to be hopeful about the future, but that is not the norm. Life is tragic and in my personal experience and opinion, authenticity is the only way to be well equipped enough to handle the tragedies. Because if you deceive yourself with positive illusions or irrational self aggrandizing beliefs then you won’t be prepared for life. But if we genuinely decipher what's wrong in our immediate world, what our beliefs and morals are, what we’re good at and how we can help fix the world around us, then slowly but surely we’ll be more equipped at handling the problems life will throw at us.

I’m still a young person and I stretch the truth every once in a while, all my ideas aren't my own and I don't always live by my beliefs. But I truly try to speak from the heart every time I speak and hopefully create a better world through the most accurate transfer of information I can give. Because authenticity doesn’t have to be sugar coated, it doesn’t even need to be scientifically accurate, it just has to be the most honest portrayal of a perspective of perception, and in finding and expressing that authenticity, we help people contextualize their reality and light the way for each other through the uncertain darkness of life.

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