"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Oct 13, 2011


Don't trust the "authentic." They complain with the voices of a bloated and drowned existence. They are swollen corpses, re-animated with resentment.

If a man would have you believe "authenticity," he's asking you to place your faith in a circle of acceptable conduct, with him at its center. He will hate you for leaving it. He already hates you, which is why he wants you in it. It is his vanity, circumscribing a life he no longer has the stomach to live. He is already complicit. He has complied, surrendered. And it's not enough to do it alone. He wants you drowning in simplicity with him. He wants you to be himself.

It is a mean, petty, beggared existence, this adherence to a demand for "authenticity." It's one thing to be honest, to speak words which match memory and experience. It's quite another to assume that you can know how to best live for everyone. And to rage at others when they choose not to drown, or even just wallow, at the shallow edge of a muddy puddle To fury at them when they fail to choose to conform to a simplicity which is as artificial as a Versailles ball room. If you aren't constrained by the limits of an undead shuffling towards a real-dead grave, the "authentic" will crave your embarrassment. It's the closest they can get to believing you too are a corpse. That you are one of them.

Given a thousand thousand opportunities to conform, and even in the face of terrible and real oppression, at the boot heel of manacled slavery, at the juncture of starvation and compliance, people still diversify. For all that we share an organic baseline, we lead dissimilar lives. Within a single household, under the same parental gaze, with the same standards and rules, two children will become different. And one is not more "authentic" than the other.

Hatred for this diversity, for the panoply of possible humanities - and it is hatred, whether its speaks fancy words, cloaks itself in revolutionary rhetoric, or grumbles from the seat of a rich man's bicycle, stopped sideways on a trail through stolen Indian land - is an emotional shorthand for a life conceded. In its least refined form, it translates a desire for simplification into a hunger to consume the lives of others; it confuses sincerity with a chimaera "authenticity." It is a personal defeat ballooning, swelling out in a blast radius of wounded pride and a failure to die at the right time. It is death, with a human face.


There is no correct way to be human. Right and wrong have nothing to do with how to live - and this covers all human conduct. All of it.* Those who want boys "to be boys," who need women "unadorned," who rage inside at the moving image of children who play but have never learned to pray, who need feats of strength to test their masculinity lest anyone question it, who would have their own meager mental entrails become the standard and the norm: these are the tyrants, big and small.

It may mask itself as rebellion, this demiurge towards "authenticity," but it hears a single voice, an endless self-confirmation: "I am right. I am right. I am right." It is the old god-voice in the head, and from that pulpit issues the same old demands: Be like me. Be like me. Be like me. Because the "me" doesn't know how to be other.

It is the remnant of desire - of need thwarted in the decay of a shambling corpse of a life. Perhaps, even, it as an authentic one; a body servant to a life which has already perished, ridden by a brain that doesn't know it yet.

Anyway you want it - and you have the freedom and liberty to want everything - the "authentic" cannot be trusted. They would kill you too, and have you share in their pallid reflection, a companion corpse staring into a cracked and greasy mirror.

* - which does not justify the rapist or the murderer; feelings of right and wrong don't alter the fact of the act itself. They are epiphenomena. There is an argument for stopping the rapist. Or even killing him. But, right and wrong don't speak to the desire not to be raped. Or murdered. Or punched in the face. Those needs are good, of themselves. They don't have to wear the heavy drapes of morality.


Anatole David said...

"Authenticity" is hierarchically imposed Mannerism. It demands a "stay thou art fair" realm of identity. Straitened ways for "moral" formality. Not surprising that many thinkers(I use the term loosely) enamored with Fascism, D'Annunzio, Heidegger, and Rand, championed it.

Authenticity is the siren call of obedience in an age of ubiquitous marketing. It labors to distill human identity down to brand recognition.

This piece notes another facet of social coercion that your earlier piece on etiquette and refined manners addressed.

Authority has so many ways of prodding "human cattle". Convince them they're free by supinely becoming obnoxious monoliths. Many of that type, who label themselves "sovereign individuals", embrace despotism to assert their God-like("I am that I am") authenticity. Ironic they call those who work to further social justice and solidarity, "sheeple".

Great post. This response is a scattershot attempt to corral thoughts it inspired.

anne said...

pen jack, ..i wonder ..are you speaking a little.. in some way to something of this here.. -.. i went to a dinner ,my cousin chris was away on a job in japan ..and he wanted someone to attend ..so i went .. .i sat with bertram brockhouse ( a nobel prize in physics ),we became friends for a short time .. before his passing because of this meeting ..of how it went .... of my point here ..his mind was very different from my own .. but still he had some sense of what i was about ..i could tell this from how he responded.. in our talking .. i have always felt that the brightest of us .. do what they/we do ..but have some sense of what others are about ..as he was/did .. . ..i wish that there was more of this .. .in others

anne said...

,i also wanted to ask what you meant ..with unadorned here .. ./.. and what your ideas of ..adorned and unadorned are .. .?

Mark S said...

Damn. :-)

Anonymous said...

Says the man who hasn't the cojones to identify himself or verify his fictional "past."

Of course he pooh-poohs authenticity.

He's "not equal to it," in any dimension.

What, indeed, is "authentic" about Jackie-Oh?

His mannered historicity? His pretense at Mountaintop Sage? Or his "humor" which lacks even the mildest golf-clap of knowing applause?

In this multiple choice quiz, all answers are correct. Unlike when Jackie-Oh is The Teacher, in which all answers diverging in microtome-sliced manner are utterly incorrect.

He doesn't want to tell you how to live your life. No, he only wants to utter Grand Pronouncements for sycophants to glom onto and praise High Holy Hosannahs to Jack! Our hero! So wise and learned! So inauthentically real!

Richard said...

The craving for the "authentic" has its roots in the inability of the middle class to understand itself and thereby act in its self-interest, and partially explains the recourse to violence by middle class radicals in the 1970s, cloaked in the substitutionalist garb of purporting to speak on behalf of the proletariat.

It is one feature of the perpetual middle class search for an "authentic" lived experience, as revealed in the embrace of marginalized communities for the purpose of giving their own lives, as expressed through social and political activity, a synthetic identity. A sort of vampirism, if you will. A. K. Thompson has addressed these dilemmas in a provocative way in his recent book, "Black Bloc, White Riot".

Or, to put it more bluntly, have you ever heard the undocumented, the homeless, the incarcerated or other marginalized people ever express concern about the lack of "authenticity" in their lives?

Jack Crow said...

Anatole, Richard -

There's little that I can add to what you've written.


I haven't a clue how to respond to your first reply. As for the second, there is a type of man who thinks women are false for any sort of adornment. That type of man knows himself in the mirror.


It helps to have a lance if you're going to joust with windmills. Then again, you're no goodman Quixote, so hack away at imagined enemies with your digital sword. At least you're not peeing on the rug, right?

anne said...

what i was asking was more of .. what you ,the fellow that is pen jack ..sees as adorned and un' .. . / ..and i'll try to ask the other in a different way when i get a min.

Jack Crow said...


It's not a measurement I use. It's like asking me whether I prefer my okra fried or steamed. I don't eat okra and I don't care how it's cooked.

I don't care how people define adornment. I don't have a baseline for "unadorned."

anne said...

you've misunderstood something of what and why i was asking .. .but i know that i'm very odd to some in the way that i talk .. .i didn't mean to be annoying ..i'm sorry