Law in Contemporary Society

Authenticity in an Age of Lies and Deception

-- By EdsonSandoval - 18 May 2024


What does it mean to be authentic? Why not be yourself rather than pretending? I have come to define authenticity as a mindset which solely exists within the confines of one’s inner-conscience. The true thoughts, meanings, and uninfluenced opinions that lie behind a wall of fear, anxiety, and social implications of saying what you truly believe. Fear leads to a diversification of personas, as I allow myself to be perceived differently by my family, peers, and professors. I once perceived authenticity to be an inclusive term, through an expression of a uniform definition. Upon reflection, I now realize that my previous expression of “we” served as a failed attempt to define authenticity as a common trait, which is inherently false. The hypocrisy is thus clear, as my previous interpretation of “authenticity” was influenced by my desire to conform to other ideals, abandoning the very premise of this essay.

My Early Understanding of Authenticity

My early understanding of authenticity was limited to authenticity in representation. Unable to obtain legal work authorization, I supported my family by reselling popular sneakers and clothing. Representation quickly became anxiety, as my livelihood relied upon my ability to distinguish authentic products. If I were to fail in my purpose, my credibility and income would be affected as clients did not want to purchase from a non-trusted source. Upon reflection, I now realize that authenticity is an individualistic matter, as what may be significant to some serves no purpose to others. In the same way that I define authenticity as the ability to share my honest thoughts without fear, others do not share this feeling. The desire to be perceived in a specific manner contributed to my ability to make money. Yet, was this inherently right? It depends on whether you ask Chinese factory workers earning inequitable wages or if you asked the corporations who sold these products for a 200% markup.

My Developing Understanding

I have grown significantly in the past year. From starting law school at twenty-one to submitting my last final during a state of political turmoil, I have become an increasingly open and authentic individual. I quickly realized that I must be authentic with myself before being authentic with others. This was a challenging process, as I weighed my inherent fears with my growing desire to break free from these restraints. Formerly guided by fear of social implications, I am proud to have self-identified to others, straying away from the hypocrisy which previously guided my actions. The ability to be an actor with a theory of social action requires freedom of expression. Unfortunately, such freedom of expression is impossible to attain without first abolishing the inherent fear of social implications that arise from speaking your mind. My theory of social action revolves around advocating for the undocumented student. Undocumented and DACA-mented students often live in fear that sharing their legal status may lead to tangible consequences for themselves or their families. The fear of deportation, loss of opportunities, and feelings of political inferiority have held me back from speaking my mind. I am accustomed to the experience of being denied opportunities because of my status, yet I did not want to make matters worse by speaking my mind. This year, I have worked toward my goal of being the change I want to see through my involvement in the Davis Polk Leadership Initiative. My project revolved around establishing a community for undocumented students at Columbia. Upon reflection during my year-end presentation, I am proud to have built a support system for these students at Columbia and am looking forward to advancing it next year. While this required abandoning my previous definition of authenticity, my ability to fulfill my purpose of social action becomes facilitated by adhering to new principles. I am sure that my identity may bring about preconceived notions. Yet, the thoughts or words of others have no effect on my actions as I realize that I do not give a fuck what they think. I am proud to make efforts towards being the change I want to see in the world, adhering to my newfound definition of authenticity.

The Limits of Authenticity in Self-Portrayal

I am always playing roles. A man who is a judge by day and loving father by night is a representation of multiple personalities, painting a careful image of how he wishes to be portrayed through the most delicate brushstrokes. In most circumstances, the multiplicity of personality is not deception, rather it is a curation of beliefs, attitudes, and interactions used to paint a picture in the minds of others. While this specific picture may be guided with a social benefit in mind, it is limited as the image may only be completed through the other party's volition. After all, the same judge who comes home to his wife and kids after a long day just sentenced a man to life in prison. To his children, he resembles happiness and warmth. To the convicted, he represents hatred and poor judgment. “Painting” myself in the eyes of others is an art form in and of itself. While I try to be perceived favorably by showing respect, I am only able to define myself in the eyes of others to a certain extent. Thus, authenticity is limited as the picture is completed by the inherent opinions and possible biases of others. In this way, my true thoughts and true feelings are inherently limited. While my definition of authenticity has shifted towards true thoughts that lie behind a wall of fear, this may not apply to others. Different upbringings, inherent privileges, or other factors may limit any efforts I make to paint my desired picture. Nonetheless, I see beauty in this social dynamic, as different forms of thought provide increased opportunities for growth and understanding. While my personal definition of authenticity may change once again, I look forward to growth, pushing forward my theory of social action to make a positive impact in the lives of others.

Yes, this seems to me to have accomplished for you what I hoped such a draft would. Another edit to tighten and limit repetition would improve the essay further from a technical point of view, but the intellectual benefit, to you particularly, has already accrued. Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley has a conception of authenticity that is remarkably resonant with yours. That a sociopath could is not a mark against or a criticism of your position: an actor with a theory of social action can be both spooky and dangerous, as Judge Day understood. You have used this opportunity to enrich your grasp of both your powers and your limitations. That's a profound and valuable step. You can see already how it will help you go on.


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r6 - 05 Jun 2024 - 19:45:47 - EbenMoglen
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