Superficial Authenticity

Last year I read a book named Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks. It was illuminating, scathing, & funny all at the same time. Brooks wrote about the new upper class in American society. He calls them “bobos”. The reason he calls them “bobos” is because he believes they are a mixture of “bohemian” & “bourgeois”. These upper society types, Brooks claims, are partly bohemian because they adopted many liberal/bohemian ideals in their collegiate studies. However, they are also bourgeois because they are making so much money (mainly because of said college education).

The book covers a lot of ground but one of the most intriguing aspects of the work is its emphasis on the bobo pursuit of “authenticity”. Bobos are always looking for authentic clothes, furnishings, vacations, etc. This sentiment is captured perfectly by Doug Wilson in his book Wordsmithy:

One of our great problems today is that we have gotten caught up in our culture-wide quest for authenticity. We want our jeans authentic (pre-ripped at the factory), we want our apples authentic (grown locally instead of somewhere else), we want our music authentic (underground bands nobody ever heard of), we want our lettuce authentic (organically manured), we want our literature authentic (full of angst), we want our movies authentic (subtitles), and we want our coffee tables authentic (purchased from a genuine peasant while we were on some eco-tour). In short, we are a bunch of phonies. We are superficial all the way down…The word authentic has lost its authenticity and has become a nebulous term of praise, loudly used by those who are in the process of chasing their zeitgeistian jack-o’-lanterns. (pg. 16)

I think that more than just “bobos” are guilty of this (or perhaps we are all bobos) and in our pursuit of faux authenticity we have become very shallow.

Food for thought!

Michael

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