Death And Authenticity Revisited

Death And Authenticity Revisited

What does Amy Winehouse have to do with the Norway terror besides sad timing?

Authenticity. Extreme authenticity.

When people read my book they go right to this section and blast me: “those deaths are in no way connected” they claim. It’s a random meaningless coincidence–sad, but unrelated.

Sad, yes. Unrelated no. The Norway massacre is infinitely sadder and more tragic that the death of an over-privileged singer, but they are two sides of the same misunderstood coin.

Both people responsible for the tragedies were motivated–indeed obsessed– with authenticity.

For Winehouse, it couldn’t be simpler than the confusion that one associates with a God-given gift: Why me? Am I a freak? How do I deserve it? Is It real? How can I test it? Sadly, drugs provided the insight at predatory pricing.

For Mass murderer Anders Breivik it is the his sense of an inauthentic Europe.

Authenticity gives things value, Value can be perverted into a proxy for meaning, and meaning matters. We are all–each of us– seeking meaning. But when acting as a proxy, authenticity becomes an illusory shortcut to meaning.

It is always dangerous and often deadly when authenticity becomes the end itself.

You can read the rants of Breivik and understand immediately that he is off the deep-end. It just happens to be the same deep-end that Amy Winehouse jumped into, confused by the meaning of her talent, I think Amy’s obsession with authenticity is identical to Brevik’s. She expressed it in a lifestyle driven slow suicide. He expressed his obsession with unimaginable horror.

Authenticity is at the root of radical Islam too. That’s why the papers got the Oslo tragedy so wrong in the beginning. In the West we immediately associate death for authenticity most with radical Islamists, even though that is a prejudice that doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny.

Like Charles Manson, Breivik thought his insanity would spark a revolution. My suspicion is that he surrendered so that he could further work to express is mad interpretations of his faith and political ideals. We’ll also likely learn that he left the Norwegian right-wing Progress Party, because he felt it wasn’t authentic enough–not true enough to its principals.

On a twitter page associated with Breivik the following quote was found:
“One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”

The irony, too, is tragic: The quote is paraphrase of John Stuart Millthe 19th Century utilitarian Libertarian. Strange bedfellows indeed.

John Lennon died from the gunshot of an insane person obsessed with authenticity: Mark David Chapman. Chapman had just finished “Catcher In The Rye” whose protagonist is driven insane trying to reconcile the authenticity of the inner life with the utility of social compromise.

Interestingly even the recent banal budget entanglements are stalled by the same problem. Signed pledges to ideology, purity tests, and blind allegiances lock negotiations and keep our political representatives from finding utilitarian solutions to very real problems.

I sometimes get criticized for connecting trivial entertainment news with serious tragic historic events but they help us understand the simple conflicts that drive power and attention. We seek meaning and reliability, continuity and trust.

Attributes so rare they can lead to obsession and tragedy.