Bruce Springsteen says we’re living in a post-authentic world, that authenticity has become a goal not a quality and we’re encouraged to manufacture it—in other words, to fake it. At the 2012 South by Southwest (SXSW) interactive conference in Austin, he unpacked the concept: “There is no right way, no pure way of doing it. There's just doing it. We live in a post-authentic world, and today authenticity is a house of mirrors. It's all just what you're bringing when the lights go down. It's your teachers, your influences, your personal history and at the end of the day it's the power and purpose of your music that still matters.”
The same month, Jon Stewart sat down with ‘The Boss’ for Rolling Stone Magazine in a landmark interview titled “Bruce Springsteen's State of the Union.” Springsteen gave us a few more insights into his thinking on authenticity. First, it’s about having a conversation: “Generally I do what I like at any given moment and let the people find out where they fit in. The only thing I do keep in mind is that I'm in the midst of a lifetime conversation with my audience, and I'm trying to keep track of that conversation.” Secondly, and its the part you can't fake, its about personal history:
You can’t have a society and you can’t have a civilization without a reasonable amount of economic fairness, full employment, purpose and civic responsibility[...] For the majority of my lifetime, you saw an increase in inequality. It has only been in the news since Occupy Wall Street, but it was something that was a long, long time coming, and I think that, for better or for worse, I experienced the dynamic as a child, and it was something that I never forgot. I experienced what happens when, say, the male figure in your house struggles to work, can’t find work, and the woman in the house becomes the primary breadwinner. That was my house. That’s happening in homes all across America right now: guys that worked outside, guys that worked construction, guys that worked manufacturing, particularly those kinds of guys, suddenly those jobs disappeared. Their attitude, their education may not be suited immediately for the service economy—the economy now. It’s been devastating on middle-class and blue-collar men, particularly. That was my story, that was the story I’ve written about. I’ve written about that story for 30 years, because I lived that story as a child, and I witnessed it day after day after day, and I saw its effects. I saw the crisis that it creates. I saw the loss of your sense of masculinity. It was a wrenching thing to watch for a child, a young child, on a daily basis and it never, ever let up.
All of these issues aren’t going to be solved immediately, obviously. I have faith that through pressing on and through paying attention and listening and being vigilant and voicing your concerns and insisting that the right thing be done, you can move your world inches closer to where you want it to be for your children. You have to have faith in that. You have to have a clear eye, but you still have to have an open heart and mind. Because you have to have spirit, you have to have the soul.
He continues: “We talk, we write, we think, and even as late in the day as I am, we experience so much through the veil of the formative years of our life. That never goes away.”
Authenticity is how true you are to yourself, your true character. As The Boss says, today we live in a world of mirrors, people wanting to ‘look authentic.’ To truly be, and not just look, you need to understand who you are and where you are coming from. That’s the only true authenticity.