I want to pass on clips from an essay by Orlando Patterson in the Dec. 26 New York Times. He cites Lionel Trilling, the cultural critic, as having in the 1970s "encouraged us to take seriously the distinction between sincerity and authenticity. Sincerity, he said, requires us to act and really be the way that we present ourselves to others. Authenticity involves finding and expressing the true inner self and judging all relationships in terms of it."
Patterson suggests that "Authenticity now dominates our way of viewing ourselves and our relationships, with baleful consequences. Within sensitive individuals it breeds doubt; between people it promotes distrust; within groups it enhances group-think in the endless quest to be one with the group’s true soul; and between groups it is the inner source of identity politics...the primacy of the self has penetrated major areas of government: emotivist arguments trump reasoned discourse in Congressional hearings and criminal justice; and in public education."
"Social scientists and pollsters routinely belittle results showing growing tolerance; they argue that Americans have simply learned how to conceal their deeply...Harvard social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji and her collaborators claim to have evidence, based on more than three million self-administered Web-based tests, that nearly all of us are authentically bigoted to the core with hidden “implicit prejudices” — about race, gender, age, homosexuality and appearance — that we deny, sometimes with consciously tolerant views ingrained prejudices."
"I couldn’t care less whether my neighbors and co-workers are authentically sexist, racist or ageist. What matters is that they behave with civility and tolerance, obey the rules of social interaction and are sincere about it. The criteria of sincerity are unambiguous: Will they keep their promises? Will they honor the meanings and understandings we tacitly negotiate? Are their gestures of cordiality offered in conscious good faith?...Sincerity rests in reconciling our performance of tolerance with the people we become. And what it means for us today is that the best way of living in our diverse and contentiously free society is neither to obsess about the hidden depths of our prejudices nor to deny them, but to behave as if we had none."