Sunday, November 20, 2011

To Be Real

Last night we watched Strummer: The Future is Unwritten. I was in an unusual frame of mind - in shock, really - after some sad and awful news, and watched it in a strange, kind-of detached way; I love and admire Joe Strummer but I wasn't blind to things about him that I don't admire (as I probably have been in the past), and saw things in a less personal way than usual. One of the things that really struck me was when The Clash cracked the US and were playing huge stadium shows. In the film, Joe talks about how ridiculous it was to be playing these songs about things that weren't relevant to the audience; to an audience that wasn't them. Watching them, it occurred to me that they had become almost a parody, but definitely a simulation of themselves. They were doing the same things, and people might take the same meaning from what they did, but from their perspective it was inauthentic - simply a performance.

I wasn't sure what to make of this. I wondered if it's alright to Fake It Till You Make It in all situations, or if you have a responsibility to know or be in the process of finding out who you are at all times. I wondered if your message can still be real if you're not; if the medium is really the message, it can't be can it? Can someone hearing them sing Career Opportunities on that US tour really know what they meant when they were so far removed from it at the time? Is it like Springsteen said about the song not being theirs anymore, so that if it had meaning for the audience then that was more important than where the band were? I don't know. I thought about situations when I'm hyper-aware of myself - when I'm pre-menstrual and meeting new people, maybe - and how I feel like I'm playing myself, and I can't tell what is real and what is trying. I can't imagine other people could see a difference, so maybe the harm would be to myself. I look at people I know who are on what I presume (I know it's a presumption) to be on an invisible conveyer-belt, playing a part they think they have to play, and expect them to end up completely confused; if they've only ever had to perform and never worried about being authentic (or known how to be), what will happen when they are confronted by something that demands to know what they are, and they don't know? I think Baudrillard says that the simulations eventually replace what they were simulating; will we be a society of people, and shadow-people?

Later on, Joe talks about deconstructing himself. I wish I was this brave. I make discoveries about myself, but they're usually linked to my mistakes. To take yourself apart, and then put yourself together, is so admirable. I feel as if I would be too afraid of what I might find; prejudices and selfishness I hope not to have but occasionally show. If I show them, are they who I am? They have to be.

I have never read Hamlet, but my Mum used to tell me To Thine Own Self Be True. I She probably regrets that now that I'm not quite the self she hoped I was going to be, but I used to think about it all the time. The first few big decisions I made as a teenager gave me confidence to do this; they were hard, but I had no regrets. When I think about life having a Point, I usually think about making the world better than we found it, and helping people as much as we can. But I think it's also to find out who you are, and be that person. Lots of Continental philosophers talk about authenticity, but I got so excited about the Death Of God that I didn't pay as much attention as I might have, even though I was furiously trying to figure out who I was. I think I know who I am now, but I can't imagine how I might be in all situations, and I think that would be really knowing myself. But that's not really authenticity. I think you can not know everything but just try; try to be true to who you think you are, or want to be.

I tried to find a clip of Jackie Chan shouting "Who am I?!!!!" but all I came up with were fight scenes. That's about the weekend it's been. Sometimes I wish the world would just go fuck itself.

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