There’s a lot of talk these days, particularly with respect to politicians and public figures about authenticity. What does it mean? I’m not sure it means much more than just acting normal. What does that mean? This is where my Third Law comes in to help.
“Almost everybody thinks their life is normal. Not that it is the same as everybody else’s but that it is ordinary. And almost everybody is right when they think that.”
Of course, some people have completely unusual and obviously extraordinary lives. Some of them can’t really avoid this – for example, the Royal Family are born into very peculiar circumstances which they have little real way of changing. But even they don’t have to be so different in their private lives as can be seen by the sheer cringeworthy embarrassment of the details of Charles and Diana’s accounts of their relationships or on a happier note, the very natural way in which Princes William and Harry talk of the Queen as their grandmother. Others choose to design extraordinary lives for themselves, particularly professional celebrities who deliberately turn their lives into public soap operas with differing degrees of stage management and artifice. Some are better at this than others – Jordan is the consummate professional at this, as are the Kardashians. Peter Andre and Kerry Katona on the other hand can’t stop being themselves or letting this break through the facade of PR gloss.
But, once you get onto pretty much everyone else, the reality is that behind closed doors their lives (rather than the jobs they do) are ordinary to them. Whether you are very wealthy or desperately poor, most of the time I don’t think you spend a lot of effort ruminating on that but on the relationships you have and the pleasures and pains that life visits on you in reality. Life would be largely intolerable otherwise. We all get ill, fall out with people, fall in love, fight, get bereaved, worry about our children, laugh with friends, enjoy our leisure activities and all the other petty things that make up ordinary everyday life. If someone we are close to dies the grief we feel is not greater or less if they or we are rich or poor. The joy of the Kolkata street children on winning a game of cricket improvised on a street with a running sewer is not different in kind to that of the Etonian hitting the winning runs against Harrow at Lords.
None of this means at all that there aren’t differences and that we shouldn’t try to improve people’s material position or support the vulnerable. Rather that it is dangerous to start to think of there being only one way of being authentic and normal and that those whose lives are not like ours are somehow not normal or could not understand ours just because we refuse to understand theirs.
If you observe Botzarelli’s Third you can avoid the peril of seeming odd because it is the key to how to act normal. People who have to try to act normal almost invariably come across as odd. You can only act normal if you are a very good actor and few really are – in Jon Ronson’s book, The Psychopath Test, he interviews a psychopathic prisoner who comes across as incredibly normal and reasonable, but it is that which is the real giveaway. Everyone else, in attempting to act differently in presenting themselves as themselves will just emphasise what others might already have thought made them a bit unusual. That’s why the more poor Ed Miliband tried to look and sound what he had been told was “normal” the less like himself and the more peculiar he looked and sounded. And its why the actually quite odd Boris Johnson can “get away” with looking and sounding odd because he doesn’t seem to try to be any other way and it is hard to imagine him in private stopping looking and sounding like an overgrown and unruly schoolboy. It’s also why I think it’ll be a mistake if Jeremy Corbyn really does spend a lot of time trying to persuade people he really does love Britain in his first Labour Conference leader’s speech later today rather than just shrugging it off.
Don’t act normal, just be.