---As a North American since I was three years-old, for better or worse, I identify myself with North American culture and its roots in Western Europe. That is, I value reason, freedom, true democracy (if we ever get it), and a sense of a greater humanity that unites the various people of the world, irrespective of their colour, ethnicity, and race. But because I live in the richest part of the world, am aware of the vast injustice that has created this wealth, am sometimes overwhelmed by the task of even thinking about where to start to remedy the world’s ills, I feel apprehensive about exhorting my peers to stand up and make a difference.
But can I afford not to? There is a moral ideal that pervades the Western cultural attitude and that is the ideal of “authenticity.” “Be true to yourself.” “Do your own thing.” It has its source in the philosophy of individualism and the search for the self, Charles Taylor writes in The Malaise of Modernity. He points out that critics such as Christopher Lasch has called this ideal the “culture of narcissism”, and that others like Allan Bloom, in his book The Closing of the American Mind, have condemned it outright. Taylor sees that authenticity is a good thing in our culture as long as we stick to a high moral ground and can justify our actions rationally. In making the choices that create our selves we should strive to be sure that they are significant with respect to the world around us and to others, otherwise we will slide into self-indulgent subjectivism and the self-defeating consequences of moral relativism.