The Oughtics of Self

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4 min readSep 29, 2019

One of the most influential movies over the past two decades is the Lion King. Like most millennials, I have a strong, deeply nostalgic connection to the characters and the story, and it was probably the first animated movie I ever saw. One of the most profound moments in the story arrives when Simba is on the throes of a catharsis. Nala had found Simba relishing his new liberty outside the Pridelands. Her reintroduction and her responsibilities forced Simba to interact with a past he had tried to bury deeply. This past still binds Simba, preventing him from seeing the full picture and making an unfiltered choice. As he figuratively stands at the crossroads, Rafiki finds Simba and forces him to reckon with his past and face an existential question, “Who…are you?”

I have been asking myself that question many more times than I could possibly count. This question of “who” is central to the very idea of enlightenment, the pursuit of truth and justice. You cannot question society’s flaws without questioning your own. If you claim that society holds a supreme influence in the formation of the people of that society then as victims of that society, you can do nothing else but reflect your society which means that any attempt to inspect and analyze society must turn that fiery eye inwards and sever the same flaws from within yourselves.

This question of identity is in two parts, it first asks what kind of person you are and then asks what kind of person you ought to be. Both necessitate self-introspection and require that you face the demons of your torment. It requires a truly brutal honesty which carries with it a very real threat of breaking you. This process might be necessary to free yourself from the influence of oppression but the threat of pain might not allow you to truly see yourself outside of how society sees you. And just as you see society and its flaws are apparent to you, you also have a vision of what you would like a great society to look like or aspire to. Similarly, the question of how you ought to be, is interested in exploring the principles, the ideas and the ideals that are most exalted to you.

I must applaud those that take bold steps to realize the truth of an idea but you must never forget that the old ideas still exist and have spent decades being embedded into your mind. Unlearning is your first responsibility to yourself. The mind feeds on information, that is all it has and Truth is the highest quality of information you can give your mind. Just as the beauty of UrbanLoft’s burger or Chez Ro’s exquisite pineapple rice can give supreme satisfaction to your body, truth enlightens the mind and once you begin to seek the truth about yourself, that curiosity about the nature of your reality is unrestrained.

To accept a truth contrary to what society peddles is to immediately force yourself into a conflict with your society and your nature. Your position might be (and should be) one with an unimpeachable rational basis but truth and acceptance are very different things. Even though you may have accepted that the patriarchy, misogyny and homophobia, racist, ethnic and religious bigotry are systems of oppression that we must dismantle but you must reckon with the truth of this within yourself just as you attempt to dismantle them within society. The satisfaction of truth is not complete until you embody that truth as robustly as you can.

For those who presume to change the world (and are not wrong in attempting an act so necessary and yet so brave), to transform society with an idea, you must understand that your self will be judged differently from the rest of society. You will be held to your own standards, not society’s. Throughout human history and even humanity’s creative endeavors (in movies and books, for example), those with whom we most deeply resonate are those that have most closely personified their ideals. This is why ideas are every bit as important the possessor of the idea.

This might seem unfair but we do this with virtually everything. Very few people are interested in truly understanding an idea, most will accept what the adherents to that idea do and say as the representation of that idea, a seemingly effective but simple way to execute judgment of ideas on the go. If you were to measure Christianity using the aggregate behavior of Christians in Nigeria, or in many other societies, your report would be scathing. Many people claim to be for or against things they hardly understand and so to guard against this, the thoroughness of self-introspection is even more relevant.

Logic, courage and the pursuit of knowledge are extremely important in this endeavor. Where one is your internal, mechanism for validating information, the other is a thirst for truth demanded by your curiosity. You have a responsibility to society and whatsoever privileges society has afforded you comes with the responsibility to ensure that society is working to the very best it can and when it does not, you are tasked with its rectification. As society’s vanguard, the responsibility you have towards society demands that as you examine society with the piercing eye of truth, you find the courage to pursue the desire for truth to one of its many justifiable conclusions: an examination of you.