“Stand amongst the ashes of a trillion dead souls and ask the ghosts if honor matters. The silence is your answer”Javik from Mass Effect 3
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time because it challenges a norm, a belief, a value that we hold so dear; honor. We throw and spew this word around for several reasons, chief amongst them because it is a higher version that we aspire to; never leave a man behind; you before me; us before me; them before us.
But where is the place of honor when your mother is deathly ill and the only immediate relief you can get is from the arms of a big belly with an even bigger bank account?
“Who cares if one more light goes out in the sky of a million stars…”Linkin Park, “One More Light.”
Where is the place of honor when you’re one semester away from expulsion, and the most seeming solution is being hunched over the dim light of a computer screen, rapping your fingers away to a foreigner miles away from you?
Survival is the most dangerous human instinct and it is the first instinct we develop. The sharks are the foremost proponents of survival. From 8 in their mother’s belly, they become 2 after a bloodbath. Survival of the fittest.
Where is the place of honor when you are months behind on your rent, with your family being best friends with the pangs of hunger, yet a black faded uniform with a much-derided epaulets is a symbol of your employment with a nation that has an absolute disregard for you and your basic human rights?
Honor has its place, but where is this place?
I remember 4 things I learned from my former boss; acceptance, authenticity, expression, and freedom. These 4 values are necessary for a fulfilling life. But where do we draw the line for fulfillment? Do we claim to be fulfilled when our actions are in line with the values our immediate society upholds? Or do we also accept as fulfillment when a man succumbs to his true self, despite the carnage he wreaks on society?
I’m Nigerian, and there’s this bias we have towards DC movies. 6-7 out of 10 of us prefer Marvel movies for the more obvious reasons. They’re bright, with the right amount of humor, and the plot is generally acceptable, but DC movies; where do I begin? They explore a place we push down into the recesses of our minds because God forbid, we think about these things, lest we are consumed by the darkness, the demons and shadows we run away from. This isn’t excusing some of the bad movies (I see you Suicide Squad), but that’s what DC does; the dirty work of Superhero movies where their lesser selves are stripped bare for all to see. We saw it when Batman was broken and he hung up his cape in the Dark Knight rises. We saw it when Superman almost destroyed the Justice League.
It is my opinion that Shawshank Redemption and Joker are the most iconic movies of their respective decades. Now, Joker got a lot of flak from Nigerians because of two things;
- They have a bias
- They don’t just understand the movie… but it is my opinion that it is the best movie in 2019
Where is the place of honor in personal opinions?
Arthur Fleck is a reflection of his and the choices of his immediate environment, but unlike Andy Dufresne who rose above these choices to embrace hope, Arthur embraced his other-self. Before he did accept, he felt like a misfit. A terrible misfit and his first entree into acceptance was when he shot the 3 guys on the subway. Were they terrible? Definitely. Did they deserve to die? Not quite. But did they get what they deserved? According to Arthur, they did.
Like Arthur, we fight against our truer selves, because we’re often so concerned about what others will say. What if they don’t like me? What if they think I’m weird? My former boss used to say ‘Find your tribe.’ But you cannot find the tribe unless you accept the person that you are. The foundation is always the most difficult to figure out. Acceptance is difficult. Someone had to say it. It is fucking difficult. How do you explain someone like Arthur accepting himself; deranged and debased, and all shades of fucked up? But if people like him don’t accept who they are, how do we know the values to avoid on our path to fulfillment?
The moment he accepted that he was mental and deranged, and would probably never fit into society. The resolve painted on his face could face a storm without batting an eye, then he killed his mother. This was a very symbolic action. We all have one thing that lies to us all the time, that keeps us from reaching our full potential, it may be a person or thought, or a self-debilitating belief, either ways that thing has to go for us to accept the person that we are. For Arthur, it was his mother, and that was his final step towards acceptance.
This is the look of acceptance.
“Kill everything that kills you. Live long and die for me.”Slipknot: Sarcastrophe
Every day we are assailed; left, right and center with people that try to tell us who we aren’t. By people, I mean the world. For all the positivity that the world preaches, it still tells you how to be you, and when you accept the you that they project, guess what happens? They shit on your face. Arthur’s journey began after he lost his job.
“The limits of the dead”Slipknot: Psychosocial
This is what happens when you don’t have a strong core of values; you are tossed around and you fall for anything. There’s a running gag that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Arthur fell, and he fell hard. He fell even harder when the state cut the funding of his therapy sessions, and even harder after he learned the truth about his mother. but he rose up again and that’s the beautiful thing about life. When you’re down, there is only one way to go and that is up. You can choose to stay down, or you can choose to fight, and oh he fought. He fought and… death to the thing that started the downward spiral. Yet again, for him, it wasn’t a thing; it was a person. He knew what he did, and he didn’t feel repulsed. How do you know when you’ve passed the threshold of acceptance? You take responsibility for whatever choices you make; you don’t shy away, you weigh the options, and you know if you had to, you would do it all over again. No regrets.
This is the look of authenticity.
I remember watching Endgame. It was therapeutic; lonely, heartbreaking, but therapeutic. I was going through a heartbreak, and the deaths of Natasha and Tony made it easy to cry while blaming it on the emotions those experiences evoked. I remember feeling this tightness in my chest, wishing somebody was beside me while we watched and I explained Captain Marvel’s Binary form to her. Endgame produced what I thought was the most epic scene ever. I remembered going to YouTube just to watch the scene over and over again. The tension when Cap stood up to the Mad Titan, the exhilaration when Falcon said ‘On your left,’ and the iconic ‘theme song.’ For those two minutes, I felt like I was a part of something bigger. It was like watching your football team play in the Champions League final. The agenda was clear, Thanos would die, and earth would win. Then I watched Joker, and the dancing scene happened. I didn’t have goosebumps, but what happened was a transfixing. I remained transfixed between awe and wonder and envy and jealousy rolled into one. Joker was born, and there was no turning back. If Arthur killing his mother was a symbol for acceptance if accepting the death he handed to his co-worker was a symbol of authenticity, then this dancing scene was a symbol of expression.
He literally shoved two middle fingers to the world.
This is Expression.
He finally found his tribe. Regardless of who you are, there are a bunch of other people out there who identify with the same value as yours, and the moment you break on through, you are the reflection of who they aspire to be, and the only way to get to there is by projecting their values on to you because you wear them on your sleeves and you are unapologetic about it. For Arthur, it was the oppressed and maligned who needed a voice, a face, a person and they got that person with the one value they wanted to express; anarchy. Death to the bourgeoisie!
How much more freedom can you hope to have when you can finally live your values?
This here my friends… is freedom.
Well, there you have it; the four steps to fulfillment.
Now, where is honor in all of this? The truth is like truth in itself. It is not absolute. It is relative. You cannot determine what honor is to another person. You can only determine what it is for yourself and that is fine because we’re all victims of this game called life
Was Adolf Hitler a bad person? The world says so. He was singlehandedly responsible for the near extermination of an entire nation. What of Genghis Khan? The merciless despot that had the largest ever empire only surpassed by the British empire.
Were these men of honor or were they just merciless despots that got their highs from pillaging and murderous intent?
Let the other side of history be the judge of that.