The Chivalry Debate: Part 2

Scott Farrell comments:

In the second part of her article, Sheena Becker points out that chivalry isn’t as “dead” as we are sometimes led to believe. The image of the gentle hero, who puts words ahead of violence and never strikes in anger or vengeance, still inspires us. She also reminds us that the best way to keep chivalry alive is to simply live by the code.

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How Can Chivalry Be Brought Back To Life?

Clearly the new movements to bring chivalric values back into society prove that this practice is not entirely dead. Even the fact that it is such a debated topic proves the hope of this ideal is not entirely lost or forgotten; why would something truly dead be debated?

In Brad Miner’s book The Compleat Gentleman: A Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry, he says, “More than two centuries later, the spirit of chivalry has not been entirely eradicated from the human heart, even in our pacifist, feminist, postmodern age.” One way in which chivalry is by no means dead is in the popular fantasy genre of books and games. The modern-day classic trilogy, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is a prime example of how our literature popularizes knightly conduct in its heroes. Tolkien had a great respect for the tradition of chivalry and his books convey this opinion so beautifully that The Lord of the Rings has inspired a majority of the fantasy books on the shelves today. This legacy of books has preserved chivalry in its glory so that it continues to live on in the imaginations of all who read it.

When we look at the origins of the code of chivalry, we see most prominently the knights who swore an oath to live by these values. The reasoning behind it was so that they could use their power and authority over common folk wisely and in a just manner. The code of chivalry tells us that “When you are given greater power or authority you should treat that with a greater respect and integrity… [Thus,] We see the code of chivalry alive and well most strongly in the world today in those people who take their roles in society and their level of authority seriously and treat their roles respectfully and with integrity.”

Are We In A New Age Of Chivalry?

The spark of chivalry is still there in people when it could have died long ago. Could this conceivably be because it is needed again? Chivalry was created during the Middle Ages to counter and overcome the attitudes of cruelty, ignorance, and injustice that were unfortunately the standard in that age.

Perhaps history is repeating itself and a dose of courtesy and respect is needed from everyone; with war, crime, and political issues left and right, the knightly virtues of solving things with words before violence, and always with honor, is appealing to many people. In order for chivalry to be encouraged in our society first the stereotypes must be corrected. Trying to support an idea viewed by many to be demeaning to women would never make an impression. We have to show that chivalry is an act of mutual admiration and respect rather than condescending.

To prove this, women must take an active and equal part in displaying knightly virtues, courtly love, and honor while men must take on the mantle of their knightly forefathers, and by example, protest the stereotypes that chivalrous values are womanly. But how can we encourage this good nature in others? Farrell says simply, “You can tell all the stories you want, you can preach and encourage and threaten and cajole, but the best way to pass on our values and ethics is simply to live the life we want to encourage in others. Nothing will undermine the value of chivalry more greatly than somebody who says to live by the code of chivalry and doesn’t themselves.”

When we encourage chivalry we will not do any harm to our society as long as it is properly understood. In reality, I believe it could do wonders for our morals and behavior which have, as a whole, been degrading as time has worn on. Chivalry is not dead despite accusations of being sexist and womanly, it has been falsely blamed and yet has risen above its accusers as the ideal standard for respectful behavior. Chivalry is needed in our society, now more than ever, and we should certainly encourage this quality in all persons.

© 2006 Sheena Becker

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