3/16/15

Chivalry Is A Man’s Recognition Of His Privileges



Some say that the age of chivalry is past, that the spirit of romance is dead. The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth.
Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)
Some time ago I posted an article where I mentioned how “few words create such a vivid, complex, controversial, and individualized interpretation within the English language as Gentleman. Although Chivalry isn’t far behind.” At that time, I focused on the universal archetype of the Gentleman, leaving to deal with Chivalry on a later date.

Guess what? It’s a later date.

Many people dismiss (or rather would like to dismiss) chivalry as a concept whose time has passed. “I treat everyone equally” or “it’s about being civil” or the ever present “I respect everyone” are used over and over as an apparent dismissal of the need for Chivalry. Others have called Chivalry as a form of “benevolent sexism” citing the fact that gentlemen tend to offer ladies a higher level of respect in actions than they do other men. This would be true if it had anything to do with what chivalry actually is and the obligations it imposes on a gentleman.

I used the word obligations with full intent of the word. Since the days of the Knight and the Samurai and the Junzi, the chivalrous had moral obligations due to his privileged position within society. They understood the blessings they possessed, and also understood that these blessings came with a series of duties. This attitude carried on to the gentlemen of old and carries on to the modern gentlemen. The problem today is how men refuse to acknowledge their social obligations as they refuse to acknowledge the privileges within their lives.

Your age gives you the privilege of experience. This means you have the duty of mentorship. Your youth gives you the privilege of strength. This means you have an obligation to protect those you can. Up to now, this is pretty easy to understand by everyone. But it’s when you move to recognizing some touchy subjects that people tend to ignore their privileges within the world. Here’s where most tend to falter within their duties and obligations as they refuse to see the inequalities within the world and how they are benefited from these social injustices.

Your social standings and financial security, however earned, mean you are privileged to a better life. This means you have a duty to lead a charitable life helping those less fortunate. Your gender as a man means you don’t have to deal with some of the sexism and threats women deal with every day from men who openly attack them simply for being a woman. This means you have a duty to, at the very least make their everyday a little better as you understand the burdens of being a woman within today’s society. Remember that “benevolent sexism” comment? As a gentleman, you are more of a feminist than most guys who simply believe in treating women as equals. But as I have said before, not everyone understands chivalry.

Phrases like “I treat everyone equally” simply mean you refuse to accept the privileges you possess. This, if anything, means you are doing the very least to lead a civil life while enjoying how life handed you a better hand. You refuse to acknowledge how your social standing benefits you, how your race benefits you, how your sexual orientation benefits you, or how your gender benefits you.

It isn’t that you are better than anyone, but that you understand that your life has provided you with certain benefits and blessings, irrelevant of how they happened. Chivalry is an act of social equity where you recognize your privileges and work to help those around you. This is why, even though a gentleman might be well off, he is able to remain humble. You recognize every privilege given to you by life and understand how others are not as fortunate. You understand that something as simple as being able to help others, even if it’s as simple as making their lives a little more comfortable, means you are obligated to do so.

That is why a gentleman holds himself to such high standards. With all your blessings and good fortune, your life must be one of service to others. Be honored that within your belief you carry the traditions and attitude of those who came before you; the Knights, the Samurai, and the Junzi.

Is Chivalry dead? Not as long as Gentlemen live with a Warrior’s hearts.