5/22/15

Chivalry: Is it Classist or Elitist?



A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.
Marcus Aurelius
With this post we end this Chivalry centric week which, to my surprise and enjoyment, has had some rather positive reactions. (Note to self, make more themed week posts) For closing, I thought it might be a good thing to touch on a topic that is often related in a negative aspect with chivalry. That is the immediate social relation between chivalry, classism, and elitism.

Let me start by saying the following, they are right… up to a point. Chivalry originated as a code of ethics for members of the Warrior class or the Nobility. Keep in mind how the world worked back then, your life was pretty much determined by the social class you were born into. If you were born to artisan parents, you pretty much were going to be an artisan. If your parents were from the Warrior Class, you were going to be a warrior. You pretty much followed in your father’s footsteps…even if you didn’t want to. It’s not like you had much of a choice. So, if you followed chivalry back then, it was basically because you were born to the Warrior elite or the Nobility and chivalry was pretty much thrusted on you.

As society advanced and it’s rigid black and white class system started to take shades of grey, we see the ideas of chivalry seep into all social classes as a way for men to better themselves. The philosophy of the “lord’s son” was now something that any man could use to mold his life. As travel and education became more and more accessible, some men would no longer let their birth limit what they could achieve, so they expected more from themselves in all aspects of their lives.

Thus we have the ideal of the well rounded man, the superior man, as something any man could aspire. And that created an elitist mentality, a mentality where men chose to become elite. You see, greatness isn’t something that choses you. You CHOSE to be great; you CHOSE to be the kind of man others can look up to. The lonely people who see this kind of elitism as a bad thing are those men who pray to the cult of averageness and condemn excellence.

As for classism? Base and honorless men can be found anywhere, as can Virtuous men; from the executive suite to sleeping in the streets. Financial success doesn’t make you a devil, just as financial challenges make you a saint. Last I checked virtues, character, respect, and determination don’t come with a monetary price tag on them.

You chose the kind of man you are, and expecting more from yourself isn’t a bad thing. My advice to you? As cliché as it might sound; always chose to be better a better man than the man you were yesterday.