View Full Version : Honest opinions needed!

02-06-2006, 10:41 PM
Is chivalry really dead or just overlooked?

Lyra Jean
02-06-2006, 11:18 PM
I don't think chivarly is completely dead. It's just harder to find men and women who follow it.

02-06-2006, 11:24 PM
Is chivalry really dead or just overlooked?

That kind of depends on how you define chivalry. The Blessed American Heritage dictionary has a pretty good discussion here (http://www.bartleby.com/61/13/C0311300.html).

The thing it doesn't tell you is that the second part of the definition, "he qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women. b. A manifestation of any of these qualities" was always a literary convention, rather than a realistic one.

Chivalry really and truly was about horsemanship.

That said, if you mean courtesy, and decorum, not as far as I'm concerned, though I hope I'm equally courteous to everyone.

02-07-2006, 02:13 AM
That's a pretty broad question.

Is chivalry dead in practice? I don't suppose many people go out of their way to adhere to a medieval ideal. Always exceptions, of course. How do you measure the actions of the few as compared to the actions of the many? If 99.99% of people don't believe in these standards, is chivalry then dead? If .01% of people do believe in them, is it then alive?

Is chivalry dead in theory? Depends on the individual. Perhaps some people really don't care. Perhaps some people wish for a higher level of chivalry in day-to-day dealings. Perhaps some people prefer standards as they've evolved, rather than catering to the restrictions of that medieval ideal.

Me, I guess I'd go with that last one ... except I really don't care. :)

Mike Coombes
02-07-2006, 01:04 PM
chivalry n. 1 medieval knightly system with its religious, moral, and social code. 2 honour, courtesy, and readiness to help the weak.  chivalric adj.

(1) Is no longer a necessity, but (2) is something we should all aspire to.

02-07-2006, 08:56 PM
In a knightly sense, I am pretty sure that chivalry in that sense is long gone. We have no need to adhere to that anymore, though it would be fun.

In the sense of honour, courtesy, and readiness to help the weak, there is no reason that is should be dead. Do you think it is society that has driven this common courtesy out, or just self-absorbtion?

02-08-2006, 07:59 AM
Do you think it is society that has driven this common courtesy out, or just self-absorbtion?

Perhaps a society of self-absorbtion?

Seriously, I'm not sure that you could demonstrate any one factor as a cause of a social development. Here are a couple of possible factors that strike me immediately.

It has been pointed out that chivalry was always more of an ideal than a practice. This is partly because chivalry was rooted in Christian principles (James 1:27, for instance, says, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." In other words, one of the key elements in the life of a believer should be helping the weak and disadvantaged.) Unfortunately, the medieval time period was characterized by lip service to Christianity coupled with a complete misunderstanding of or disregard for its tenets (hence, for instance, the atrocities of the Crusades). No surprise that chivalry, rooted in Christian ideals, suffered the same general disregard. Extend this to current society in the U.S. For quite a number of years, the U.S. was, in name and on the surface at least, claiming to espouse Christian ideals. Chivalry also became a part of the society, at least on the surface. In recent decades, Christianity with its ideals and tenets has slipped from the public consciousness. Many think of this as a good thing. But it is perhaps nearly inevitable that something so closely linked to Christianity and its ideals would also suffer a decline. Certainly not all who claim to be Christians have been chivalrous, and not all who are chivalrous claim to be Christians. But I think there is a definite connection.

Second, a key concept of chivalry is putting others ahead of oneself. You put the safety of others (particularly those weaker than yourself) ahead of yourself. You are supposed to put the convenience of others ahead of yourself (e.g. holding doors, giving up seats). (This, incidentally, is another Biblical concept -- Philippians 2:3 "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.") But in our self-esteem oriented society (and here we come to that society of self-absorbtion), we are constantly told, "No one is better than you! You should take care of yourself first." For some of the societal impact of this, give a glance at Lynn Truss' book Talk to the Hand. Is it any surprise that people now look first to their own safety, comfort, convenience, etc?

For what it's worth, there are still some of us who try to hold to the old manners, or at least adapt them to modern society. I still hold doors for women (in spite of the occasional glare or sarcastic remark), give my bus seat to children, women, the elderly, or disabled, and still get the car door for my wife (when I'm not putting the toddler in her seat, of course). Lest I come across as holier-than-thou, there were some benefits to this -- it sure helped back when I was dating in college, since it made me stand out from the crowd of guys. But I think it's got more to do with the fact that I still espouse Biblical ideals than anything else.

Mike Coombes
02-08-2006, 05:16 PM
In the sense of honour, courtesy, and readiness to help the weak, there is no reason that is should be dead. Do you think it is society that has driven this common courtesy out, or just self-absorbtion?

Has it been driven out? I open doors for women, and on occasion offer my seat on a busy train. I never get glares or looks, although it's usually taken for granted. Maybe things are different in the US, but I don't think so.

The first time I visited NYC we did all the usual tourist things. After riding the Staten Island ferry we (me, wife, 2 under 10 year olds) tried to cross the road from battery park to the bottom of Wall Street. A very busy street. I grabbed my son and charged across th the first slight gap in traffic, turned around expecting to see my wife and daughter following, but they were still standing on the other side of the street. My wife is more nervous of traffic than I am, especially when it's rushing past on the wrong side of the road!

While I was deciding the best course of action (go back and get her, or wait til she made it across unaided) a limo pulled up. A black man the size of a small house (must have been 6'6" both tall and wide), dripping bling, got out of the back of the limo, walked in a very leisurely way across the street, forcing traffic to stop (you got the feeling that if a car hit him, the car would come off worst), asked my wife if she'd like some assistance, took her arm and again crossed the street, forcing traffic to stop for him. Then he got back in the limo and was gone.

If that's not chivalry, tell me what is.

02-08-2006, 06:57 PM
That's a great story, and the sort of thing that may only happen in New York City. We've been here a little over three years, and this town continues to amaze me. The range of behavior here is astounding.

02-22-2006, 12:22 AM
Granting that we're talking about modern chivalry, i.e., courteous behavior toward one another, I think we do overlook a lot of intended politeness. I think it's partly because we don't look for it, and want it to be entirely up to other people rather than recognizing our own obligation to interpet other people's behavior chivalrously; and partly because we don't give ourselves time to appreciate, teach, or practice qualities like kindness, attentiveness, common sense, and compassion.

A lot of us can't get far enough beyond our own insecurities to worry about how other people might feel, and some people feel that "etiquette" is snobbish or pointless. The real motive of manners is to let the people around us feel comfortable so that our interaction is authentic. We don't put a lot of value on that these days, preferring the convenience of stereotypes, but I believe that pendulum will swing back before too much longer. Then, although the definition keeps changing with our comfort levels and markers, I think we'll see more chivalry -- and learn to recognize what's already part of our lives.


02-22-2006, 12:48 AM
Except for some individuals, it was never really alive as a culture. Instead, it's a goal or behavior worthy of emulation that we can only encourage.

02-26-2006, 07:59 PM
I'm also aware that many men no longer understand when it's appropriate to do things like open doors or offer assistance and when it will be taken as an affront. Some, after being publicly chewed out for offering a seat to a lady who was standing, decide not to risk it again.

We tried to teach our kids (now young adults) that it was always appropriate to behave with 'chivalry' if the other person was at a disadvantage, regardless of gender. So the young person always gives his or her seat to an elderly person, a pregnant woman, a woman who looks exhausted (those ugly, practical shoes says she's on her feet all day long), a person with many parcels, or one with a child in tow.

On a recent trip to Boston, I was reminded that in more urban environments that's not the norm. It seems that only Hispanic guys (and tourists) are willing to part with seats readily. Like the bling-guy mentioned above (great little story--I hope you work it into something you sell!), many of them seemed to consider themselves protectors of women.

Maryn, who got a subway seat during pregnancy one whole time