On My Honor: Chivalry in Modern Society?

October 7, 2009
The Medieval Period is most readily associated today, due in part to Disney films and in part truth, with the noble concept of chivalry. The era is represented mostly by stories of King Arthur and of knights who went on perilous journeys for the sake of a "damsel in distress," generally (ideally) a princess. While this is a misrepresentation of chivalry, it is true in part - respect for women was a large part, but there was also duty, loyalty, selflessness, honor, humility, and simply respect in general. It is a sad truth that these words are today merely that - words, ideals. As a whole, modern society does not recognize these concepts as being worthwhile.

As the double-edged sword of freedom becomes more and more available, society becomes less respectful of others, because we focus on ourselves - on our own personal success and well0being. This is a drastic contrast to medieval feudal life, where all but the king served a higher power. Consequently, concepts like loyalty, humility, and selflessness seem foreign to our modern society, which prides itself in its opportunity and independence. Even common courtesy - holding the door open for someone, letting another car pull out in front of you, saying "thank you" - is often hard to find today. We as a society simply do not have time for each other, and we are too selfish to make time.

As the world advances exponentially, even actions that were habitual or required of society just fifty years ago now seem irrelevant and even absurd. Table manners are saved for only the most formal occasions. It is almost alien to see a man open the car door for a woman (partly because this would now be an insult to the woman's worth and capability as a human being), and the notion of a man standing by the end of a pew to let a woman out is preposterous. Yet each of these was implicitly required of American society a mere fifty years ago. Today, many who were raised in this much more respectful era are distraught by the lack of morals we now have. This all stems from the over-drivenness of modern America - we have, in the name of progress, transformed a leisurely, respectful society into a remarkably technological yet rushed and selfish one.

One off the few places that anything like chivalry can still be found in America is in the military. Aspects of chivalry are enforced in all branches: "semper fidelis" - loyalty, "an Army of one" - selflessness, "not self, but country" - selflessness. But the military can hardly be considered as part of modern society; the main purpose of Basic Training is to re-socialize recruits - to transform them from products of modern American society into soldiers based on the knights of chivalry.

Obviously, technological advancement in society is for the most part good, as onemajor product is medicine and other such discoveries. The problem is not the progression, but the digression - the digression from a society made up of respectful members of honor and integrity into an overdriven, selfish one. True chivalry no longer exists.

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KatsK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm
Good article. I agree completely. Although part of why we used to have chivalry was because women were believed to be "weaker", we should still practice selflessness and thinking about others. I don't think this has to be gender-specific, either. Girls can take the time to open or hold doors or say thank you as well (and I think they should)!
stanley replied...
Apr. 19, 2012 at 2:35 am

Women were definitely weaker, especially in olden times when physical strength was the most important characteristic a person could possess.

Physical strength means less and less as our society evolves. Apart from attracting a mate (which is arguable) it means very little. That is the only reason women have the opportunities they do now.


wittysoccerplayer said...
Mar. 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm
I agree wholeheartedly. I was just thinking, you know I'm an independent girl and don't like to be thought of as weak but I think that chivalry is very much needed in our society today. I think also our society is too fixated on indivuality and "all about me" that we forget about others. I long for a boy to be polite, hold a door open, and say, "Ladies first". It's just so foreign and rare that when it happens it's almost like a pleasant surprise. I am often faced with a question of, "If you cou... (more »)
ambnyc This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm
As a self respecting feminist, I am not in favor of chilvary. While it's very nice of a man to hold open the door for a lady and to do all those chilvarous acts, I will certainly not go on a date expecting him to do so, and I won't be disappointed if he doesn't.
ambnyc This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 9:24 pm
Well written article, by the way, it was an enjoyable read and you really got your point across.
saimne This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm

much of this loss is thanks to the fact that our modern society offers an amount of equality that is unheard of in medieval times. 

Also, it might sound crazy, but gangs such as the Mafia and such are based on chivalry - they just use it to manipulate pawns into illegal acts. Many gangsters know more about loyalty and selflessness than many people, as sad as it may seem...

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