CHIVALRY: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW
Chivalry is a word not often heard today. In fact, a lot of us do not even know what it actually means. So, before we dwell on its past and present, let us take a moment and understand what it means. Webster’s dictionary defines it as-
- Gallant or distinguished Gentlemen.
- The system, spirit, or customs of medieval knighthood.
- The qualities of the ideal knight.
Inferring from the above definition, I would say chivalry at its very roots is a code of good conduct. The term chivalry originated in the middle 11th century in France and evolved into a code of conduct followed by men of honour during the medieval times and later on integrated itself with the idea of being a gentleman.
Though the origins of the term are archaic, it has a very interesting element to it. Unlike many medieval and pre-medieval traditions, Chivalry is neither a mandate from the powerful to the weak nor a decree from the crown unto the masses. Instead, it is a set of principles and limitations that the strong and mighty placed upon themselves willingly with the understanding that setting a good example is a powerful tool to create a deep impact in the fabric of chaos ridden society.
Now that we know quite a bit about what it means, let us take a look at its past, present and the future.
HOW IT STARTED?
The very idea of chivalry originated in medieval literary works. Initially, it was a way of life that fused three well-established aspects of society i.e. the military, nobility and religion. Many believe that it took roots in Rome. The Roman empire was the economic and cultural epitome for civilisations but then for various reasons it fell into chaos and corruption and things started to go downhill. Amidst this turmoil, an anonymous avant-garde proposed what we know today as the code of chivalry. It gradually spread and gave Rome hope and inspiration amidst chaos and despair.
Now that is a beautiful story and I can go on and on with it but let us take a look at what chivalry stands for in today’s context. We will finish the story of Rome and its warriors some other time.
THE CODE OF CHIVALRY
Chivalry outlines certain ethical standards that form the foundation of gentlemanly conduct. They are not just about pleasantries and politeness but about giving purpose and meaning to the male strength. Listed below are the pillars on which it stands:
- Truthfulness is the foundation of this code of conduct. It stems from the fact that a man who lies cannot be trusted. Truthfulness is a virtue that remains the greatest concern of a chivalrous gentleman.
- Courtesy and Politeness are as dear to a gentleman as breathing. The reason is that these qualities make conversations and encounters more pleasant and help in promoting a healthy society. Rudeness, on the other hand, might get the work done but it creates a disappointing and contentious world that we all have to live in.
- Loyalty is a quality that men of honour must cultivate, even when it is not being reciprocated to them. It makes a man dependable.
- Justice is also a guiding principle of the code of chivalry for obvious reasons. A chivalrous man fights for justice and not for vengeance.
- Love finds its place in the code as it stems from commitment and that is a vital virtue of chivalry.
Based on these pillars an informal and varying code of conduct was devised and surprisingly this code is as valid in the modern context as it was in medieval times. Let us see how?
CHIVALRY IN THE MODERN WORLD
Today the world is not very different from the middle ages. We have a lot of resources and a great deal of freedom at our disposal and just like middle ages, a vast majority of people believe that chivalry is something just for children’s storybooks and scholars doctoral thesis. The reason for this aversion also remains the same, selfishness and greed. The idea of doing anything for someone else is alien to us and that my friends, is the reason we need chivalry more than ever. Do not look at Chivalry as an ideal code of conduct, instead, look at it as the means to inspire courage and respect within yourself and take it further from there.
In the end, it all boils down to the fact that chaos remains in our society. It is fuelled by vices such as selfishness, economic inequality, racism and greed. A gentleman does what he can to contribute to eliminating these evils and chivalry is a practical way to do it. The only way to change the world is to start from yourself and believe me, gentlemen, if you can respect your inferiors as you respect your seniors, if you can go out of your way to help someone selflessly, if you can speak the truth when it is the right thing to do and if you can fight for justice and not for vengeance, you can definitely change the world.
Have a good day!