Chivalry is dead. There was a time when humankind was held to a different standard and in some cases, a higher one.
At one time personal and family honor was far more important than money and power, because your reputation often brought both of those things to you. Reputation is still a valuable commodity in today’s world, but we seem to be content as long as our brand is relevant.
We’ve all heard the phrase: “The only bad publicity is no publicity.” People are less concerned with having a good reputation. It seems like honor is just a limitation or a dirty word. Well, not to me it isn’t.
Honor to me isn’t following a strict code like Hammurabi’s — a little extreme, even for my tastes. At one time men known for philandering were not celebrated, they were rakehells and they were shamed by polite society. Meanwhile being known for honesty could get you shelter in a noble’s home. Now it all revolves around the end result. The ends finally justify the means.
All of our steps forward have been plentiful and much needed, but we seem to have forgotten ourselves along the way. Divorce rates and poverty are climbing. Historically, people dealt with these things differently. Men who were adulterers could be divorced by their wives without a word in some Native American cultures. He would simply find his things set outside the dwelling and that was that. He lost his rights to his home, his food, and even his children. He was then forced to take his shelter with the single men and everyone knew why he was there.
Leap ahead to the Great Depression. Life was hard for everyone then. We persevered somehow. My grandmother would tell my father that the cure for society’s ills was simple. “If everyone takes care of the neighbor on the left and the right; everyone has three families looking out for them.” That resonated with me the first time I heard it. Sure, there are a lot more people now and we build vertically; think about it though. That mentality got our nation through what is debatably the toughest of times. Did it prevent all heinous crimes? No. I firmly believe it cut it down though. Sure, we have public housing and other care systems in place, but are they even necessary if we just look out for one another?
Dueling has been outlawed as barbaric. You know what though? Men and women had to mind their words in feudal Japan, the Old West, and across most of Europe. Demanding satisfaction was certainly a thing. No one wants to be hurt, publicly shamed, or dead. This served a purpose. It taught people from a young age that actions have consequences. I’m not condoning violence, but it makes you think. Would bullying be an epidemic? Would Columbine have happened if it all got nipped in the bud early on? I don’t know. I know a duel can still happen in Washington State under police supervision — unarmed of course.
I get the door for men and women alike. It doesn’t belittle them as a person; they could certainly get the door themselves, but they shouldn’t have to. Long live chivalry.
NATE MUNSON, Utica native, warrior poet. Living the nerd life. A farm boy at heart who moonlights in cosplay on the weekends. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.