The Death of Chivalry
And Our Social Devolution
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 15:10
I am not sure what it was that had me thinking about chivalry the other night. Something about heading to the bar on a Saturday evening always seems to leave me disgusted with the state of our generation’s social interactions, and always makes me think that something is definitely missing.
Somewhere between giving my coat to a friend as we walked through the snowy streetscape from one bar to the next and realizing that I had never even thought of giving my coat to a girl as anything more than high-class president’s-ball type stuff, I began to ponder my mannerisms and those of my peers.
But what is chivalry, really? The word itself conjures up images of knights in shining armor (or plumbers in red overalls … or giant green ogres) rescuing princesses in pretty pink gowns from castles far, far away, guarded by fierce dragons. So how can we expect ourselves to be chivalrous in our day and age, when princesses and castles and dragons have faded into the depths of myth?
Let’s break down the word and see what we can find out. The most literal definitions of chivalry do indeed reference the code of conduct held by medieval knights. Over the course of the last thousand years or so, the term has evolved to encompass the honorable virtues derived from those ancient codes of conduct. Today, we know it in its heavily diluted form: opening doors, lending coats or offering an arm on a slippery sidewalk.
I have written before about my disillusionment with current trends in popular culture, and my desire for a return to a classier era. I cannot help but think that our social interactions have completely devolved from the standards to which young people held themselves a generation or two ago.
Or perhaps I am wrong – perhaps I am just stuck in some awkward stage that people rarely talk about. Caught between the wild energy of youth and the cultured courtesy of professional life, and forced to endure the animalistic habits of our modern social stigmata while I gaze longingly ahead to a day when I can act a gentleman without feeling completely self-conscious.
Whatever the case, all I know is that I desperately wish our culture could take a note from the gentlemen of old and raise itself to that courtly standard. Until then, I’ll just have to hover somewhere in between conformity and completely alienating myself from my peers.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.