Quote of the Day: Chivalry and Civility

 

“WHEN WOMEN COMPLAIN ABOUT THE DISAPPEARANCE OF CHIVALRY, I’m prone to point out that chivalry was a system, one that imposed obligations of behavior on women and girls as well as on men. Likewise, when David Brooks complains that Edward Snowden is an unmediated man, I must note that in the civil society Brooks invokes, Presidents and other leaders were also mediated; they were not merely checked by Congress, courts, etc., but they were also checked by themselves, and a sense of what was proper that went beyond “how much can I get away with now?” Obama, too, is unmediated in that sense. That Brooks couldn’t see beyond his sharply-creased pants to notice that when it was apparent to keen observers even before the 2008 election is not to his credit. If the system of civil society has failed, it is in no small part because its guardians — notably including Brooks — have also failed.” — Prof. Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com Jun 11, 2013

To say that I find the norms of chivalry (battlefield conduct) and courtly behavior (behavior befitting a noble at court) persuasive is obvious – look at my name. The Paladins / Paladines of Charlemagne was the idealized role model and cautionary tale for the medieval knight, and the modern fantasy vision of the paladin appeals to a similar code of heroic ethics. Similarly, I admire the civilized norms of the past, as one of the symbols of the greatness of our civilization.

However, I’ve learned to dread appeals to chivalry and civility. The Instapundit keeps on returning to this theme for a reason. There is an implicit arrangement in the rules regarding the courtly chivalrous knight or the respectable, civilized gentleman. There was a mutual acknowledgment of duties and roles. The knight needed a damsel and vice versa. When people exploited these expectations, society turned its glare upon them and branded them as shameful. This gave a powerful incentive to remain within the system, which is strongly absent now.

It is pure madness and entitlement to expect to receive the deferential treatment expected under chivalry or civility when you openly mock the obligations for you to return the favor.

There is another element to this discussion, which is often ignored: the inherent, underlying danger of the knight or the gentleman. The knight had been trained in combat since he was a child, and was equipped with the finest weapons he could afford. On the battlefield, he was an armored juggernaut, killing the enemy with skill and steel. This did not vanish as the armored knight became the gentleman. The rapier’s name came from espada ropera, sword of the robes – the weapon of choice for the noble duelist. A gentleman was willing to risk his life with blades or guns in a duel for honor or in a war for his country and family. The finest Edwardian gentlemen took up their sabers to lead the lads over the top of a World War I trench.

The gentleman is civilized when facing gentlemen, and courteous toward the ladies. However, when facing barbarism, the gentleman destroys it ruthlessly. It is only by good breeding and upbringing that the Wolf is turned into a Sheepdog. The civilized system is an attempt to control and channel this inherent destructive power. A true gentleman is respected by other gentlemen, and feared by his enemies.

If we are going to promote civility and chivalrous conduct, let us have the whole system, and nothing less.

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There are 29 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    Indeed!

    • #1
    • June 13, 2019, at 6:15 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin Post author

    This gentlemanly thread is part of the Quote of the Day series, the easiest way to start a conversation on Ricochet. There are plenty of days in June available, so sign up today!

    A gentleman chivalrously solving a dispute with a rival:

    Civilized gentlemen facing down barbarians and dealing with them appropriately:

    • #2
    • June 13, 2019, at 6:19 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. James Gawron Thatcher

    OP,

    Brooks is beyond shallow. He is utterly trivial. The difference between Brooks and a department store dummy is indiscernible.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #3
    • June 13, 2019, at 6:42 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  4. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    The Men of Harlech was Rick Rescorla’s favorite battle song. He sang it in the Ia Drang Valley while the men waited for the NVA.

    https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Soldier-James-B-Stewart-ebook/dp/B000S1M7JS/

     

    • #4
    • June 13, 2019, at 6:50 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Vectorman Thatcher

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Civilized gentlemen facing down barbarians and dealing with them appropriately:

     

    My favorite movie!

    • #5
    • June 13, 2019, at 7:21 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Percival Thatcher

    I quibble (and it is only a quibble) with the description of chivalry being primarily involved with battlefield conduct. The Code as given in “The Song of Roland” had it as:

    • To fear God and maintain His Church
    • To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
    • To protect the weak and defenceless
    • To give succour to widows and orphans
    • To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
    • To live by honour and for glory
    • To despise pecuniary reward
    • To fight for the welfare of all
    • To obey those placed in authority
    • To guard the honour of fellow knights
    • To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
    • To keep faith
    • At all times to speak the truth
    • To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
    • To respect the honour of women
    • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
    • Never to turn the back upon a foe

    None of them were only applicable to combat, though some of them were more important there. In the end, it wasn’t up to the widows, orphans, or women to deserve succor and respect. They were to be given those irrespective of merit. One had to work to put oneself outside of the chivalric obligation.

    But it is of a piece. Expecting gentle behavior from rogues is pointless. If you treat a knight as a knave long enough, a knave is what you’ll have.

    • #6
    • June 14, 2019, at 5:16 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  7. Unsk Member

    Very fine indeed. Some really great insights. 

    • #7
    • June 14, 2019, at 9:27 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    The time of gentleman is past, if it ever was. 

    Now all that is left is to live or die.

    • #8
    • June 14, 2019, at 1:34 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Steve C. Member

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    The time of gentleman is past, if it ever was.

    Now all that is left is to live or die.

    I disagree. It costs nothing to be polite. To me it’s a mark of maturity and a hallmark of civilization. 

    • #9
    • June 16, 2019, at 8:31 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. James Gawron Thatcher

    Percival (View Comment):

    I quibble (and it is only a quibble) with the description of chivalry being primarily involved with battlefield conduct. The Code as given in “The Song of Roland” had it as:

    • To fear God and maintain His Church
    • To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
    • To protect the weak and defenceless
    • To give succour to widows and orphans
    • To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
    • To live by honour and for glory
    • To despise pecuniary reward
    • To fight for the welfare of all
    • To obey those placed in authority
    • To guard the honour of fellow knights
    • To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
    • To keep faith
    • At all times to speak the truth
    • To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
    • To respect the honour of women
    • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
    • Never to turn the back upon a foe

    None of them were only applicable to combat, though some of them were more important there. In the end, it wasn’t up to the widows, orphans, or women to deserve succor and respect. They were to be given those irrespective of merit. One had to work to put oneself outside of the chivalric obligation.

    But it is of a piece. Expecting gentle behavior from rogues is pointless. If you treat a knight as a knave long enough, a knave is what you’ll have.

    Perci,

    Just don’t expect a thank you.

    The cruelest bastard of them all.

    Regards,

    Jim

     

    • #10
    • June 16, 2019, at 9:17 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. Percival Thatcher

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Perci,

    Just don’t expect a thank you.

    The cruelest bastard of them all.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I’ve told the story before of being berated by a liberated young lady who castigated me for holding the door open for her.

    “It’s not about who you are, it’s about who I am.”

    The nice lady of years who entered right behind the first gave me a winsome smile and an arm pat on her way by.

    • #11
    • June 16, 2019, at 10:31 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. James Gawron Thatcher

    Percival (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Perci,

    Just don’t expect a thank you.

    The cruelest bastard of them all.

    Regards,

    Jim

    I’ve told the story before of being berated by a liberated young lady who castigated me for holding the door open for her.

    “It’s not about who you are, it’s about who I am.”

    The nice lady of years who entered right behind the first gave me a winsome smile and an arm pat on her way by.

    Perci,

    I like your style. Keep annoying the young ones and make the old ones happy. Then you will find the best.

    Charm is deceitful and beauty-vain,

    But a Gd revering woman is much to be praised.

    Extol her for the fruit of her hand,

    Wherever people gather, her deeds speak her praise.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #12
    • June 16, 2019, at 12:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    The time of gentleman is past, if it ever was.

    Now all that is left is to live or die.

    I disagree. It costs nothing to be polite. To me it’s a mark of maturity and a hallmark of civilization.

    Bull.

    Some people need to be stomped hard. 

    Was Jesus polite when he overturned the tables?

    • #13
    • June 16, 2019, at 2:37 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin Post author

    The whole point of my post is that a gentleman is not a weakling. A gentleman can be willing to kill for honor and country, much less telling a fool the truth and working to stop his foolishness.

    • #14
    • June 16, 2019, at 3:12 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Percival Thatcher

    • #15
    • June 16, 2019, at 3:24 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Percival Thatcher

    • #16
    • June 16, 2019, at 3:24 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. James Gawron Thatcher

    Percival (View Comment):

    Perci,

    Damn it Perci, life can be like a prison. You’ve got grab hold and break free.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #17
    • June 16, 2019, at 5:56 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Percival Thatcher

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Perci,

    Damn it Perci, life can be like a prison. You’ve got grab hold and break free.

    Regards,

    Jim

    The original cast album with Richard Kiley is worth tracking down.

    Onward to glory, Jim.

    • #18
    • June 16, 2019, at 6:50 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Arahant Member

    Percival (View Comment):
    The original cast album with Richard Kiley is worth tracking down.

    I saw it on stage with Robert Goulet. That was a hoot.

    • #19
    • June 16, 2019, at 7:04 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Percival Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):
    The original cast album with Richard Kiley is worth tracking down.

    I saw it on stage with Robert Goulet. That was a hoot.

    From Lancelot in “Camelot” to Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha.”

    • #20
    • June 16, 2019, at 7:21 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Steve C. Member

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    The time of gentleman is past, if it ever was.

    Now all that is left is to live or die.

    I disagree. It costs nothing to be polite. To me it’s a mark of maturity and a hallmark of civilization.

    Bull.

    Some people need to be stomped hard.

    Was Jesus polite when he overturned the tables?

    I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.

    JB Books

    • #21
    • June 17, 2019, at 8:24 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. Steve C. Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Perci,

    Damn it Perci, life can be like a prison. You’ve got grab hold and break free.

    Regards,

    Jim

    The original cast album with Richard Kiley is worth tracking down.

    Onward to glory, Jim.

    My mother saw the first run on Broadway and played that record until it was worn out. Kiley is under appreciated.

    • #22
    • June 17, 2019, at 7:57 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Pete EE Member

    Instapundit has interesting thoughts on chivalry.
    But he’s a piker compared to Dalrock, the unchivalrous Christian.

    …chivalry’s teaching on men and women was a parody of Christianity…

    In Christianity Christ suffered undeservedly on the cross to sanctify us. In chivalry sanctification is achieved by the man suffering undeservedly at the whim of the woman.

    • #23
    • June 29, 2019, at 11:48 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Percival Thatcher

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    Instapundit has interesting thoughts on chivalry.
    But he’s a piker compared to Dalrock, the unchivalrous Christian.

    …chivalry’s teaching on men and women was a parody of Christianity…

    In Christianity Christ suffered undeservedly on the cross to sanctify us. In chivalry sanctification is achieved by the man suffering undeservedly at the whim of the woman.

    The boy doesn’t know the difference between a parody and an analog.

    • #24
    • June 30, 2019, at 4:20 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin Post author

     

    Woohoo! Thanks for the link, Pr. Reynolds!

    Hello fellow Instapundit readers! Ricochet is a place for civil conservative conversation on the Internet, a oasis in the mad world of social media, where we help keep the golden era of blogging alive. Most of our content comes from our members as opposed to columnists.

    If you are interested in sharing your thoughts on a site where you are a member, not a product, why don’t you join today?

     

    • #25
    • June 30, 2019, at 6:43 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Arahant Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    Ricochet is a place for civil conservative conversation on the Internet, a oasis in the mad world of social media, where we help keep the golden era of blogging alive.

    How dare you call us civil, you etoain shrdlu!

    • #26
    • June 30, 2019, at 8:17 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. Pete EE Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    Instapundit has interesting thoughts on chivalry.
    But he’s a piker compared to Dalrock, the unchivalrous Christian.

    …chivalry’s teaching on men and women was a parody of Christianity…

    In Christianity Christ suffered undeservedly on the cross to sanctify us. In chivalry sanctification is achieved by the man suffering undeservedly at the whim of the woman.

    The boy doesn’t know the difference between a parody and an analog.

    Neither do I, but I’m pretty sure he wants a word more disparaging than analog. Is there a word for mirror-image analog? 

    • #27
    • July 2, 2019, at 10:16 AM PDT
    • Like
  28. Arahant Member

    Pete EE (View Comment):
    Neither do I, but I’m pretty sure he wants a word more disparaging than analog. Is there a word for mirror-image analog? 

    Evil twin? Dark reflection?

    • #28
    • July 2, 2019, at 10:35 AM PDT
    • Like
  29. Percival Thatcher

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Pete EE (View Comment):

    Instapundit has interesting thoughts on chivalry.
    But he’s a piker compared to Dalrock, the unchivalrous Christian.

    …chivalry’s teaching on men and women was a parody of Christianity…

    In Christianity Christ suffered undeservedly on the cross to sanctify us. In chivalry sanctification is achieved by the man suffering undeservedly at the whim of the woman.

    The boy doesn’t know the difference between a parody and an analog.

    Neither do I, but I’m pretty sure he wants a word more disparaging than analog. Is there a word for mirror-image analog?

    It’s not a parody. It is an attempt to make an essentially violent vocation a little more Christian. The origins of chivalry were the Peace of God (no attacking agricultural resources, no fighting on Sundays or feast days, no plundering of church property, no attacking unarmed clerics) in 989, followed by the Truce of God (no fighting Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays in honor of the Ascension, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, no fighting during Advent or Lent, no attacking women, merchants, men at work in the fields) in the eleventh century. Were these strictures violated? Yes. Were there repercussions? Yes.

    Before this, there was no religious recognition of knighthood. Arguably, there wasn’t any concept of knighthood until there was a religious component. Did this turn everyone wearing a tin suit into little Jesuses? Nope, but it did give them a strong push in that direction. With the development of armed monastic orders (the Knights Hospitaller, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Knights Templar, etc.) during the Crusades, the connection became more explicit.

    Are the Laws of Warfare a parody of the Code of Chivalry? No, but an adherent of the Code would recognize the Laws for what they are.

    • #29
    • July 2, 2019, at 11:13 AM PDT
    • 4 likes