If Civility Were Reinstated, USA Would be a Safer, Healthier & Happier Place

If America Returned to a Modern Code of Chivalry, Could We Avoid Collapse?

By —— Bio and Archives--January 16, 2013

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Could a rejected, “sexist,” politically incorrect theory—the antiquated notion of chivalry—help cure America’s woes, if reestablished? Actually, yes—because it contains the core spiritual antidote to the toxic selfishness and condescending, ironic posture offered by this shallow and hollow post-modern age.


This is because the medieval code of chivalry was not just designed for romantic encounters between knights and ladies-in-waiting. Instead, as offered by Charlemagne, it was a summary of Christian ethics for a foundation of social policy which then set the stage for the development of the humane modern state, taking care for the disabled and less fortunate.

Despite a flurry of new standards, such as the dictates of Political Correctness, polling indicates Americans have rarely been more dissatisfied with the direction of society and their own level of personal happiness. Therefore, our ideas have failed us and it’s time to return to the drawing board.

Nowhere does dissatisfaction seem more apparent than between the sexes. Men and women instinctively define each other much by contrast, and traditionally differences were accepted with at least grudging respect and dignity. This theory is now utterly rejected by leftism, which wages relentless war against ideals of genuine feminism and masculinity.

Further, the Hookup Culture has left a deep well of loneliness and confusion as men and women struggle to build meaningful, long-lasting relationship from the debris of casual encounters. This unnatural casualness is shown false against Adam’s heartfelt, emotional reaction to Eve’s appearance in Genesis 2:23,

This is now bone of my bones,

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called Woman,

Because she was taken out of Man.

In an exasperating number of everyday scenarios, old common-sense standards of chivalry are abandoned in lieu of politically derived solutions maximizing neither human happiness, nor safety. In fact, the modern default of public behavior towards self-centered behavior and self-satisfaction in the name of progress, is not merely troubling but a sign of the collapse of principled society. But to examine the old chivalry standards is a breath of fresh air and freedom when considering our right to free expression within social settings.

Further, these chivalric codes condensed the ideas and experiences of a thousand years within the template of a Christian worldview. This code dispensed moral truths within the framework of society, and thereby created a new standard for safety, humanity, and overall happiness. So why not consider returning to this romantic wisdom of the ages instead of watching as our society crumbles and burns to the ground in the name of a raft of worthless dogma, Marxist creedalism and socialist group-think?!!

I. Self-Centered: Ruthless & Rude in Modern America

A. Description of Current American Mores

Life in America, and the Western Europe in general, has suffered a precipitous fall in terms of manners, standards and resultant personal satisfaction. Many moderns find life more confusing, especially in terms of gender roles. The impact of political doctrines masquerading as a personal ethos has tainted and tarnished the felt satisfaction of many Americans.

Whereas there has never been more autonomy for women or material wealth, many are increasingly dissatisfied. Much unhappiness is rooted in the politically correct notion that acknowledgment of sex differences are inherently immoral, regardless of the truth of such assertions. Underlying this, though is an attack against not merely our traditional understanding of life, but the biblical standards defining the West’s foundation and its superbly successful past, unprecedented in history. Political Correctness is incapable of accepting God’s created order.

B. Modern Feminism—Salvation or Curse?

Two views exist on the role of feminism in the modern world. One claims that women would be in utter subjugation if not for feminist activism. The alternative claims feminism is the bane of modern life and the greatest curse in history.

Women’s Movement—Epic Achievement?

Most modern Western women automatically and unconsciously assume without feminism, modern life would not be worth living. While certain breakthroughs associated with feminism go without saying, such as the right to vote and commensurate pay for similar work, many Americans are ambivalent or hostile to the movement. Further, outside of university Women’s Studies programs, many younger ladies accept the improvements associated with the movement while resisting the inherent anti-male ethos which so typifies it. Given the gains, below is an expose of the dark underbelly of Feminism.

Feminism as a Diabolical Curse

Academic Enfant Terrible’ Satoshi Kanazawa tossed another intellectual grenade in his take-down of the feminist movement:

Modern feminism in the 21st century is simultaneously illogical, unnecessary, and evil. First, modern feminism is illogical because it is based on the vanilla assumption that, but for lifelong gender socialization and pernicious patriarchy, men and women are on the whole identical. An insurmountable body of evidence by now conclusively demonstrates that the vanilla assumption is false; men and women are inherently, fundamentally, and irreconcilably different. Any political movement based on such a spectacularly incorrect assumption about human nature—that men and women are and should be identical—is doomed to failure.

Finally, modern feminism is evil because it ultimately makes women (and men) unhappy. In a forthcoming article in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American women over the last 35 years have steadily become less and less happy, making more and more money relative to men. Women used to be a lot happier than men despite the fact that they made much less money than men. The sex gap in happiness (in women’s favor) has declined in the past 35 years as the sex gap in pay (in men’s favor) narrowed. Now women make as much as, sometimes even more than, men do. As a result, today women are just as unhappy, or even more unhappy than, men are. Money does not make women happy…

C. Dissatisfaction with Modern Life

It seems the traditional American felt sense of happiness has gone the way of the Passenger Pigeon. The Washington Times describes a study of satisfaction between the sexes:

Things are out of kilter. And pretty dismal, according to a Harris Poll released Monday. Eight out of 10 Americans, in fact, say, “Women today are treated with less chivalry than in the past.” A majority of the respondents, 52%, say relations between men and women are not “fine” these days. Just 13%, in fact, strongly agreed that the sexes are in harmony. The feminist fervor appears to have lost its cachet as well. About three-fourths of Americans across the board—men, women, Republicans, Democrats—say that the nation has “more important issues to fix” than gender equality. The poll of 2,227 adults was conducted June 14-21, 2010 and released to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees a woman’s right to vote.

II. Civility—Or, Not Long Ago, Americans Were Kind

How has American society changed in terms of manners, kindness, deference between sexes and aiding the most vulnerable? According to an August 04, 2011 report, 76% believe Americans are ruder than before.

Most Americans continue to feel their fellow citizens are becoming ruder and less civilized, and half say they have actually confronted someone over their behavior. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 76% of American Adults think their fellow Americans are becoming ruder and less civilized.

It is true that we all feel our nation is losing its ability to be polite. One writer states:

In 1996, U.S. News & World Report surveyed Americans about the condition of civility in modern society. Of the 1,005 respondents, 89% said incivility was a major social problem, and 78% said the situation had worsened in the last decade, whereas 91% percent believed incivility contributed to violence.” When a society upholds a set of manners, it promotes a level of respect and understanding for others. Without “civility,” the society lacks solidarity, leading to a disconnection between the single person and the community. Participants in the U.S. News survey logically believe that incivility leads to violence because the attacker has little or no respect for others. As time goes on, the level of civility continues to travel down the slippery slope towards incivility, unable to restore proper manners and respect to society. Particularly dinner table manners have changed over time and are almost nonexistent today.

The fact is most Americans know that something is desperately missing from today’s society. We follow sets of rules that go against all instincts and which have no foundation in American history, or even common sense and logic. For example, why allow women on planes to struggle to lift bags too heavy into racks too high, in the name of “feminism”—as healthy men look on, indifferently? As society continues to break down, dating goes from courtship to simple rutting without any sense of dignity or even purpose, beyond the Pleasure Principle. And every boorish behavior has a likely excuse.

III. Old Code of Chivalry

A. Chivalry Overview

Chivalry encapsulated a way of life designed around honor, religious faith, and commitment to society at every level. Writes one author,

Chivalry is an ethical system emphasizing personal honor. As Maurice Keen wrote: “the most important legacy of chivalry to later times was its conception of honour…Transaction of honour, a contemporary anthropologist has said, ‘provide… a nexus between the ideals of society and their reproduction in the actions of individuals—honour commits men to act as they should’...Chivalry helped fashion the nineteenth-century ideal of the ‘gentleman’...

B. Origins—Charlemagne’s Call to Chivalric Behavior

Charles the Great, or Charlemagne (742-814), is considered the preeminent French king, and one of history’s most enlightened leaders. Grandson of Charles “The Hammer” Martel, who expelled the Muslim Saracen raiders at the battle of Tours-Poitier, Charlemagne was a tireless promoter of Christian values to upgrade pagan society. He released two ethics statements, the first called Charlemagne’s Code of Chivalry, listed in the eleventh century English epic poem Song of Roland, which described knight’s duties. Charlemagne again offered The Exhortation of 800 AD, in the year he became Emperor:

Love God Almighty with all your heart and all your powers
Love your neighbour as yourself
Give alms to the poor as ye are able
Entertain strangers
Visit the sick
Be merciful to prisoners
Do ill to no man, nor consent unto such as do, for the receiver is as bad as the thief
Forgive as ye hope to be forgiven
Redeem the captive
Help the oppressed
Defend the cause of the widow and orphan
Render righteous judgement
Do not consent to any wrong
Persevere not in wrath
Shun excess in eating and drinking
Be humble and kind
Serve your liege lord faithfully
Do not steal
Do not perjure yourself, nor let others do so
Envy, hatred and violence separate men from the Kingdom of God
Defend the Church and promote her cause.

Along the same lines, historian Léon Gautier sums up chivalry’s Ten Commandments, taken from the large body of medieval literature:

  1. Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches, and shalt observe all its directions.
  2. Thou shalt defend the Church.
  3. Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
  4. Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.
  5. Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
  6. Thou shalt make war against the Infidel without cessation, and without mercy.
  7. Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
  8. Thou shalt never lie, and shall remain faithful to thy pledged word.
  9. Thou shalt be generous, and give largess to everyone.
  10. Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.

IV. Conclusion—A New Civility

What is missing in America today is the elephant in the room, the most obvious conclusion one can easily reach—that Christianity, the faith of 75% of Americans—is no longer represented in much of our discourse and habits. Yet, how can this be if we are people of faith living in the most free country in history? Is this simple ignorance and indifference or rank apostasy from essential tenets of the faith?

For example, the Bible describes two fundamentally different identities and roles for men and women. Yet, most Americans thoughtlessly buy into the dictates of feminism and Political Correctness in interacting with the opposite sex. And most folks today accept the Hookup ideal of dating, without any thought towards the traditional family and what its loss might portend for the future of our civilization. Is it any wonder Americans are confused, unhappy and feeling lost? Can we return to a reborn kind of civility and chivalry to restore our identity?

A fascinating history of manners is Civility: a Cultural History, by Benet Davetian, which traces how man became increasingly more civil. Davetian calls for Civilizing and Recivilizing Processes. Etiquette expert Cindy Post Senning, a director of the Emily Post Institute, writes about how we can bring back civility by remembering its essential foundations:

...etiquette and courtesy encompass two interrelated and essential components: principles and manners. “The principles of respect, consideration and honesty are universal and timeless,” she says. But “manners change over time and from culture to culture.” To strengthen relationships, she says, “we need to articulate these principles in all our interactions. It is respectful to make requests rather than demands, to show gratitude and appreciation, to greet others, to give our complete attention, to acknowledge appreciation shown, to acknowledge and show respect for age, standing, importance.”

More than anything, were the vast majority of everyday Americans simply to go off what they believe, instead of what some bombastic expert tells them is the “right” thing to do in any setting, we would be quickly saved from our dilemmas. For the essential elements of chivalry and civility, perhaps first summed up by Charlemagne, stand for timeless values which can never do their bearers wrong.

For who of good intentions could possibly find fault with a code emphasizing men always honor God and the Bible, celebrate and assist women in every setting, assist the poor and crippled in all manners, defend country and resist infidels, remain honest and humble in all dealings, protect animals, develop virtuous habits, and overall dedicate oneself to battling evil and doing good? Finally, wouldn’t such a re-embracing of our great past ideals almost certainly guarantee America would overcome its current demons, and emerge phoenix-like from the gathering ashes of self-inflicted ruin?


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Kelly OConnell -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Kelly O’Connell is an author and attorney. He was born on the West Coast, raised in Las Vegas, and matriculated from the University of Oregon. After laboring for the Reformed Church in Galway, Ireland, he returned to America and attended law school in Virginia, where he earned a JD and a Master’s degree in Government. He spent a stint working as a researcher and writer of academic articles at a Miami law school, focusing on ancient law and society. He has also been employed as a university Speech & Debate professor. He then returned West and worked as an assistant district attorney. Kelly is now is a private practitioner with a small law practice in New Mexico.

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