Is the Code of Chivalry Relevant in the 21st Century?

In Children of the Knight, King Arthur returns from Avalon to 21st Century Los Angeles to start a new crusade of lost and discarded children against the adult society that has abused, neglected, and marginalized them. He recruits the homeless, the unwanted, the rejected, and the gang affiliated. Among the many lessons he teaches and models for them, none are more important than the tenets of chivalry, once thought to be a very civilized and civilizing code. In our uncouth and very uncivilized America today, could such a code still have relevance? Sir Lance says it can, so let’s examine a few major tenets and find out.

In no particular order, one tenet is “To fear God and maintain His commands.” I know, in America today the “G” word is forbidden in public discourse lest some atheist be offended. Not so in the old days. In fact, the majority of Americans still believe in God and attend some kind of worship service on a consistent basis, so most don’t actually fear the “G” word––it’s only the media that does. Whether we admit it or not, believing in something greater than ourselves helps keep our own human ego in check. Also, all of our laws to some extent are tendrils branching off from those Ten Commandments atheists hate so much. Isn’t disdaining murder a good thing? What about bearing false witness against someone else and sending that person to prison as a result? Both crimes happen every day, especially the second because, according to the enlightened people, those old commandments are outdated and we don’t need to follow them anymore. Really? Arthur doesn’t think so and, while he doesn’t force any of his charges to pray, he himself does and the kids see in him a healthy respect for a power higher than themselves.

“To protect the weak and defenseless.” The lost children of today, especially the gang members, know from their own experiences growing up that the adult society does not support this particular tenet; in fact, adults often do the exact opposite, and most of the kids in this story were hurt or abused or neglected by adults their whole lives. Gang members often punk the defenseless and the weak and take pride in doing so. Why? Because they were taught these behaviors by the grownup world, including our elected officials who gleefully take vicious aim at this person or that group in order to score some polling points. What about the prevalent bullying of gay kids today? Why do some kids bully others, especially the gay ones? Because they have been taught to do so. Arthur makes it a fundamental requirement of his new Round Table that his knights will always aid and assist those in need. How terrible would it be if everyone adopted that philosophy?

“To refrain from the excessive giving of offense.” In today’s society, what with Facebook and Twitter and every other social media site, offending others has become a cottage industry. It seems people today go out of their way to be offensive, to hurt others and attempt to knock them down, marginalize them, make them feel less than human. If kids today were taught to refrain from such behavior as the Code suggests, wouldn’t this be a better country? ’Nuff said.

How about this one––“To fight for the welfare of all.” Arthur discovers that in America of the 21st Century kids are taught the “It’s all about me” philosophy because that’s how adults, including many parents, want to live their lives. If everyone is out to serve only himself or herself, does anything in society ever improve? Of course not! Hence, Arthur teaches and models this tenet of the Code. If each of us thinks more about the welfare of others ahead of our own wants in life, everyone would be covered because we’d be looked after, too. This isn’t socialism or any tyrannical left-wing idea––it’s simply common sense, and helps ensure a more cohesive and civil society because we’d know we could count on each other, and that all adults had the best interests of children at heart.

Here’s another “outdated” tenet of chivalry: “To avoid unfairness, meanness, and deceit.” Gee, that’s a pretty radical idea, isn’t it? Oh, yeah, but those egalitarian-types would argue, “What’s your definition of meanness or deceit?” I think most of us regular Americans who have even a smidgen of common sense know the answer to that question. Arthur seems to feel this tenet is crucial to his campaign in America and models it each and every day. Thus, he respects every kid and culture and sexual orientation. He passes no judgments on these kids, but merely accepts them as they come to him and strives to help them become better. He does not allow for name-calling or bullying or disrespect amongst his knights. Now if only the public school system in American could adopt this ideal! Ah well, one can dream.

Another absolutely outrageous tenet of chivalry that would doom virtually every politician in America is, “At all times speak the truth.” Wow. What a different country we’d live in if the politicians who wanted to take every dime we earn and use it for their own pet projects actually said that during a campaign? Or those who might want to overturn the 2nd Amendment; or those who want America to pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist and close its borders for good. And what if parents actually told their kids the truth, and kids did likewise? Would the country be so awful if truth was as highly valued as it is in the Code? As a former president once said, depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is, I suppose.

Another very outdated tenet, and one directed squarely at males, is “To respect the honor of women.” The whole movement in America today to make kids believe there is no essential difference between male and female has created a host of problems, from girls trying to act masculine and boys acting feminine, to a general attitude among boys that girls are not special, but merely “boys” with different equipment. Men today not only don’t hold a door open for a lady, but often slam it in her face. And women today, in their understandable quest to be taken seriously as equals, don’t seem to notice what has been lost. Chivalry isn’t chauvinism, but rather a healthy respect for the uber-significant role women play in any society. Men, by their nature, tend toward the uncivilized, and they need women to help them in this regard to become better and more productive, rather than destructive. But if there is “no difference” between the genders, as is being taught to kids today, what ultimate damage to civilization will we have wrought? In Children of the Knight, most of the discarded youth and gang members are male, and Arthur teaches them straight off to address any female, especially adult females, with respect. How terrible is that?

The final tenet of note is perhaps the most radical of all: “To finish any venture you have begun.” Again, another brain-twister and completely outdated for our hip, modern, social networking society, right? Most of the kids in Arthur’s Round Table have dropped out of school. Admittedly, schools in America make no effort to address the individual needs and future goals of students, so many of those kids understandably feel it’s a waste of their time to attend. However, under Arthur they come to realize that finishing any venture, even one they may deem of little value, is important because of the life-long habit such completion instills.

Too often today kids quit on something they began because they see adults doing the same. I taught high school for twenty-five years and this particular tenet was at the top of my list, especially with the at-risk youth I taught. Even my writing of Children of the Knight has inspired a number of them to follow through on their dreams or some goal others have told them isn’t “practical,” and thus they may now complete something they began but were tempted to let languish. I told them I began writing this story probably fifteen years ago, but work and other obligations got in the way of finishing it. Now I have completed it and feel good for having done so. Finishing what we start––assuming what we have started is a good thing––is necessary to the success of every generation, and Arthur recognizes this need straight away and works to instill it.

Is the old-school Code of Chivalry outdated and useless to kids of the 21st Century? Or can they learn something yet from that centuries-old set of beliefs? Arthur believes they can, and Sir Lance says to check out the result of his efforts in Children of the Knight. Then judge for yourself.

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