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2019 word: Chivalry

Men, 2018 was a lousy year. We need to change the trend lines. Adopting the codes of the honorable knights of the Middle Ages would be a good way to start.

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Men, we have work to do. 

Matt Walsh
Matt Walsh

2018 was a really lousy year. 

When you look back on 2018, it seemed like the daily national news was a running loop of prominent, powerful men accused of or owning up to abhorrent immoral behavior against women.

No need to go through the long list. But we all remember those who made the nightly #MeToo Shame List had the common thread of men wielding the power of their positions; of men whom you would expect to be models of comportment; of men whom you would have thought knew they were making horribly bad choices.

Alas, and unfortunately, we know from the Old Testament to today the kind of behavior that was exposed was nothing new to the world. Men — and women, let’s be honest here — have human weaknesses, some of us worse than others.

But given the heightened social climate and the galvanization of so many women who are anti-men, the stories of men behaving badly seemed to have entered the public domain at levels never seen before — at least not in our lifetimes.

This seeming epidemic does not bode well for the future of a civil and moral society. If you think of history, you can’t help but wonder: Are trendlines heading toward the next “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” or worse, another “Sodom and Gomorrah”?

Given all the accounts of men behaving badly, there is ample justification for every man to take stock and consider how to reverse the narrative and the way men behave.

American men are failing

Simultaneous with the #MeToo epidemic is another disturbing and threatening trend that should rouse all men — and women, for that matter: As Fox News’ Tucker Carlson noted in a series in March: “Something ominous is happening to men in America … American men are failing in body, in mind and in spirt.” It’s not just men, that includes American boys as well. The failure is, and will, seep downward. 

The Women Marchers — and all of the universities with their Women’s Studies Departments — are pounding away at their theme that all women are victims of male oppressors. And this has manifested itself in a way now that “masculinity” is bad.  

In Carlson’s series on the American male, he noted alarming data:

• The average American man will die five years before the average American woman. 

• Men are twice as likely as women to become alcoholics and addicted to drugs. 

• 77% of all U.S. suicides are men.

• “Relative to girls, boys are failing in school,” Carlson reported. “More women graduate from college than men. Women decisively outnumber men in graduate schools.”

• Seven million working-age men have dropped out of the workforce, and half of those are on pain medications.

• Young adult men are more likely to live with a parent; not so with young women. 

• Single women buy their own home at twice the rate of single men.

• The majority of managers in the work place are women. 

• 70% of men versus 59% of women are overweight or obese.

“This is a crisis,” Carlson said.

It is. A crisis in behavior, in our cultural mores and a crisis for our future.

To put all of this in perspective, psychologist Jordan Peterson told Carlson in one episode of the series that all of those attacking masculinity and men forget that men and women have been “a cooperative enterprise, and that men and women have lifted themselves out of the mire together over the millennia.”

What is to be done?

As we said at the top: Men, we have work to do.

If you — men — think about this overarching picture of those powerful men at the one end behaving as oppressors, abusers, harassers and rapists and of the American boys who are being de-masculinized, perhaps the one word that can serve as a guiding antidote is this: Chivalry.

This is our word for 2019: Chivalry.

Readers of this page may recall that we’ve made a practice the past five years of offering one word that could serve as a guidepost for what we — as individuals, as a community or a collective force — do in the coming year.

This year, 2019, should be the year of chivalry for men.

Chivalry encompasses all of the Right Stuff. “Chivalry,” wrote Charles Mills in his 2012 book, “The History of Chivalry,” “was the golden thread that ran through the Middle Ages, the corrective vice, the personification of virtue.”

Go back to that era of knights in real shining armor, and it was a time when chivalry was the expected and unbroken code of knighthood. 

The code included the virtues of kindness and gentleness of manner, or courtesy to all. “The world thought that courtesy and chivalry accorded together, and that villainous and foul words were contrary to an order which was founded on piety,” Mills wrote. “[A] true knight is always called gentle and courteous. To be debonair was as necessary as to be bold.”

Women were afforded special courtesy from the chivalrous knight.

“In his mind, woman was a being of mystic power; … she was revered as well as loved. His lady-love he regarded with religious constancy. Fickleness would have been a species of impiety, for she was not a toy that he played with, but a divinity whom he worshipped. This adoration of her sustained him through all the perils that lay before his reaching his heart’s desire; and loyalty was the choicest quality in the character of the preux chevalier.”

Without reproach

In other words, be true, faithful (“perfect fidelity to a promise was very conspicuous”) and always a gentleman.

The life of the chivalrous knight came with other virtuous expectations. Mills:

“The valiancy of chivalry was beautifully chastened by humility — ‘And of his port as meek as is a maid.’ It was thought that if the squire had vain-glory of his arms, he was not worthy to be a knight, for vain-glory was a vice which destroyed the merits and the claims of chivalry.

“The life of a knight was not to be regarded as a course of personal indulgence. His virtues were of an active, stirring nature, and he was not permitted to waste his days in dark obscurity, or to revel in ease.

“He was not only to be virtuous, but without reproach; for he considered his honorable fame as a polished mirror, whose beauty may be lost by an impure breath and an unwholesome air, as well as by being broken into pieces.

“The highest possible degree of virtue was required of a knight: It was a maxim in chivalry, that he who ordained another a knight must be virtuous himself; for it was argued if the knight who made a knight were not virtuous, how could he give that which he had not; and no man could be a true son of chivalry unless he were of unsullied life.”

To be sure, it was not then, nor would it be easy today to be a chivalrous knight. But it’s a position, a behavioral more, to which America’s men should strive. What an enormous, positive example it would set for younger generations. And for sure, it would help reverse the crisis and trends of failing men and boys in America.

How about Boys Inc.?

Surely, men, you are not oblivious to what is happening to men and masculinity. It’s a good bet those of you who have not harassed or oppressed women are becoming increasingly agitated by being cast as villains. And it’s a good bet you’re not happy seeing what is happening to the American male and boys.

Put on your shining armor, and become a chivalrous knight.

We hear a lot about “girl power.” And credit the girls, they have their Girls Inc., which focuses on producing young women who are Strong, Smart & Bold.

There should be a Boys Inc. And it should go one step further: Strong, Smart, Bold & Chivalrous.


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