Chivalry vs. Altruism

Lonely ships, upon the water / Better save the women and children first.
Sail away with someone’s daughter / Better save the women and children first.

A lot has been made about the recent Costa Concordia shipwreck, and predictably the White Knights and Femcentrists are all tied up in knots about the condition of a society where humans with penises are unwilling less willing* to sacrifice their lives for humans with vaginas. The gravity of  gender dynamics in a potentially life threatening scenario is a fantastic opportunity to illustrate the Male Catch 22;

For the past 60 years feminization has built in the perfect Catch 22 social convention for anything masculine; The expectation to assume the responsibilities of being a man (Man Up) while at the same time denigrating asserting masculinity as a positive (Shut Up). What ever aspect of maleness that serves the feminine purpose is a man’s masculine responsibility, yet any aspect that disagrees with feminine primacy is labeled Patriarchy and Misogyny.

Gender issues in survival situations (greatly exaggerated) aside, I thought I’d take this opportunity to riff a bit on Chivalry.

Chivalry

Chivalry is simply one of many ideologies that was subsumed by westernized romanticism. Chivalry also applied toward things such as not hitting a man while he wasn’t looking or attacking a blatantly undefendable, inferior or even a respected foe. It was originally intended as a code of etheics determined by the Roman Catholic church to control the otherwise lawless and violent natures of soldiers and knights who, understandably, had a tendency for brigandism in the middle ages. What passes for most people’s understanding of chivalry is actually a classic interpretation and bastardization of western romanticisim and the ideologies of ‘courtly love’, which ironically enough was also an effort by the women of the period intended to better control the men of the early and high Renaissance. Essentially it amounted to a taming of the over-dominating masculine influence of the time by laying out a system of prescribed appropriate conditions necessary to satisfy a womans access to her intimacy.

Like today’s push for men to better identify with the feminine, the idea of courtly love was to ‘encourage’ men to explore their feminine sides with odes of divine expressions of love, offerings of fantastic (often life threatening) feats to prove one’s devotion or presenting gifts beyond compare to again prove ones worth and sincerity to the “object” of his desire – her’s being the only gauge for acceptance. The articles of courtly love are actually the inception of our tradition of buying an expensive wedding ring for a woman. And just like the women of today, their behaviors rarely matched their stated intents, but far be it from the objective eye to cast a doubt upon them for fear of social ostracization.

I’ll open doors for old women, my mother, my wife, my daughter and any other woman I happen to get to the door at the same time with, not because I have some intrinsic need to dominate the vaginas of the world, but because it’s my habit. Rituals don’t make a man what he is, but his character, confidence and bearing. We call something ‘courteous’ beacuse of this ‘courtly’ dynamic, but it’s the Man behind the courtesy that makes the difference. I don’t think twice about helping a man or a woman carry a heavy load, nor do I care what sex the person is I may help fix a flat tire.

One of the primary elements of charity is that if you expect any compensation for the act, it isn’t charity. I’ve stated in the past that women lack a fundamental capacity to appreciate the sacrifices Men must make in order to facilitate their feminine-centric reality. However, to take this one step further, Men need to be aware from the outset that any efforts they make will NOT be appreciated as being extraordinary. In the feminine centric reality, your sacrifices are a prescribed expectations and normalized – you’re supposed to ‘do the right thing’, and that right thing is always to promote the feminine imperative. So with this in mind, and within the social framework established by the feminine imperative, it serves a Man best to presume that any effort he makes will go entirely thankless.

Does that sound like a raw deal? It sure as hell does to me, but that’s the reward-center wiring my brain is prone to. It makes little sense to paint a masterpiece that no one but yourself will ever see, but yet here I am putting paint to canvas – why?  Feminism may have killed chivalry, but it still hasn’t touched the paradox of altruism.

Altruism

There are many examples in the natural world of what appears to be altruism, but the motivations behind the altruistic behavior are what gives it away. Meerkats live in a cooperative community and post guards to lookout for potential threats to that community. It’s common practice among these lookout Meerkats to sound a warning loud enough to alert the clan, but also specifically to draw attention to themselves. They often make no effort for self-preservation and allow themselves to be killed in order to forestall a predator and give time for the greater whole of the community members to reach safety.

This may appeal to our sense of morality as an altruistic act of self-sacrifice, but it’s really one example of species preservation among higher order animals. I read about a soldier falling on the grenade in Iraq and there are many other similar stories of exactly this same act in other conflicts throughout history. And while I can’t say for certain what a man’s personal reasons were for self-sacrifice, I do know the function for which the behavior occurs – sacrifice for the greater good. One dies so that a majority do not, makes for an efficient preservation of the whole. A bee stings, perhaps without knowing it will kill him, in order to preserve the collective. It’s written into it’s biology to react to threats in such a way. For the same reason I sincerely doubt that a soldier throwing himself on a grenade would have any premeditated concept of sacrifice for a whole. Nor would I say the guy gave any forethought, much less had the time to do so, to contemplate who in the group had kids to live for or assessing the individual value of their existence, or thinking he would live on in infamy – he just reacted.

Often what we call acts of courage, heroism, cowardice, or even greed are little more than necessary behaviors of what a particular condition demands of us. We can afford the luxury to call these behaviors what we’d like after the fact, but often we don’t have the time to contemplate the consequences of our reaction – we just do things autonomously sometimes. A soldier has 5-10 seconds to react to a live grenade, but we’ve got a lifetime to define what heroism is.

It’s in light of this reactionary altruism that I believe Men, more than women, have an innate capacity for self-sacrifice. In a life or death context this is an easy illustration, but in everyday life, the choices we make and the habits we take for granted stem from this hard-wired altruism. Let me make it clear that from a philosophical standpoint I don’t subscribe to the idea of selfless altruism: even if just on a subconscious level, we all do things with some expectation of reciprocity or reward. There’s a martyr in every Man that thinks his sacrifice will earn him accolades of pussy. When you can get a 16 year old boy to strap explosives to his body with the promise of 70 virgins in heaven, then you’ll begin to understand altruism from a male perspective.

Enter White Knight

Bear in mind that what we think of as chivalry today is a bastardization of the initial concept courtesy of Hollywood and romanicizations. Also consider that our popular concept of chivalry is a westernized idea that almost exclusively applied to the landed aristocracy of western Europe during the middle ages. The original, latent purpose of chivalry was to hold wealthy men accountable to the Holy Roman Empire and not kill each other or resort to banditry as was common at the time of it’s inception.

White Knghts and ‘liberated men’ who voluntarily serve the feminine imperative make a common mistake in associating ‘chivalrous’ behavior with westernized romanticism. The concept of Courtly Love, what would later be referred to as “Romance”, actually began with aristocratic women playing “romantic games” amongst themselves and a series of suitors – generally while their noblemen husbands were away on some military campaign. The contests would be tests of devotion, sometimes writing sonnets or poetry, other times it may’ve been slowly bleeding to death to prove their affections. Obviously taken to the extreme this had it’s downside, but the “games” took root in society and have evolved over the course of history.

I’m not saying being ‘chivalrous’ doesn’t have it’s uses, but like any gift or attention, the more a Man applies it the sooner it loses it’s appeal. See it for what it’s become, and what it began from.