Archive for the ‘Chivalry’ Category

“They (the common people) are totally incapable of real freedom, and if it were granted to them, they would straightaway vote themselves a master, or a thousand masters within twenty-four hours.”
-Ragnar Redbeard   MIGHT IS RIGHT

The greatest problem for the anarchist is not the state.

The problem for the anarchist is not that system of institutions and traditions that insist they have a right to seize the wealth of the capitalist under the guise of taxation or oppress the hungry masses seeking a true communism only to be met with border walls.

These could be swept away. Every state eventually finds its end and passes away. It isn’t likely, but it is conceivable that there could be an uprising that destroys the state, destroys the very idea of the state, and when asked what it intends to set in its place, replies “Nothing.”

The subsequent, inevitable failure of that “nothing” is not the fault of those men who rise up and say, “Be my slaves! Serve me!” The end of that nothing would not be in the hands of that man who says, “I am a leader, let me organize your lives and offer you security for your liberty.”

The problem for the anarchist is that the vast majority of people do not want to be free.

Freedom is scary and difficult. It requires being painfully aware of one’s own inadequacies (as most men are) and then deciding to trust one’s own ability regardless. How much easier is it to place one’s children in the hands of an authority that assures you it is strong and benevolent? How much easier is it to trust in that faceless, soulless authority and accept what it teaches than it is to face the unknown and risk extinction by thinking for yourself?

Anarchy, whether hyphenated as capitalist or communist or primitivist or pacifist, is doomed not because there will be those few men who want to lead, but because there will be legions who want to be led. Modern anarchy fails to make a place for that man who aspires only to be a valued serf.

Now, there are few men who openly admit that serfdom is their chief desire. There are, perhaps, few men who recognize that is the place they seek. But what else shall we say of that man who says, “I just want a good job (working for another) and the distractions of professional sportball and a case of that beer which promises to deliver sex and respect”?

That man does not want to be free. He merely wants a benevolent Master.

Modern anarchy is doomed because it refuses to make a place for that man and refuses to acknowledge him and refuses to accept his right to enter into a voluntary association where he is a slave, or at least, unequal. Being denied, that man then destroys the nothing that replaces the state. Why should he support a nothing which fails to recognize and support him?

All free men must accept then that some free men will accept the burden of being Master.

The only chance to preserve freedom for those men who want to be free is to make a place for those men who cannot be free and refuse to be free. Even more important than protecting our “non-state, voluntary associations” from the slaver, is the necessity of protecting them from the slave.

Its important to mention now that the world is inevitably a hostile place. We haven’t found a way to get along with each other in the last 300,000 years, why would even the most utopian among us imagine we will do so in the future? With this in mind, the primary duty of a free man is prowess and strength, enough to protect his own liberty and secure his own existence at least. Secondly, and perhaps in conjunction with the first, is the duty to preserve his group.

Let’s dismiss any notions now that anarchy must be without hierarchy. In the ideal vision of anarcho-capitalism, every corporation will have a CEO and a board who have greater significance from the honest man turning wrenches on the factory floor. Even in anarcho-communism, that honest man turning wrenches will answer to some functionary whose task it is to identify problems and implement solutions.

In truth, I do not see anarchy being swept in with the sudden enlightenment of all people everywhere or the revolution that the rock throwing fascists in Berkeley imagine they are the fore-runners of. Instead, I imagine Guillaume Fay is correct in his anticipation of a “convergence of catastrophes” that will level the current systems.

It is impossible to suggest that every voluntary association that rises in the wake of this collapse with be “ancom” or “ancap” or take on any specific model theorized about now. Different peoples always have and always will find different solutions to life’s pressures. I also do not imagine that they technology necessary for the popular visions of ancap and ancom prosperity will survice the collapse, especially if one of those catastrophes is the depletion of oil.

The immediate response to the collapse will be tribal. A group of hungry, desperate, frightened survivors will watch their world pass away and then begin finding their way into the future. Philosophy and labels will not be among their immediate concerns in the initial years.

Even now, there are tribalists, men bound together by oaths and friendship and loyalties that rely on models that pre-date the state and will, I imagine, outlast it as well. These associations have a feudal nature in that they are held together by oaths between men. Unlike the current model where a soldier or statesman takes an oath to support a constitution or a vague assemblage of “the people”, these oaths are between individuals who look each other in the eye and say, “I swear…”

In this sense, these tribalist groups ARE anarchist. Instead of being born into a condition of expected servitude to a state’s laws and regulations, these are free men, anarchs, choosing to subordinate some of their self-rule in the interest of the group. They are also feudalist, in that each assumes a set of duties toward the other and accepts a place within a hierarchy determined by the group’s vision and its responses to the pressures it needs to overcome in order to survive.

There will be some groups that form in the final stages of the collapse or even after the collapse. But those groups formed now and already possessed of a sense of tribal identity and solid, genuine relationships will have an obvious advantage. Many of them already possess arms, defensible arable land,  and, most importantly, some training as a “unit.”

These groups will not only have a better chance of surviving during the closing acts of the collapse, but they will be the groups most likely to have the stability to offer a place to “refugees” from outside the tribe that agree to labor or supply meaningful skills to the group.  In the anarchy following the collapse, these will not be men demanding a living wage or human rights. They will instead be those frightened masses needing a new master since the old one has passed.

That these groups exist now provides another advantage: they have time to develop traditions and ideas about those refugees. They could be, even now, debating whether the refugees lot will be a cruel slavery in the mines or a pleasant second class citizen role with the possibility of joining the free men as circumstances and individual virtue allow.

Avoiding the crushing pressure of solving this problem only in the instance creates a circumstance where the tribe can reason a method to make that serfdom as livable and dignified as possible. This assumes, of course, that any tribe whose leaders cannot reason out that such serfdom serves everyone, including future generations, better than a harsh slavery will not last long anyway. The refugee can be offered a place if his presence benefits the tribe. He can enter into the voluntary association and make his own oaths to the men who will defend him and provide for him in return for his loyalty and labor.

But even if a transfer to anarchy somehow occurs without the annihilation of the present empire, only the feudal model provides a place for that man who is not interested in real freedom. In the ancap model, he is an employee and one unprotected by the state. The modern serf could never abide being genuinely at the mercy of market forces without a regulatory agency to see he is paid and has safe conditions. The ancom model simply offers such a man a spot next to a bullet riddled wall if he dare voice his reservations (though the ancoms will deny this and fall back to their old assertion that “real communism has never been tried”, the historic model indicates any man not eager to voice the party position will be executed.)

In the anarcho-feudal model, such a man could enter into an oathbound relationship that obligates both parties to sincerely seek the other’s best interest. The serf could rest assured that the system did not consider him a mere employee who might be sacrificed to the bottom line, but a part of the tribe, even if only on the periphery. He is not merely a valued member of the team at some corporate seminar, but a man who has given his word and received another’s that their destinies are bound together.

 

 

 

 

 

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Kalev_BonecruncherNone of the virtues of chivalry come easily to me, but none comes with greater difficulty than humility.

I can fake humility pretty well.

I have no need to praise myself, no reluctance to praise others. There is no task so low that I cannot stoop to set my hand to it. But I will be oh so very concious that I am stooping. In my mental ledger I will make a mark that reflects that today I took a step toward that virtue. Then I will erase that mark as I take pride in the accomplishment.

I have that most obnoxious sort of pride available only to old men.  You know the type: “I went to Basic Training when it was hard. My Drill Sergeants were crusty Vietnam vets who were allowed to swear and strike us for our failings. You young people couldn’t handle what we went through. That being said: get off my lawn, you delinquents!”

That sort of thing.

And now that I have again picked up a wooden sword and resumed armored combat in the SCA after a thirty year break, I absolutely HATE having so much to learn from these twenty-somethings that beat me so easily.

Before I step on the field to practice, I think about what exactly I seek to accomplish. I have to recover my sword properly. I have to close distance with greater efficiency. Those two things are all that matter. I am not bothered if I lose, I am bothered if my Lady and my Knight have reason to say, “You’re still not doing it.”  That is what I am working on.

And my humility.

Men half my age are going to beat me then tell me how they did it.

As much as I am practicing the arts of war, I am also “practicing” the Virtues of Chivalry.

And I am so very proud of that.

Damn.

And there it goes again.

There is one sword, one shield, and seven basic blows.

Then, there is the pell.

Every day I carry out the sixty pound base and set it up outside my apartment. Sometimes, the kids come by to watch. They ask if they can hit it. I usually drag out my six-year-old’s boffer gear and let them attack it while I’m resting. Sometimes the six-year-old, Kalev Bonecruncher the Berserk, will announce to the kids he has to train, too.

Earl Syr Knarlic Wulfersson, whose squire I am, has me throwing the blows again and again and again. I have power, some small speed, but he wants the recovery to become muscle memory. Throw the blow, let gravity bring the blade down, pull it back up into the ready position. Again and again and again. Again and again and again. Again and again and again.

Duke Conrad has instructed me some on my shield use. It’s a strapped round shield, and very unpopular. I am told again and again that I should get rid of it, but, for now, Earl Knarlic allows me to use it. Its used much differently from other shields and its only advantages are found in a certain offensive manner. My round shield is useless at mid range. I have to close distance quickly and then use the edge of the shield to push my opponent’s shield or sword away for an instant just long enough to strike.

Start out of range but close the distance quickly and scrape the edge of the pell with the rim of the shield, throw the blow, recover. Again and again and again. Again and again and again. .

Sir Osric is a reactionary fighter. He likes to stay back and launch his attack when an opponent makes a mistake. The round shield’s disadvantages all work in his favor. I step in to close the distance and my helmet rings. I can’t find an angle of approach that defeats this tactic.

He explains that I have to keep his sword busy as I close distance. It takes me a few tries to understand. he explains it again. I don’t have to hit him, I don’t have to move his weapon, I simply have to make it unwise to use the weapon as I move in. I start using an offside blow to the head (number four of the seven basic blows) hopefully requiring my opponent to block with his sword as I close that distance.

And then I stand before the pell again.

Start out of range and throw a distracting blow as I step in to close range, scrape the pell with my shield as I recover my sword and launch another blow without pause and recover. Again and again and again. Again and again and again.

It isn’t the sword I need to master. It isn’t this impossible round shield. I’m not exactly sure what I am trying to Master.

Hopefully, I recognize it when I get there, though.

This was written in response to the Daily Word prompt found here.

Kalev_Bonecruncher

This is the Code of Chivalry as observed in House Hammered Raven.

Honor: Honor First.

You won’t really find it in a dictionary anymore. Its gets discussed by college sophomores reading THE ILIAD for the first time, then it gets dropped as being an impossible philosophical construct. “Is it honorable to steal bread to feed a starving child?” There are a hundred catchy, pretty phrases and no explanation.

Honor is the idea that some ideas and values are so important that we would choose extinction rather than betray those values. Perhaps the value itself is unimportant and what is vital is that we hold it passionately. For one man, honor might demand that he steal before he lets an innocent suffer. For another, honor might demand that he let innocents die before he steals.

Rather than simply bearing witness, Honor is that impulse that demands we act when we see what is Right.  And Honor is the impulse to stand silent as a witness when that is what Right requires.

Prowess: Train constantly. Your strength and your prowess are all that stands between the Right and the Adversary.

Without the virtue of prowess, all other virtues are irrelevant. If a man is unable to strike down an enemy, then it is not mercy that stays his hand but simple weakness. Prowess is the virtue that provides a knight with the means to change the world to suit his own desires.

Without prowess, a man’s desires are meaningless as he cannot act on those desires. Your desire to feed the poor, clothe the naked, establish schools and courts will count for nothing if it is not matched by an ability to stay the hand of those who intend to remove those things.

Honesty: Always speak the truth.

I’ve been told this tenet can be a cruel one that defies mercy. I see that point, but I disagree. There are often truths that are unpleasant to speak, but when you hold your silence, it is not for their sake but for your own. There are truths that cause suffering, when you speak that truth, you must be prepared to stand and share that suffering.

To lie doesn’t avoid an unpleasant truth, it merely delays its uncovering. Perhaps, when it is uncovered, the hearer will be in company less comforting than your own.

Courage: We cannot let fear make decisions for us.

This is not the same as embracing foolhardiness and risk for its own sake. We do not court danger but we cannot let fear move us to act in ways that do not further the cause of Right and Good. We hold our values and our honor so closely that, when the time comes to give our lives in defense of our values and in pursuit of the Good, it will seem as though our lives meant nothing to us.

Mercy: Defend the weak. Protect the innocent.

Just as we prevent the suffering of others through our pursuit of the right, we seek to inflict no more suffering on the wrong-doer than necessary. This is one reason why prowess is the foundation of chivalry and why chivalry can only be pursued by warriors.

Mercy takes many forms, but it is never the simple over looking of errors and mis-deeds.  We confront and defeat the weakness and ignorance of men, but we do not always need to defeat the man himself.

Humility: Praise the worthy deeds of others as you seek to emulate their virtues, but do not boast of your own.

If you are spending your time in the proper company, there will always be others to speak of more highly than yourself, and there will always be others speaking highly of you as they learn the code through watching your actions.

When we boast during sumbel, remember that those supporting you will be affected by your aspirations. Always push the limits of what you can do, but remember that if you push too hard and fail, your burdens fall to another.

Generosity: Gluttony and greed are marks of cowardice.

By taking up arms and taking our place on the wall, we assume responsibility for the lives and well-being of others. What greater generosity is there than that we share our strengths and spend our lives in pursuit of the well-being of all? Give your time, your wealth, your energy to those people whose need hampers their development or the advancement of us all.

The coward fears that he will not have the strength to feed himself again if he shares his meal with the hungry. When we exercise largess and keep an open table, we remind the world through our example that we have the strength and confidence to make our way into the future.

Justice: Seek justice for others without thought of your own gain.

What is good and right is always under assault by weak and ignorant men. Through our words and deeds, we seek to temper the harm done by those who act against the Right. We seek to set two examples. Of course we hope through our actions to inspire others to seek the Right, but we must also conduct ourselves in such a fashion that such men know that acting against the Right in our presence will be met with opposition.

If there are those who imagine that they can act in defiance of what is Good and Right in your presence, then you should reflect on how you have failed.

But justice is a terrifying thing when we truly examine our own lives so we must temper that pursuit of justice with mercy.

Honor: Honor first.

This is the Code of Chivalry as observed in House Hammered Raven.

The idea that “Chivalry is dead” is common enough that it found discussion in my oldest son’s high school history class. It seems that whenever the question gets asked, “Is Chivalry dead?”the audience immediately wants to discuss feminism and why men no longer hold door opens or help with chairs.

My son tells me the young men and women in that class agreed with their teacher, Chivalry IS dead and the cause was feminism. Women no longer need men to open doors, carry packages. and they never really did. As women discovered the capacity for independence, men discovered a capacity to enjoy not being depended on.

The students and teacher saw no need to mention that chivalry was a code for warriors; specifically noble cavalrymen. The image of the knight in shining armor with lance and shield was once the model of chivalry, but now that image is only invoked when one wishes to mock the notion and show outdated chivalry is.

That the role of women in our society has changed from that of the High Middle Ages was an important point to them, but it was of less interest that the role of men has changed as well.

In that class of thirty or so, only one young man, my son, had probably ever trained with a sword or even held one since leaving behind the things of childhood. Perhaps a couple of others have held a firearm or hunted. But had this been the Age of Chivalry, those young men would have already spent years either tilling in the fields, laboring as an apprentice, or attending upon a knight and learning the sword, the shield and the Code (even if we all know it wasn’t written down, commented on, or called “chivalry”  for many, many years.)

The death of chivalry isn’t about how men see women but rather about how they see themselves.

Chivalry can only be practiced, perhaps, by those trained in the ways of war. Any gentle person can open doors for another, help with a chair or a coat. But chivalry requires one to rise above simple courtesies and be prepared, as well, to put one’s life and safety between danger and the one served. In this instance, “prepared” cannot simply mean “willing” and must include a certain level of prowess that can only be achieved by training and study and diligent pursuit of the ways of violence.

Men at large no longer see themselves that way. Young men are not taught that they must be protectors. Young women are not taught that they must be (or will be) protected. And the limited imaginations that govern the world discover chivalry is dead.

But when we recognize that our knights are not exclusively male, it shows more clearly perhaps that chivalry is more intimately bound to notions of strength, service, protection than it is in notions of gender.

So let us consider that chivalry is not a code that determines how men treat women, but how warriors treat each other and how they treat non-combatants. Whether man or woman, boy or girl, chivalry can only reside in the heart and actions of that person who has decided that he is willing to stand on the wall and shake a spear at the darkness.

Chivalry appears dead to those whose view of it is too small. When a generation is taught that their own comfort as consumers is their prime purpose, it might be a bit much to expect basic courtesy from them. It is impossible to expect chivalry.

But in every age and every generation, we find those few who will embrace the role of protector. Only from them can we expect chivalry.