By: Martin Cisneros
Chivalry is a rather controversial word with some historians and students of the meanings of words. Some are ever ready to point out that the knightly code of chivalry was an ever evolving thing throughout medieval Europe that changed based on the political tide and who the latest bard happened to be that was taking captive the hearts of his hearers with his songs and stories.
Originally the word "chivalry" came from a French word meaning something to the effect of horsemanship: skill with riding a horse for military purposes. However, over time it came to be the word that embodied all that was supposed to be noblest and most Christian about the medieval knight, though in real life it seldom reflected that! It still made for interesting poetry and romantic tales, some of which, as in the case of Arthurian legend DID effect the evolution of modern romantic ideas and ideals of chivalry and etiquette. Chivalry as I will use it in this article will be in the sense of that "romantic" though not "legitimately ancient" unwritten code of a knight's behavior in how he was to relate to the world around him in the fulfillment of his duties with a certain sense of class, dignity, self-restraint, and socially acceptable taste.
In translating these ideals for 21st century veganism and beyond, I won't initially try to extrapolate every conceivable precept into direct parallels and try to come up with some sort of forced interpretation without taking the time to do the utmost detailed study of this matter. So, in drawing attention to this, let me add that this is only the first edition of what will probably eventually be rewritten numerous times as this theme evolves through study and meditation on relevant issues. As this germ of an idea may spark other writers to delve into all of the possibly rich spiritual treasures for our generation and beyond, I want to here greatly encourage people to take this up as a field of study and writing hitherto not previously seen in vegan writings.
Students of history and of social change will readily recognize that chivalry as horsemanship evolved into chivalry as a code of ethics, which with time and contact with nobility evolved into the modern concept(s) of etiquette. So, in translating vegan ethics into the the sense of knightly practice and belief a diligent study must not only be made of various codes of chivalry as they progressed over time from Arthurian legend into other areas of medieval literature, but one must take into account some of the reasoning behind the modern codes of etiquette: deference to a lady, personal self-restraint to cultivate at least the illusions of dignity, and all areas of gentlemanly and lady-like behavior.
Knights of old were notorious hunters while at the same time having made a very sacred pledge to defend the weak and to show personal generosity even to the point of personally bankrupting themselves. So, in amending this area of knightly hypocrisy in pursuit of a vegan code of chivalry for the 21st century and beyond, it's obvious that one would say that a true gentleman would never randomly harm another creature for pleasure, profit, or convenience. One might go a step further and say that a true lady would NEVER have anything to do with "meat"! As chivalry sums up the value of knighthood in the judgments placed by history, so also veganism while not making up the totality of one's life is the sum of a person's character and isn't a hat that one can put on or take off when it makes other people uncomfortable!
Knights were notoriously abusive towards merchants and were the chief resistance to the rise of capitalism. Much of this sprung from their personal pledge to defend the weak in the name of their Lord, whomever he was. The way that this area of knightly conduct would translate today is that we're not after small store owners, but after combating the chains of animal slavery that have gone on generation after generation at the hands of Corporate America and refusing our patronage to places that are notoriously abusive to animals and refraining from buying products who's producers prey on the weak in the manufacturing of them. This goes [and would go] a long way towards the ideals of both modern knighthood and modern lady-likeness.
Knights were in constant battle against what they considered "infidels" towards the Christian faith. Obviously, anything that can be done in the courts of our country against those who profit at the expense of animals is of great Christian service and piety and should be applauded by vegans throughout the world!
All of the principles of Knighthood: prowess (i.e. excellence as a warrior); justice (i.e. seeking the path of right at the expense of personal bias and interest); loyalty (i.e. to one's King, to one's virtue, and to one's personally chosen family); courage (i.e. knightly courage often meant in the classics "walking the straight and narrow", choosing the more difficult path only because it was right....prowess was interwoven with this virtue in doing what's right only because it's right and seeking to carry this out correctly and expediently); faith in one's beliefs; humility in valuing the place of others in the bigger picture; largesse (i.e. generosity to the point of personal discomfort....even to the point of personally bankrupting one's own resources....again, only because it's right); nobility (i.e. the spirit of excellence being carried out beyond one's abilities): all of these attributes of knighthood reflect the highest ideals of an ever evolving veganism. An ever maturing veganism is noble. It is strong. It does fight against any infidelity to life whether animal or human. Truest veganism matures in the direction of walking the straight and narrow and totally bankrupts one's previously held prejudices and superiority complexes. Truly matured veganism is a fight to the death against all that would prey on the weak. It is gentlemanly deference to the life of others at the expense of our own personal prejudices about superiority. A maturing veganism is flowing from a heart that's tapped into a higher wisdom and awareness of the value of creation. Veganism recognizes that ALL life is worth cherishing. ALL life is worth protecting. And ALL life has it's own particular sacredness that is born from the heart of God! Veganism doesn't say that humans don't have their own particular value or sacredness, but works towards reestablishing the OFTEN forgotten VALUE AND SACREDNESS of animal life. Veganism acknowledges that ALL LIFE is worth FIGHTING to the death for!
Isn't a good fight something any knight would gladly look forward to?