October 3rd, 2005


Why Lisa Is Wrong

Yes she's wrong. I know I speak heresy and adsartha, nettabie, and gentlest_sin will probably beat me for saying this, but she's wrong. Allow me to explain.

When we were reading Chaucer, and in particular "The Wife of Bath's Tale," Lisa made the claim that chivalry is based on weakness, and in particular it is based on rape. Quite simply, in order to save someone from rapists one must have rapists to begin with. Furthermore, the person being saved must be helpless enough to require saving. In short, being strong is dependent on weakness, heroism is dependent on victims, and knights on white horses must be predicated upon helpless maidens.

Well she's wrong.

Last night a friend of mine was in a bad way. Being a good friend I sat with her, held her, did everything I could to support her. I was a good friend. But the actions that defined me as a good friend were the result of her pain. Now it's true that htis friend wasn't being raped but it's still the hero/victim issue. You can't help someone unless they need help. We define being a good friend as being there for someone who needs it, but that's dependent on them needing help in the first place.

That's the Lisa argument. Everyone with me so far?

Well I don't buy it. I did this morning, then I got a haircut and while driving I had time to think. The problem is that we need to expand our definition of a good friend, of chivalry itself, so that it's not dependent on helplessness. And if we can do that in an historically idealogical context then Lisa's wrong.

Being a knight meant more than just saving women from being raped, it meant working to make the world a better place. Historically that meant less rapes. I'll even go out on a limb and say that the world would be a better place today if there were fewer rapes. Who's with me? (jinxmurphy don't you dare comment on that) But that cannot be our only definition of making the world a better place. I'll even make it easier: let's say it was a knight's responsibility to eliminate all forms of victimization: rape, murder, theft, oppression, and so on. That only works for so long. Eventually you need to stop fighting negatives. This is where Lisa gets off and where I keep going.

I say that someone who acts with true chivalry actively works to make the world a better place. One doesn't just oppose violence directly, one teaches people to defend themselves. One doesn't fight ignorance by teaching a few kids to read, one builds a school. And then one betters the school so that (and here's the kicker) standards rise. One doesn't just make the world a better place, one continuously improves it.

Being a good friend cannot be defined solely by responding in a crisis and just sort of being there the rest of the time. Being a good friend means showing care and love for your friends all of the time. You don't just try to help someone when they're sad, you try to maximize their happiness all of the time.

Strength is not defined by weakness. It is defined by strength - everyone's.