Chivalry-Now is a movement that introduces a new form of chivalry for the 21st century. Founder Dean Jacques is a retired social worker. Throughout his career, he saw many programs fail to help families because the causes of their problems were deeply rooted in society.
So he began what he calls “an experiment in cultural change.”
“What I’m trying to do is no small thing. It’s a paradigm shift,” he said in a phone interview with Epoch Times.
The image of a noble knight in shining armor “retains a sense of romantic and moral nostalgia to which most people naturally respond,” states the Chivalry-Now website.
Members who have joined the movement may earn the title of “knight” for their commitment to chivalrous behavior, and some enjoy medieval garb and swordplay. But Jacques stressed that Chivalry-Now isn’t about fantasy, and the medieval imagery isn’t an essential part of it.
What’s important is being inspired by the group’s code of ethics, which are rooted in the medieval ideals of chivalry but extend beyond them to incorporate the best of Western culture from its inception.
It’s about reviving truth, beauty, and heroism in a world of anti-heroes, fear, and dysfunction.
Though the focus is on male ethics, Jacques said the movement is not sexist. It’s about men upholding their side of feminism, he said. It’s about treating women (as well as children and other men) with respect and kindness.
Jacques developed the “12 Trusts,” a code that upholds modern chivalrous behavior. It includes the vows, “I will develop my life for the greater good,” “I will place character above riches, and concern for others above personal wealth,” and “I will never boast, but cherish humility instead.”
How Chivalry Died
Chivalry was a warrior code that defined the beliefs and behavior of medieval knights. It faded at the end of the Middle Ages, but many of its ideals carried on in the Western concept of what it means to be a gentleman.
Jacques believes the Industrial Age was the beginning of the end for chivalry. Urbanization disrupted family structure and the education of children in many ways. Instead of fathers educating their sons in the family trade—and at the same time teaching them how to behave—they began spending most of their time working in factories.
“Culture is transferred from one generation to another,” Jacques said, “but that transfer was disrupted, and we’ve filled the gaps with TV and other entertaining distractions.” He believes that all our social problems are exasperated by breaks within our culture.
We have to repair that culture in order to fix things. While Jacques feels that the disconnect from a more natural mode of life has hurt society, he doesn’t think everything after the Industrial Revolution should be tossed out.
The “Now” in “Chivalry-Now” recognizes that medieval ideals don’t entirely fit the modern world, and we must retain the positive lessons from recent history.
The Chivalry-Now website reads: “What if [chivalry] incorporated the very best from the centuries that followed, such as the Ages of Reason and Enlightenment, the Renaissance and Romantic periods, psychology, science, feminism, and cap it off with a more positive take on existentialism?”
Jacques explained the “Now” of his movement: “It is trying to project what chivalry would have evolved into if it had a better chance to maintain its core principles and make them applicable for our times.”
Medieval chivalry had its foundations in earlier principles of Western culture, and Jacques has looked to these as well. He spoke, for example, of reviving the ancient Greek concept of truth.
Quest for Truth
The Greek word for “truth,” Aletheia, also means remembering and discovering, Jacques said. It denotes a life-enhancing experience, it inspires enthusiasm.
Chivalry-Now encourages people to view life as a quest. Life would be richly enhanced by living it as a quest for truth, Jacques said.
“That pulls you out of the doldrums; it helps you make fewer mistakes; it helps you be a more authentic person,” Jacques said. The “quest” carries the meaning of life beyond settling into a fixed role in your family or career, he said.
While Chivalry-Now retains the original characteristic of being a “warrior ethic,” Jacques explained that it’s not about encouraging fighting. Warriors are part of a community, he said. They defend the culture and stand up for what’s right and good.
“The warrior image fits because it’s active, it’s reliable, it’s someone who trains themselves to do good things,” Jacques said. “It’s part of the hero image. I’m not talking about Rambo, or Clint Eastwood. I’m not talking about Hollywood portrayals of so-called heroes … I’m talking about everyday heroes, the ones who really count.”
He elaborated on the problems with modern portrayals of heroism: “If you’re familiar with what’s on television and in the movies lately, and in politics—pretty much our whole environment—there are aspects of beauty, but there are a lot of aspects of degradation and fear and anger and things that are unheroic.
“The heroes that we are handed are usually 2-dimensional figures who carry as much dysfunction as they do benefit. All these things are involved in creating a cultural problem that we refuse to recognize, but rather try to anesthetize ourselves from.”
Jacques isn’t sure how much Chivalry-Now has taken hold as a movement since its inception in 2007. He knows the Chivalry-Now website (with over 180 articles) has had more than 100,000 views, and has some enthusiasts spread across the United States and around the world. He is not looking for “followers” however. He would rather inspire people, however many he can reach, to improve themselves and contribute to a better world.
“I try to incorporate the things that make us most innately human,” Jacques said. “Chivalry-Now is not so much something I created and am trying to push as a philosophy. I see it as something that recognizes and encourages what is best in us already.”