we look forward
to the future of Chivalry-Now, history shows us that a window
of opportunity may soon be opening. A brief overview will explain.
Before the American Civil War, the people
of the United States were largely influenced by two strains of national
The first came from Enlightenment philosophy,
John Lock in particular. From here the ideas of freedom,
equality and democracy were drawn into the formation of a new type
of populous government. This Age of Reason was actually in
decline by 1860, when Abraham Lincoln became the last Enlightenment
The second strain of thought was that of the
Second Great Awakening, a religious revival that inspired
those who didn't trust reason and manmade ideologies. They valued
faith instead. These two strains of thought co-existed in tension
with one another, as other tensions broke out between the North
and South over the issue of expanding slavery to the territories.
People found themselves placing their trust in either God or reason.
As secession transformed itself into war, people on either side
believed that things would work in their favor. Either God or man
would win the day and set things right.
They were terribly wrong. Four years of bloody
war and more than half a million soldiers dead indicted both philosophies,
leaving a confused moral depression in its wake. These were known
as the Brown Decades,a time for mourning and confusion, where
the sheer lack of divine intervention left the whole nation staggering
in doubt. No one knew what to believe anymore. It was during this
time that Capitalism gained its strongest foothold in America,
instituting a new aristocracy of wealthy business families.
Capitalism worked wonders during this time, thanks
to ever-increasing technology, strengthening the economy and changing
the world. People started to feel positive about the future, and
found their optimism rooted in economic advances. They felt competitive,
even cocky in their attitudes, failing to replace the breakdown
of their previous philosophy with something new and better.
Nationalism flourished throughout Europe
in the form of imperialism, with each nation jockeying for economic
supremacy, as if power was just a game. Thus the stage for conflict
was set with nationalistic optimism. When an Austrian prince and
his wife were assassinated by a disgruntled Serb, international
alliances quickly took advantage of the situation, and the terribly
foolish result was the tragedy of World War I.
The unprecedented devastation and loss of life
from this war, which seemed both fruitless and unending at the time,
instigated another breakdown of belief and philosophical confidence
throughout Western culture. It seemed that Capitalism, which had
replaced loftier ideals with the motive of profit, had failed to
keep the peace and preserve the lives of millions. Instead, it had
blinded the supposedly "advanced nations" of the world
to the simple consequences of greed for wealth and power. They had
cheerfully walked into a war that they soon regretted, that quickly
escalated into a bloody stalemate.
The ending of the war introduced another massive
philosophical trauma, but this one was even more insidious. It reached
out to nihilism, skepticism, disrespect for past ideas, a tearing
down of classical art and literature. The work of Nietzsche
was resurrected to fill the gap, nearly dismantling the moral directives
of Christianity. At the same time, Freud's deterministic
psychology laid a pseudo-scientific basis for dispelling what remained
of Enlightenment ideals. Reason was losing ground to the wildness
of Nietzsche's will for power and Freud's intrusive interpretation
of sexual repression.
Karl Marx convinced compliant intellectuals
that culture was determined by economic systems, and that the seeming
success of Capitalism would only lead to war and revolution. Lacking
more viable beliefs, the Western view of economics solidified its
hold, no longer needing to justify its prime motivation that
of greed. It didn't have to. Nietzsche said it was something good,
and Freud concurred that it was, at the very least, natural to the
In this philosophical chaos, Hitler boldly
offered the German people a sense of pride and self-determination.
It came with a terrible price, however. Those who followed his had
to sell their souls to his immoral dictatorship, which seemed to
be based on Nietzsche's critique. With other European nations still
staggering to find something to believe in after the previous war,
Hitler made his grab for dark destiny. The carnage and attempted
genocide of World War II showed Western civilization how its philosophical
vacuum was nothing to be trifled with.
While the final vanquish of Hitler took terrible tolls in Europe,
and forever changed its imperial aspirations, the U.S. found itself
propped up on an industrial capacity previously unimagined. Their
involvement in the war was of shorter duration than the European
nations, and their own national infrastructure was enhanced rather
than devastated. War had been economically good for America.
At the same time, the soulless homogeneity of
the factory took hold, squelching individualism, another Enlightenment
ideal. People were not encouraged to think for themselves, but to
fit-in. Radio, television, audio records, national sports, conveyer
belt production and cookie-cutter housing booms produced a bland,
consumer-value mentality that Capitalism could thrive on. People
dressed alike, spoke alike, drank soda and beer in a knee jerk attempt
to be like everyone else. It was a field day for marketing, which
did its best to create a mass society of complacent and happy consumers.
Prosperity had been defined solely in materialistic terms, that
now seemed achievable. It did come with a cost, however. A cost
to freedom and personal integrity, but few saw it that way.
The "chosen people euphoria" of post-war
America was suddenly challenged by the Korean conflict. Here
was a costly war that led to stalemate rather than victory. At home,
the market still boomed, and so the war was somewhat easier to ignore.
Factories whirred, and the constant entertainment that television
delivered became addictive, furthering the control of consumerism.
The Viet Nam War changed all that with
a cultural upheaval that has not yet been mended. Questions that
were stifled previously were now vomited into the streets with protest
marches and riots. The hypocrisy of supposedly moral greed was being
serious challenged, but not replaced by the idealistic hunger of
a younger generations, a hunger that had nothing in place to satisfy
it, other than the moral greed it was condemning, which they finally
While the counter-culture was good at tearing
things down, it failed at building anything of substantial meaning.
What followed was a decadent retreat into commercialism and technology
that produced the Western culture as we have it today a landscape
of cheap political extremism filled with uninspired, mediocre ideas,
protecting an economic juggernaut that would ravage the world in
the name of instant profit. Our sense of spiritual loss is no intense.
Only the constant distraction of the media, and the sheer lack of
anything else, makes it palatable.
We are still being pressured to fit-in, to not
think for ourselves, to repeat worthless clichés, and find
happiness in the latest toy. Computers and cell phones have intensified
this barrage of distraction, giving us fewer and fewer moments to
think and reflect, and find human satisfaction. Greed is not something
just tolerated anymore. It is something admired, emulated, and rewarded,
to the detriment of all.
Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center,
and the War in Iraq that followed, have left deep wounds
in that culture as well. We responded as if we had learned nothing
from the past. Moral reason had finally been thrown out the window
were told by our leaders to fight terrorism by going shopping. They
cut taxes to pay for the war. They invaded a nation that had nothing
to do with 9-11, and drew down the forces searching for Al Qaeda.
The Middle East distrusted the West for being imperial aggressors,
and we bolstered that image instead of showing anything different,
thereby helping our enemies. Our own understanding of freedom and
democracy had been so weakened that we thought it was something
we could impose upon a different culture. Our arrogance was so great
that we refused to listen to our allies, and pasted pejoratives
on those who did not bend to our will.
has all this done to our values, our core beliefs? Historically,
the ravages of war have led to philosophical disruption, and power
going into the wrong hands. Values are questioned. People look for
answers where none are given, or are completely led astray.
War in Iraq will eventually end, but what will our disenchantment
find when we reflect on it?
extremism locked in a battle that is meaningless to most people,
and detrimental to progress.
leaders using scare tactics and Vaudeville entertainment to milk
their flocks of money.
ethics turned on their heads in the name of money and power.
- A media committed
to feeding off of people's fears and vices.
assurances that refuse to explain how a nation bounces back from
losing its industrial base, as investments go overseas and millions
of poor immigrants take jobs and lower wages.
- An oil crisis
that our benevolent business leaders responded to by glutting
the market with SUVs and a sore lack of energy alternatives.
- A denial
of global warming that obliterates reason entirely, as if people
could not see for themselves what is blatant before their eyes.
corruption so engrained that it doesn't even hide what it is doing.
that cares more about image rather than people, division rather
than unity, power rather than equality and freedom.
be a backlash during this time when people will question their
failed beliefs and look for something better. They will see that
consumerism has failed them, and that religion has transformed itself
in something manipulative rather than liberating. They will distrust
political and religious leaders, and their greedy counterparts as
well, celebrities and corporate CEOs.
Here we will find an opportunity for people to
find truth for themselves, and hopefully resurrect ideals that are
more intelligent, humane and progressive. A New Age of Enlightenment
perhaps? A New Renaissance of individualism and creativity?
A movement that reinterprets technology as a tool rather than a
We must ready our ideals for this window of opportunity,
or it will be filled by something less deserving. We have to prepare
ourselves by studying the issues and offering sensible alternatives.
We have to liberate ourselves to show others the path to freedom.
This is our challenge as Fellows, Companions
and Knights of Chivalry-Now.
Now is the time to prepare.