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Social Dragons

Statue of St. George Slaying the Dragon, by Zurab Tsereteli. The dragon was made of dismantled Russion and American nuclear missiles.
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One of the most popular images of chivalry is that of St. George slaying the Dragon. It was a commitment of the Round Table Knights to rid the land of such evils as well.
     As we try incorporating chivalry into our lives, we need to understand what this image symbolizes for us today.
     There are plenty of dragons that need to be confronted. Poverty. Ignorance. War. Terrorism. Environmental issues. Racism. Sexism. Pollution. The energy crisis. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Pedophilia. The abuse of women and children. All these social dragons bring death to our society, one way or another.
     There are other dragons as well, enemies not quite so obvious, that are adversarial to chivalry. These crop up from the business world, where advertisements and market strategies perform what can only be described as social engineering. Their purpose? Profit. They want to shape us into soulless consumers dedicated to purchasing whatever they want us to buy.
     The root of the problem is not capitalism. It is the choices that business people make to overwhelm us with messages and images that suit their marketing needs while deteriorating our culture. Along with the entertainment industry, they present us with shallow, negative or dysfunctional male images. Since our culture fails to give us anything better, these images have a far greater influence shaping boys and men than they should. We need to see them for the destructive illusions that they are.
     People who conjure these dragons try to convince us that there is nothing wrong with certain vices. They go so far as to infer that virtue is naïve, even stupid—certainly not part of the "in-crowd." This last part may be true. Our principles do separate us from the in-crowd. But the knight errant is far from naïve. His search for truth helps him see through the illusions that would make him so. He is not stupid. What is more intelligent than seeing illusions for what they are, and adhering to a more profound vision of reality?
     There are powerful politicians who treat the people of our nation as if we were all ignorant of their distortions of truth, or public relation strategies. They have lost sight of Americans ideals, even as they speak of them. They have been seduced by power, and by a system that has lost its heart. We see them in both parties. If they say what we like, we may even vote for them. While there are good politicians who take their charge seriously, the fallen ones are given too much influence and exposure.
     There are personal dragons to consider, ideas that prevent us from self-development, from helping others, from leading completely honest lives. Greed is chief among them—an insecure ego, not far behind. They include fear. Insecurity. The need to follow the crowd. Habitual anger. Misogyny. Distorted ideas of what it means to be a man. These are the dragons that the knight errant has to face early on during the process of his quest—which is, of course, his life. If he does not face and conquer them, they impair his journey like a mortal wound.
There are many ways to confront and defeat these dragons.

  • When television ads appeal to your ego to buy a gas-guzzling SUV, thus increasing our dependency on Mideast Oil and depleting natural resources as quickly as we can, go purchase a gas-economy car or hybrid. (Car manufacturers actually blame us for selling inefficient vehicles, even as they fight against higher fuel standards.)
  • When rap singers denigrate women, change the channel and refuse to buy their CDs.
  • Keep tabs on your political representatives and let them know how you feel about the issues. (E-mail makes this easy.)
  • Actively support honest politicians, but make sure they are honest to begin with. They won't warn you if they're not.
  • Learn to put your ego aside in all your dealings.
  • Don't play follow-the-leader. Think for yourself.
  • Reject sexual stereotypes. See women for the complex and noble people who they are. You will be happier in the end.
  • Reject racism, sexism, homophobia and ethnocentrism. In other words, put prejudices aside and let truth set you free.

     The list goes on. The important thing is to be honest and strong and stand up for something good, some cause that will make a difference. That's how dragons are defeated and true knighthood (which is every man's possibility) is attained.

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