The International Fellowship of Chivalry-Now

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Human Nature - Good? Or Bad?

Chivalry-Now is not a discipline imposed from the outside. Although it has a code, even that is viewed notas a set of commandments or laws, but as an expression of and commitment to, certain values.
    Chivalry-Now is an internal phenomenon, a response to an internal calling, self-developing and self-defining at the same time—a drive for completion. One responds to the inner call of chivalry to find the personal fulfillment that comes in right action, in contributing to the whole with beneficial purpose. The true Knight responds to his own inner purpose not just for himself, but for the world.
    Anyone who has experienced this inner calling understands what I mean. Many others who least acknowledge their own discontent, anger and accompanying guilt will at least nod in agreement.
    There is another strain of thought that runs contrary to this, and competes psychologically even to this day.
    Instead of viewing human nature as good and naturally yearning for virtue, the alternative sees it as bad—something that needs to be coerced into submission by outside forces from the onset. Instead of appealing to and encouraging instincts that are noble and discerningly autonomous, in the best sense of the word, it imposes a script for behavioral modification consisting of reward and punishment, continual moral regulation, and a distrust of human nature. This is a model of authoritarianism.
    Both views, when applied properly, can produce well-behaved people. Their reasons or motivations for being good are quite dissimilar, creating very different visions of the world. Each has its own defenders.
    We are called to judge them in order to understand the motivations that drive chivalry.
    Which of the two stands for the makings of freedom? For self-discipline? For judging others according to their potential, rather than their outward success or failure? Which contributes to a more authentic character? Which is less apt to promote jealousy or envy, or violence? Which is more apt to forgive? For which is a display of courtesy more naturally genuine? For the one seeking reward or avoiding punishment? Or the one who follows his own activated conscience?
    Which person is more trusting and trust-worthy? Which makes the better child or parent? The more substantial patriot? Which has the self-confidence to think for himself, which is a perquisite for being free?
    For goodness to be real, and not a prefabricated imitation, it has to emanate from inside. It is not mere action. It is being, or becoming. It is an innocence that reward and punishment cannot produce. Coerced behavior cannot reflect authenticity.
    Philanthropy, the love of humanity, is based on valuing what is best in human nature, even when that potential is unrealized. Authoritarianism, no matter how outwardly benign, is a mindset that leads to oppression, exploitation and ultimately war. We have seen the terrible consequences of such regimes as Nazism, fascism, and communism. Religious fanaticism also leads to authoritarianism—conveniently discarding such dictates as "the truth shall set you free." It has led to killing as well, and religious wars, terrorism, and denial of human rights.
    The need to control people lies at the heart of this. When human nature is considered bad, it must be controlled. While substantial gain may be acquired by this, a host of problems accompany it as well. Poor self-esteem. Repressed resentment. Identification with evil.Never good enough, Being in someone else's control subverts a sense of natural autonomy and encourages the desire to control or even hurt other people, ever widening the problem. Either way, monsters are being created in our midst, filling our jails, but only after they do their damage.
    One mistaken response to this is to so the exact opposite. Give the child free rein during the formative years. Protect, but don't deny. Adopt the role of friend rather than parent. This response arises because we are trained to think two-dimensionally, in childish extremes—the expressway to folly.
    Children are born as helpless packages of potential. Tendencies toward virtue and conscience are either nurtured or they are not. Authoritarian controls make them mimic virtue. Laissez-faire parenting casts them to the fates, which are often unkind. Consumerism, which is now rampant in every aspect of our lives, is like a circle of hungry wolves, waiting to devour the independent thoughts of any potential consumer. Indeed, today's marketing is a pervasive, conveyor belt machine dedicated to brainwashing human beings into docile, domesticated shoppers, jumping for every new toy.
    When I see a young child, I see an insipient reserve of conscience trying to find itself in the reflection of others. It needs to be respected, nurtured and encouraged to grow and be independent. It should neither be beaten or cajoled into submission, nor set free among the wolves before it can ward them off. Here we find the mystery of life and thought and conscience preparing itself to confront the world with meaning and purpose. It needs protection from the wolves, but it also needs the kind of guidance that gently leads to authenticity. While this is the primary responsibility of the parent, it is up to society to provide a humane environment of limited protection that is conducive to growth. It is up to culture to transmit guidance based on wisdom and archetypal heroes from the past, as well as the latest fact-based knowledge of the present.
    We start with our own lives, and then move into the realm of culture. Fixing society first simply cannot work. Society is a mere structure, a reflection of culture and those who live there.
    People problems can only be solved by people, and that means culture as well.
    There will always be those who believe human nature is bad.
    What saddens me is that they base their opinions on what they find directly in themselves. And for that, our culture has failed us.


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