“Women Do Everything Here” : The Absence of Chivalry In The Byzantines
“I cook, I clean, I work, and my husband sits on the couch demanding beer. Women do everything here. We want to be soft. But we can’t be.” – Nikka.
Chivalry is yet another positive western value constructed by the church. I often write how the church granted women property rights, and forbid cousin-marriage out to six or eight degrees, in order to make it more difficult for the clans to maintain consolidated property holdings and associated financial and political power, while at the same time making it easier for the church itself to acquire lands.
But the forcible introduction of the myth and philosophy of Chivalry is as important to the development of the unique western character, in suppressing paternalism and tribalism, as the forcible implementation of property rights by the church.
Humans have existed in excess since the advent of domestication of plants and animals. The germanic princes and their retinues were not as barbaric and predatory as secular fantasies argue. However, the militarism of the Carolingians and Vikings, and the power of the states that they constructed in western Europe were impossible for the trading states of the south, and the church to resist. So, just as the church had used its power of literacy and legitimacy to manage the Christian monarchs, they used the crusades and the myth of chivalry, to direct the energies of these professional warriors to productive ends.
This ethic of chivalry conveyed status upon those who served christendom. It codified service of others as masculine. It could be obtained through demonstrated action, and spiritual reflection, as well as daily posturing, rather than the more expensive requirement of land holding, and was therefore more widely available to retinues. It also provided a code of conduct that the aspring classes could imitate, making the ethics pervasive.
The need for commoners to rent land from land holders, participate as infantry, and to demonstrate their capacity for honorable hard work, before marriage and reproduction were possible, reinforced this set of chivalrous values – allowing laborers and craftsmen to also adopt the chivalrous ethic, and to demonstrate their status signals through conformity to it. THe corresponding delay of childbirth and consequential inclusion of women into the work force, as well as their possession of rudimentary property rights, worked along with suppression of the breeding of the lower classes to create the european universalist and commercial character.
This code of chivalric conduct does not exist here in the east among the men. Service is immasculine. It violates the primary principle of manliness which is independence from external direction. Whether that external direction come from service to an employer or service to the commons – society.
Manliness, and masculinity have not been hybridized. It is not even as mature here as it is among the peacock strutters of the mediterranean — even if it is less ignorant, brutal and barbaric than that of the Arabs, and less familial and hierarchical than that of the Asians. And while we will certainly argue that masculinity has been overly feminized in much of the west, so much so that lower class males are returning to their individualistic migratory roots, the ethic of masculinity through service remains — for now.
There are a few lessons to be learned from this that westerners might want to remember:
1) The church made what is unique about the west, and did so without monopoly powers of violence that are possessed by the current secular west.
2) The west is unique for artificial reasons. it is not a natural social order. It was forcibly constructed by wit and wisdom due to the weakness of the church. Whereas the paternalistic orders in the rest of the world were forcibly constructed by violence.
3) The west is unique because we were a small, weak, poor minority in the world who relied upon technology to compensate for our numbers, and property rights and the denial of centralized power to any and all. WE were lucky to inherit from the greeks the tool of reason which allows warriors to debate and science to develop. But it seems we are reversing our trend and denying our history.
As for the Byzantines: without the church, I see no means of introducing chivalry into the civilization quickly, and we must hope that the commercial society eventually provides men with the incentives to build a high trust society of service like that of the west.
Affections to all.