A principled man

Posted March 23, 2011

A principled man

Lancelot is galloping to the rescue again. Only this time it’s not damsels in distress he’s saving; it’s the plight of modern day man.

The reason I’m talking about knights of yore is because I recently discovered a book called Chivalry-Now: The Code of Male Ethics. It’s based on the premise that gentlemanly behaviour is in decline. The book argues that today’s men have lost their morale compass and that they should look to chivalry, the medieval code of conduct, for inspiration and guidance. A bit corny? I’m not so sure.

When someone recently asked me to list the men I most admire I immediately thought of fictional characters. Men like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mocking Bird or Mr Darcy of Pride and Prejudice. I know they are deliberately written to be attractive and I’m obviously drawn to ‘still waters run deep’ types but nevertheless I shouldn’t have to resort to literature to answer the question, should I?

Both the fictional characters I chose are principled and exude a quiet dignity. The attraction is as much about their actions as their looks. In Darcy’s case he chooses to marry for love rather than social standing; Atticus is a lawyer who seeks justice in America’s prejudiced deep south. They stand up for their beliefs and ‘do the right thing’.

I’ve been scratching my head trying to think of a modern day version but haven’t come up with anything yet. With so many spin doctors and PR gurus manipulating a person’s image it’s hard to know who is the genuine article. Principles: try explaining that to politicians who promise us one thing and deliver the opposite. Dignity: a concept that is alien to Peter Andre and Wayne Rooney?

A google search revealed very little in the way of contemporary role models although I did stumble upon Jamie Oliver on the Oprah Winfrey website. He was referred to as a ‘food missionary’ who should be admired for his persistence in promoting healthy eating despite initial hostility to his ideas. Jamie is undoubtedly full of passionate zeal but he also makes a lot of noise about what he’s doing so doesn’t fall into my quietly determined category. But nevertheless, he’s the closest to a principled man I was able to find.

So what are the modern tenets of chivalry? According to Chivalry-Now: The Code of Male Ethics men should be truthful, loyal, courteous to others, helpmates to women, supporters of justice and defenders of the weak. They should also avoid scandal. These values all sound very noble.

But in today’s world this is a tall order. I mean, do you know any men who meet all these criteria? If you do, I have a few single girlfriends who’d love to meet them.

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