Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"The false honor of chivalry is of far less value than a life wasted in its name."

This coming Thursday is the 98th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. On April 15th 1912 the ocean liner that was thought to be unsinkable struck an iceberg and went down in the Atlantic Ocean. All but 705 of the 2,228 souls on the ship were lost. After reading this post by Paul Elam I'm left wondering about something about chivalry.

Okay if you look at the numbers of survivors and deaths its pretty easy to see that the odds of survival were pretty stacked against men. Now most people try to chalk that up to men performing their noble duty to giving up passage on life boats to women and children. Well I'm wondering were they making a choice or fulfilling an expectation.

You see the code of chivalry dictates that in times of danger a man is obligated to put the lives of women and children, even women and children unknown to him, above his own. Now at face value most people will just write this off as a man doing his duty and no more. For something as major as giving up one's life I think we should not leave this unexamined.

As for the Titanic ever since the ship sank there have been conflicting accounts that not only were men giving up passage on the life boats to women and children but also that some of the officers responsible for deploying the lifeboats were actively (and in some cases forcefully) preventing men from getting onto lifeboats unless either they were needed to row the boats for the women and children (yes along with giving up one's life the code of chivalry days that men should always be around to perform physical labor for women) or when the officers saw no other women or children around (and according a documentary I saw on The History Channel a few weeks ago even then there were still several lifeboats that deployed with several, sometimes dozens, of spots empty).

So if giving up one's life for another, especially people they don't know, is supposed to be the ultimate sacrifice and the mark of a hero that is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty then why is it that men bear the burden of being expected to do such a thing to validate their manhood? I mean if giving up one's life is such a grand gesture then is it really fair to presume that men have to be willing to do it in order to validate their manhood?

Now don't get me wrong if a man actively decides to give up his own life for another then more power to him. I just wonder if he is doing it because he wants to or because he thinks he is supposed to. I think its unfair to expect, nigh demand, that a man (or anyone for that matter) to make that big of a sacrifice. And for what? To prove that they are a man?