It was on a regular day that my daughter’s car tyre needed to be filled with air. So, on the way back from town, we turned into a petrol kiosk that had an air pump. She removed the valve stem cap, checked the air pressure, stretched the hose around to the closest tyre and inserted the hose into the valve.
It was then that I heard someone holler at us.
I looked up and there was a male driver on his way out of the petrol kiosk. He asked, “Are you alright? Do you need help?”
I gave him the thumbs-up to indicate that everything was fine and he waved and moved on. We were chuffed as that took us by complete surprise. Either we looked ridiculous manhandling an air hose or he belonged to the last batch of those who practise the chivalric code.
The chivalric code conjures up images of knights in shining armour and damsels in distress. But actually, the chivalric code, is a code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood which developed between 1170 and 1220. This code contains virtues such as mercy, courage, valour, fairness and protection of the weak and poor. An example of this in the 20th century is protecting women from harm and helping them when needed.
In some parts of the world, there are many who still pull out a chair or hold out the door for me. There are still others who say sorry or excuse me when I am blocking the way. Before I leave the counter after having purchased something, there is always a broad smile, a thank you and a general greeting to have a good day, in a very natural and genuine voice.
When I travelled alone on some of my working trips to parts of Europe and the States, it was always a delight when some random fellow passenger helped me retrieve my cabin luggage. There was no shoving or pushing to try to get out of the plane as quickly as possible.
Imagine the horror when I travel on budget airlines in some countries where some passengers are totally unruly.
They let their children run up and down the aisle and it is worse if a clique has boarded the plane together. They will talk loudly and use pungent headache relieving ointment with no consideration for the rest of the passengers. Before you know it they are all rushing to get out before the plane actually lands and the poor stewardess has to constantly plead with them to sit down and put their seat belts on again. I can’t imagine anyone helping me with my luggage during such flights. Both chivalry and good manners are dead here.
Compare this to the sinking of the Titanic where the majority of the survivors were women and children. Research of the incident has shown that many male passengers refused to enter the lifeboats or depart the ship until they knew all women aboard had been brought to safety.
There are some who adhere strongly to the feminist liberation movement and argue that we need no help from the physically stronger men and that we are no damsels in distress. Women can fly planes or mow the lawn if they wanted to.
There are many arguments as to why there is a lack of chivalry these days.
Some contend that this is due to boys being brought up not to respect women enough. Others think it is a result of the post-feminist backlash. According to an article entitled “Chivalry is dead and feminism is to blame” by Martin Daubney in the Telegraph, men have become afraid of helping women lest they appear patronising.
The writer gives the example of the fear of offering to help change a tyre and getting a slap for being sexist. Even offering a seat in a bus to a perceived pregnant lady (only to be reprimanded that he is calling her fat) or to a pensioner (and be accused of making a big deal of her advancing age) can lend a chivalrous man in trouble.
In most parts of the world, chivalry has a weaker emphasis in today’s modern society than in history.
As for me, even if I could be an astronaut and walk on the moon, a little help in time of need is most welcome.
Dr Koh Soo Ling was a lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara and now spends her days enjoying life as it is