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The Principle of Legitimacy

personperson Don't believe everything you thinkThe liminal space Veteran
edited June 2020 in General Banter

I was listening to an excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell he publicly released in light of the protests and thought the point was illuminating. You can catch the whole thing on his podcast Revisionist History.

“When people in authority want the rest of us to behave, it matters – first and foremost – how they behave.

This is called the “principle of legitimacy,” and legitimacy is based on three things.

First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice – that if they speak up, they will be heard.

Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today.

And third, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another.”

The Buddhist in me also always wants to bring it down to the personal and understand how it impacts my own life and the ways that I may use whatever power I may find myself with. Do I listen, am I consistent and am I fair?



  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    I think that's a good way to go. It reminds me of a quote I heard once by a forgotten source. Something close to "A society can only expect the individual to care about said society only as much as society cares about said individual".
    I think a lot of it comes down to how one views authority or at least the illusion of it. Almost like there are two mindsets at work with the protests and the covid lockdown. One sees compliance to authority and one sees commitment to community.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    As little more than an illegitimate dharmaist what can I do with power except share or undermine its supposed existence ...

    Do I listen, am I consistent and am I fair?

    Consistency is an element of content. Tend to throw that out. Never been much of a fair, probably due to the circus nature of reality ...

    Listen seems like a plan. Then we can consist of necessity, simplicity and serve the HeadMaster/Principle Buddha.

    Tee Hee! 🤓🙏🏽💗

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think The liminal space Veteran
    edited June 2020

    @Jason said:

    I think its important to live up to the standards we wish others to have or else we're being somewhat hypocritical, do as I say not as I do. I'm reminded of this story.

    A woman came to see Mohandas Gandhi, waiting in line for more than half a day with her son at her side in order to have an audience with him. When at last it was their turn to speak to him, the woman said, “Mahatma, please. Tell my son he must stop eating sugar. It is ruining his health, his teeth, it affects his mood. Every time he has it, I see the change in him and there is nothing I can do to stop him from eating it, and then eating more. He’s a good boy, but when it comes to sugar, he becomes a liar and a thief and a cheat and I’m afraid it will ruin his life. Please, Gandhiji, tell him to stop.”

    Gandhi looked at the boy for the longest time as he cowered there, trying to hide in his mother’s sari. Finally, Gandhi broke the silence and said. “Come back to me in two weeks time.”

    Two weeks later the woman returned with her child and once again waited in line for hours before finally it was again their turn to see the Master. “Mahatma,” said the mother. “We have returned. We came to you for help with this boy and eating sugar and you asked us to come back after two weeks.”

    “Yes, of course I remember,” said the master. “Come here, child.” He motioned the boy forward.

    The boy, at the urging and prodding of his mother, disentangled himself from her sari and stepped up to the Mahatma who reached out, putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders and pulling him in close. He looked the boy squarely in the eye and said, firmly, “Don’t eat sugar,” then released him.

    “That’s it?” said the mother. “That’s all you’re going to say?” She was flabbergasted. “Why didn’t you just tell him that two weeks ago?”

    “Because,” replied Gandhi, “Two weeks ago I was still eating sugar myself.”

    We all have a little bit of authority in our lives. I have authority in my professional life, people look to me for help and answers. I have authority in my personal life, those close to me respect my opinions. So I have a practical responsibility to use that respect legitimately or I risk losing that respect.

    The law of legitimacy strikes me as a psychological principle that applies from high to low, from large to small.

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