Our navigability in the world is heavily dependent on our real or perceived “legitimacy” …
- conformity to the law or to rules.
- ability to be defended with logic or justification; validity.
Legitimacy is strongly associated with AGENCY:
“In social science, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. By contrast, … factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ability, customs, etc.) [may] determine or limit an agent and his or her decisions.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)
“Agency” is enhanced by a strong underpinning of “legitimacy” and “legitimacy” is enhanced by a strong underpinning of “agency”. Thus, the ability of an individual “ … to act independently and to make their own free choices … “ depends on the “legitimacy” of those choices.
RESPECT is a closely related attribute or character-istic … generally reserved for those who “conform to the rules”, who can be “defended with justification”, and who courageously act independently with a high degree of AGENCY to advance civilization.
INTEGRITY is a closely aligned attribute … a behavioral character-istic consistent with the highest values and principles of civilization.
Why does this matter?
First, as noted at the outset, navigability in the universe heavily depends on these collective attributes.
More importantly, however, the loss of any one of these attributes – and certainly the loss of ALL of them – yields a loss of one’s ever-tenuous grip on life and living in almost any context. From such losses, there is often no acceptable escape:
“… Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooh, I don’t want to die …”
Conversely, no matter how deprived of life’s amenities one may be, retention of personal integrity or “respectability” is often ALL that matters.
A grave account was given of an interview with a convicted murderer who had shot a college coed point blank in the head. The interviewer persisted in asking “WHY?” What had started out as a simple theft had ended in a horrendous and completely unnecessary loss of life.
“She showed me no respect,” he said.
I couldn’t help wondering: Respect on what basis? Because he was a male? Because he had a gun? Because he was bigger than she was? Because he was co-opting legitimacy and presumptively acting – illegitimately – as the “authority” figure in the exchange and she wouldn‘t buy it?
Those without bona fide legitimacy (through which to gain at least the perception of respect) will try to co-opt it by inducement of fear. In sports, those with a weak offense can only hope to mount a withering defense (ref., Rick Pitino).
However, in most other fields of endeavor, the inducement of fear and application of withering defenses (aka “Black Belt Winning Strategies” or “Who have you licked lately?”) are very short-term winning strategies. Sustainable navigation – at least in the 21st Century – involves cooperation, collaboration, alliances, affiliation and negotiation; the world has gotten too complicated for Lone Rangers shooting from the hip seeking to rearrange the world in their own image on their own terms.
In fact, very few people want to deal with a bully, and don’t want one on their team. They’re not going to go out of their way to accommodate a power-grubbing, win-at-all-cost, my-way-or-the-highway despot.
Legitimacy lives on a two-way street where all parties, truth, “right-reckoning” and civilized engagement are valued.
Still, in all, the attraction of illegitimate engagement runs deep – especially after important doors have closed for legitimate engagement concerning desired or expected outcomes – or for perceived entitlements not otherwisely bestowed. Literature, both ancient and current, is replete with examples of proverbial Faustian bargains:
“A Faustian bargain is a deal with the devil, a pact with Satan, an agreement that allows you to have anything you’ve ever wanted – including youth, wealth, fame, talent/skill, knowledge and/or power. In exchange … , all you have to do is hand your soul over to the devil for eternity.” http://study.com/academy/lesson/faustian-bargain-definition-lesson-quiz.html
Importantly, Legitimacy/Agency/Respect is gained by conferral from others not by coercive acquisition. And just being “different” … like garnering the most tattoos … does not give one “commanding authority”. [Yes, you dared to be different, but to what purposeful end and for what greater good?] In addition, simply wearing a Superman cape or underwear or a New England Patriots jersey does not necessarily confer legitimacy/agency or respect. (Why would you wear something with someone else’s name or insignia on it other than to portray yourself as something or someone you are not – which is, essentially, an illegitimate act!?!)
So, back to our original assertion: Exactly HOW does “legitimacy” support “navigation of the universe”?
Very simply, legitimacy provides ACCESS to the best people and opportunities civilization has to offer.
Of course, one will quickly note that POWER and MONEY can easily – in fact, far TOO easily – “buy” access without legitimacy. Such is its own Faustian bargain, relegating the players to shadows of conscience and shallows of contrivance with only temporary gain. Here, an alt-“Golden Rule” is espoused:
Golden Rule – Alt Version
“He who has the GOLD makes the RULES!”
Curiously, the man with the gold will generally invest ONLY in one who has legitimacy/integrity. Without THAT ONE, there is no more gold! Build LEGITIMACY! Be a dependable, accountable, respectable quality producer with “agency” and integrity. Quartermaster