I Love “David and Goliath; Undergods, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants” by Malcolm Gladwell. I first became aware of Mr. Gladwell and his book through a “60 Minutes” segment about him. His comment about those that experience extreme life experiences becoming indifferent to many things was what captured my attention. Maybe my indifference to others minor “daily drama’s” was normal.
His explanations to support his thesis are complete and well documented, as you would expect from such a seasoned writer. But the ease of reading makes this educational and spell binding. And, it’s one of the best examples of how to write books on sociology without boring your reader. Whether it’s in the main text, foot notes, or chapter notes, Mr. Gladwell is constantly is having a “conversation” with you.
What struck me most during my reading was the similarities between the events shared in Part Three: The Limits of Power and the principles of Legitimacy and the BLM’s handling of Clive Bundy in Nevada (also known as the Cattle Battle). The statement “when the law is applied in the absence of legitimacy, it does not product obedience. It produces the opposite” was clearly in play when the Government decided to confiscate Mr. Bundy’s cattle in payment for grazing fees he has never paid. Clive Bundy’s fight and the inclusion of the militia resulted in the same possible outcomes – more military – arrest Bundy – slaughter the cattle.
As Mr. Gladwell stated, “Power has an important limitation. It has to be seen as legitimate, or else its use has the opposite of its intended effect”. That was clearly the case in Nevada. Average Americans didn’t have a vision of the BLM, Forest Service or National Park Service Rangers as thugs, cops, or law enforcement. They viewed them as helpers, guides, and resource managers. It would be interesting to survey citizens to assess any chang in opinions on these “rangers” after watching the poorly managed, armed conflict in Nevada. “Force without legitimacy leads to defiance, not submission” was clearly in place and the BLM has now backed itself into a corner it will be hard to come out of.
New attempts to resolve the situation are now using the age-old political tactic – if your argument isn’t good enough to sway voters attack your opponent personally. The recent press on Mr. Bundy’s sons’ battles with the law are an attempt to sway public opinion back to the government by discrediting his reputation in hopes that his support group will leave him. But this also supports Mr. Gladwell’s statement “the powerful are not as powerful as they seem – nor the weak as weak”.
The BLM’s attempt for compliance did not appear to have legitimacy at a time when the average western citizen is feeling repressed by government oversight and mandates. If this was an ordinary citizen having a good old fashioned range war with their neighbor western rules would apply. Get out the gun, gather up the men and take back what is rightfully yours. But it isn’t, it is the U.S. Government that put together a posse to round up the bad guy, take what they want, and torch the house before you leave to show who’s powerful – at least that’s what it looked like on the nightly news. But Mr. Bundy is old, seasoned, and clearly feels he has nothing to lose. So Mr. Bundy can be a Trickster and use his unexpected freedom that comes from having nothing to lose. The trickster gets to break the rules, and he did. Now the BLM has to find a way to become “legitimate”.
Thanks, Mr. Gladwell for helping me put this into words through your great book.
Until next time – - – -