Saturday, July 1, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The Longest English Word's New Meaning?

When I was younger (several dictionary editions ago), the
longest English word was antidisestablishmentarianism, a
fact meant for TV quiz shows and spelling bees. Almost no
one knew what it actually meant. It’s meaning, in fact,
belonged to another century when some folks were trying to
abolish the Church of England’s official role in Protestant
Britain. Those who were “anti-” were opposed to this
“disestablishment” movement.

In recent years, this word has lost it title as the longest word in
English to a new medical term for a lung disease caused by
volcanos (obviously this new word is on the tip of everyone’s
tongue), although it still holds the title of longest non-medical

Aside from occasional word games, the word has long reposed
in our language’s attic. Even quiz shows eschewed its
momentary use.

But now, I suggest, in a new and expanded usage (minus the
"anti-"), it’s back.

In the conversations about the recent 2016 elections, I introduced
two terms. One was “mutiny of the masses” and the other was
“media coup d’etat.” The latter was technically not quite
accurate since the object of this word was only then a candidate
and did not yet hold elective office. Today, he does, and the
phenomenon continues today as a quite an accurate term.

It is the former term, “mutiny of the masses,” that is relevant to
the new meaning of “disestablishmentarianism.” In the
presidential election, I was referring to the masses of voters who
were rejecting the elites and establishments of both major
political parties by upsetting all prognostications, and supporting
Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump against
a variety of establishment candidates in both parties.

One of those two candidates actually not only won his party’s
nomination, but also won the presidency.

The “disestablishment” theme of his campaign has now become
the daily theme of his administration (as well as his political

The awareness of most political and social transformations
usually occurs in stages, and I think this is true of the one that
our nation and society is going through, but appears also to be
happening in various degrees in many Western nations.

Those who are elites in our society, or consider themselves part
of political, cultural, religious or business establishments, are under
daily assault. It is inevitable that there would be a widespread
“antidisestablishment” movement and sentiment. It is also very
understandable that these persons would focus on Donald Trump
as the perpetrator of the disestablishing phenomenon.

To the contrary, however, I think Mr. Trump is only the temporary
agent and face of this movement which I would contend is much
more widespread and profound than his personality or his political

I think those who wish Mr. Trump would go away probably think
(or hope) that would end the disestablishment phenomenon. I
suggest it is much more powerful than one person, and that we are
in the midst of the periodic replacement of one set of elites and
establishments with another.

I used the term “mutiny” of the masses (instead of the well-known
term “revolt” of the masses originated by the Spanish philosopher
Jose Ortega y Gasset in 1928) because I think what is going on is
not the overthrow of the established order, but instead a change, if
you will, in its officers and boards of directors. Should it happen, of
course, it would be the disestablishment of the old order of things.

The establishment media response, I also think, is a classic case of
the delayed understanding of what’s going on today. They obsess
on his mannerisms and his tweets (which are clearly an assault on
established political conduct), and ignore the substance of the
changes he is putting into effect. They not only enable him, they
also prolong his support among the very voters who chose him in
2016 --- and whom he will need again in 2018 and 2020.

A corollary to this is what would happen if Mr. Trump and his
Republican colleagues fail to keep their political promises.

I contend that U.S. voters only perceive Donald Trump now as
their agent --- not as their savior. Should the new administration,
now controlled by Mr. Trump and his party, fail to lead the nation
past the years of stalemate and inaction, especially in the face of
the ominous challenges and threats we all face today, it should
come as no surprise how fast and clearly the voters will replace
them with others.

Human ambition and aspirations being what they are, there are
always those ready and willing to become the new elites and the
new establishmentarians.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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