How many of us are antidisestablishmentarian? The word itself is an interesting expression in terms of semantics and was also regarded as the longest accepted word in the English language, with 28 letters contained within it. That was until 1992, when the word floccinaucinihilipilification claimed that title.

Wikipedia has this to say about the word: If the word is taken literally, it could mean ‘against the enemies of the establishment, but not necessarily aligned with the establishment’. To make an example: If you take terrorism to be against the establishment, and thus disestablishmentarian, then those who oppose terrorism (but don’t necessarily support the target of terrorism) could be said to be displaying antidisestablishmentarianism.

So there you are. Now that you have the meaning of the word, where do you stand with regard to the example provided?

In all probability, most of us are against ‘terrorism’. But here again, semantics plays its part, for ‘terrorism’ does have many connotations. There is the common understanding of ‘terrorism’ that associates the word with a group of dissidents that employ ‘terror’ tactics as a means to achieving their ends and those means include indiscriminate acts of violence against the state that include civilians among their victims. Time bombs, landmines, improvised explosive devices and suicide bombings are among the mechanisms used. On the other hand, there also exists what is referred to as ‘state-terrorism’, where ‘terror’ is caused by the state or government in which civilians are among the victims.

Once again to WikipediaState terrorism is a controversial term (see:State terrorism. Confines and definition), which means violence against civilians perpetrated by a national government or proxy state. Whether a particular act is described as “terrorism” may depend on whether the International community considers the action justified or necessary, or whether the described act is carried out as part of an armed conflict. It has to be mentioned, that the opinion of the International community cannot be defined and determined with with universal agreement. State terrorism, where applicable, may be directed toward the population or infrastructure of the state in question or towards the population of other states. Although attacks on non-combatant civilians may occur during a time of war, they are not usually considered terrorism, especially if these are attacks on the enemy’s war fighting capacity (for example an industrial port). The terrorism may be carried out by the state’s own forces, such as an army, police, state supported militias, or other organisations, where it is more usually called state-sponsored terrorism.

Care should be taken to differentiate state terrorism from acts of violence carried out by government agents, which are not specified by government policy or past conduct. A murder carried out by a policeman, for example, is not state terrorism unless the government sanctioned the action by policy or conduct such as a pattern of attacks by state agents in the past that has gone unpunished, leading perpetrators to assume they act with impunity.

We are all aware of the horrendous ‘terrorist’ atrocities perpetrated against the state and civilians by the LTTE in their quest for a separate state, however, not that many of us are aware of how the international community views the state of our nation with regard to ‘state terrorism’.

Wikipedia has something on State Terrorism in Sri Lanka as well:

Post 2006 incidents:
[edit] Civilian massacres: With the election of president Mahinda Rajapakse there has been a renewal of alleged state terrorism

[16] against the Tamil minority. There have been targeted assassinations of Tamil political opponents using state proxies

[17] as well as attack on NGO workers.

A series of Allaipiddy massacres began on May 13, 2006. A total of thirteen Tamil civilians were killed in a spate of incidents on Kayts Island, a small islet off the northwestern coast of the Jaffna Peninsula that is strictly controlled by the Sri Lanka Navy. Amnesty International has received credible reports

[18] that Navy personnel and armed cadres affiliated with the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (a Tamil party opposed to the LTTE), were present at the scene of the killings.

[19]Photos of the massacred family. The government has not investigated this incident yet to identify the assailants.

[20]The unfolding 2006 Mannar massacres have also been attributed to the Sri Lankan military forces. On June 8, 2006 a family of four including two children was massacred in the village of Vankalai by the Sri Lankan Army.   

[21]Photos of the massacred familyOn June 17, 2006 survivors and witnesses of an attack accused the Sri Lankan Navy of storming and then indiscriminately shooting and lobbing grenades inside a church where hundreds of Tamils were taking shelter

[22].One woman was killed and more than 40 people injured in the incident The government has denied accusations that it targeted civilians.

[23]In Trincomalee, five high school students playing by the beach were briefly detained and then shot dead by the members of the Special Task Force, a paramilitary commando unit of the Sri Lankan military. The official inquiry into this incident is still undergoing and STF personnel have been questioned.

[24] Thus far no progress has been reported in apprehending the culprits.

[25] The only witness who came forward in this case is also a target of threats to his safety by some elements of the Sri Lankan security forces. Human rights groups have called on the government to provide adequate protection for the witness.

[26][edit] Involuntary disappearances Human Rights organization such AHRC

[27] and Amnesty International

[28] have complained that in 2006 over 400

[29] people have been disappeared in what appears to be military operations. People have been abducted in government controlled territory in numberless white vans[30] never to be heard again.

I am guessing (hoping, really) that most of us are against terrorism – period – regardless of whether it is perpetrated by dissidents or by the state. And so, we will be among those that ‘oppose terrorism’, but do we ‘necessarily support the target of terrorism’? Think about it – with all the connotations described above – and if you reach a conclusion about yourself and where you stand, you will realise if you are ‘antidisestablishmentarian’ or not.

In closing, here’s a quote from Arthur Miller, Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, author and playwright:

Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.”

So now that we have a better understanding of the intricacies of the word, do we have a better idea of where we are in relation to it?  

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