I am a crossword fan. Every morning I try to complete the crosswords of the day. Yet there is a problem I consistently come accross: some of the definitions of the words are, in my opinion, wrong even if culturally derived. For example:
- The word "Consecrated" is suposed to tell us to use the word "Blessed". Yet the Webster's dictionary defines the word as "To set apart, dedicate or devote, to the service or worship of God". A blessing is something we can bestow upon people or places without consecrating them or set them apart...
Many other definitions every day point to a commonly accepted meaning which is different from the dictionary definition. If there is a word that has suffered from that deformation of meaning is "Politics". According to the Webster's, there are two possible meanings: a) "The science of government; that part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and government of a nation or state" and b) "The management of a political party; the conduct and contests of parties with reference to political measures or the administration of public affairs"
In our current politically polarized society, the second definition refers to an area most people avoid as a taboo. In contemporary American society, party politics is "off the table" for good reasons. Voicing your opinion in this area can land you in lots of trouble with people who disagree with you, and it can cost you dearly.
But what about the first definition? "The science of government; that part of ethics which has to do with the regulation and government of a nation or state" . Political science does not concern itself with partisan positions or ideas; it is concerned with the analysis of social situations which can affect the future of the nation or the state. To say that a certain social group is trending to more conservative (or more liberal) positions is nothing more than stating data. It is data that people can use (scrupulously or unscrupulously) to advance their own positions - but it is just data nevertheless. Yet in today's social polarizing climate, even political analysis becomes suspicious. If a reader disagrees with the conclusions of a political scientist, the scientist is immediately labeled as belonging to "the other group" (and, of course, attacked).
This trend is discouraging engagement in public affairs, unless of course you happen to be part of one of "those groups" who are very vociferous for/against (You Name it).
The word "Republic" is defined by Webster's as "A state in which the sovereign power resides in the whole body of the people, and is exercised by representatives elected by them". Ethimologically, the word "Republic" comes from latin "Res Publica" or "Public Affairs". The foundation of the idea of a Republic is the engagement of the population with the Public Affairs affecting them, and it has its far origin in Greece, where the whole town would come out to the Agora to discuss the affairs of State. When the population of a state disengages from the discussion of Public Affairs, is leaving the Republic in the hand of the politicians, for whom the second definition ("The management of a political party; the conduct and contests of parties with reference to political measures or the administration of public affairs") is the operating one.
Things get worse thanks to the development of "Identity Politics" over the last couple of decades. Identity Politics is a social phenomenon described as a situation in which each group in society focuses exclusively on their own interests, to the exclusion of anything else - even the interests of the collective. When this is used by those for whom the second definition of politics is their measuring rod, we end up with a messed-up public domain, where expressing or even holding any kind of political opinion becomes a liability. People shy away from it further resigning control of the process to the politicians. In the long run, it may even discourage participation in the electoral process. This gives those involved in identity politics more power, because they tend to be more activist than the average Joe.
I believe it is time that the silent majority reclaim the ideals of the Republic. We need to reclaim that public space where people of good conscience can discuss the public affairs in a civilized manner and seek a consensus that will be a common ground to work together. And yes, consensus might end up being "Something nobody likes but everybody can live with", but without it society will continue on the road to fragmentation and polarization. Without dialogue between those who disagree on issues there is no democracy and there is no republic; there is only partisanship. Just my two cents.