On Complicity

Complicit or “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing” or simply, being, at some level, “responsible for something . . . even if indirectly,” was declared in November as Dictionary.com’s ‘2017 Word of the Year.’


A post on its website explained that the word was selected because of frequent searches on the site as well as its cultural significance in 2017.” Look-ups of the word increased nearly 300% over the last year, lexicographer Jane Solomon said to the Associated Press. “This year a conversation that keeps on surfacing is what exactly it means to be complicit,” she said adding, “Complicit has sprung up in conversations about those who speak out against powerful figures in institutions, and those who stay silent.”


The choice for Word of the Year “reminds us that even inaction is a type of action. The silent acceptance of wrongdoing is how we’ve gotten to this point. We must not let this continue to be the norm. If we do, then we are all complicit, the post exhorted.


Dictionary.com claims itself to be the world’s leading online source for English definitions, synonyms, word origins, audio pronunciations, example sentences, slang phrases, idioms, word games, legal and medical terms, Word of the Day and more.


The word has huge resonance in the context of Nagaland. While, the citizen of the state whine about the sorry states of affairs surrounding them amplified, among others, by the constant crisis in the political arena, endemic and systematic corruption, and societal parochialism, a pertinent question needs to be raised.


Are we complicit in the whole process? Silently, unwittingly or otherwise. It is so if the citizen falls into the same cycle of electoral politics as another election beckons. It is so if their fight against corruption is limited by tribal, regional or village consideration. It is so if its decision making process does not go beyond the existing paradigm and vehement defense of the status quo.


But as the aforesaid lexicographer noted in its posting, Silence does not always equal complicity. “We also must consider the very real reasons why we choose not to speak out. This includes fear of retaliation, fear of endangering one’s safety or the safety of loved ones, or knowledge that nothing will change. Silence may come from a place of self-preservation. Those whose lives have been negatively impacted by assault or violence or social injustices don’t owe their stories to anyone. It’s important to remember that sometimes speaking out is a privilege in itself.”


As another year beckon, can the citizen of the state free itself from the bondage of complicity?