Guest post: My Palestinian/Polish Story

Posted on: May 28, 2024 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Uncategorized

Note Natalia is a rising junior majoring in biology at Elon University. Her story is unique and compelling, bringing together both the Nakba and the Holocaust. [Arabic version below added 30 May] My Palestinian/Polish Story by Natalia S.   We all have parents Like most, I am fortunate enough to have two parents and two sets of grandparents. Mine came from different parts of the world, two worlds that were both torn apart by violence and oppression. My mom originates from Poland, specifically from Lezajsk. My dad was born into occupation and raised in Gaza. Below I share a few stories regarding the tragedies of the Holocaust and the Nakba, narratives which are part of my family’s history. Growing up Polish and Palestinian Growing up, when asked about my ethnicity, I would proudly say I am Polish and Palestinian. However, I was often met with puzzled looks; few knew where…

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Propaganda, false consciousness, and the normalization of marginalization

Posted on: February 16, 2024 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

  [updated 8 June 2024] “Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” -F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.” K. Marx, The German Ideology “Families and churches and schools adapt to modern life; governments and armies and corporations shape it; and, as they do so, they turn these lesser institutions into means for their ends.” –C.Wright Mills, The Power Elite  “Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism Prelude Starting any chapter with four daunting quotations is always a risk, but I am inviting you, kind reader, to…

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Using Critical Hydra Theory to understand the Palestine-Israel confrontation

Posted on: January 3, 2024 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

Using Critical Hydra Theory to understand the Palestine-Israel confrontation [Updated 14 February 2024 “Silence is consent.” -Plato   Overview As I write this we are in day 100 of the Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza that was prompted by an attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, 2023. To date there have been approximately 1200 Israeli and over 23,000 Palestinian deaths, among them thousands of children. Given the lack of food, water, medicine or other critical humanitarian aid, the number of deaths from disease, exposure, and hunger are dramatically on the rise. On 29 December 2023 the Republic of South Africa submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) an application initiating proceedings on the charge of genocide against the state of Israel. The application included “…provisional measures to protect the rights invoked herein from imminent and irreparable loss” and requested an immediate response from the ICJ. This…

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Survivor: a book review

Posted on: December 20, 2023 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Refugee humanitarians

Survivor: a book review Getting my hands on Survivor This past August I was able to secure several copies of Ziaur Rahman’s stunning memoir Survivor: My Life as A Rohingya Refugee. I had gotten to know Ziaur two years ago through numerous online conversations and was honored to be among the many who assisted him in the process of getting his story published. Holding the book in my hands for the first time felt like a dream coming true. As I began my fall semester, I shared with my sociology classes details of my summer travel to Bangladesh and what I had learned about the Rohingya. My most intense learning took place by meeting with many Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar in southern Bangladesh, not far from the Myanmar border. Though most of the Rohingya diaspora is located in Cox’s Bazar, those fleeing the genocidal Myanmar military now live all…

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Second Edition of Confronting Toxic Othering available now!

Posted on: December 12, 2023 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

Second Edition of Confronting Toxic Othering available now! The journey continues My journey understanding and taming the Hydra has been ongoing since I published the first edition in 2021. This new edition contains many chapters I have written over the last two years based on classroom experiences both at Elon University, in Bangladesh, and online with refugees from Myanmar, Somalia, and Syria. Several useful classroom exercises have been added and the final section of the book now deepens explanation of the basic tenets of Critical Hydra Theory. I will be using the book in all my classes for the remainder of the school year, making these classes fulfill all the requirements for Elon University’s Advancing Equity Requirement (AER). Overview of the Second Edition Confronting Toxic Othering embarks on an ambitious quest to interrogate the root causes of all global social and environmental problems. Drawing upon the myth of the Hydra,…

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CHT: A theoretical perspective for the 21st Century

Posted on: October 20, 2023 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

CHT: A theoretical perspective for the 21st Century A new theory for a new century Being a 21st-century social scientist is a perhaps Sisyphean task; so much happens in such an unclear way, and trying to stay current with local, national, and international social and political news is akin to drinking from a firehose. Modern social scientists cannot ignore the fact that we live in a globalized, intricately, and infinitely interconnected social world made ever more seamless by increasingly ‘smart’ technologies that make national boundaries irrelevant. The increasing presence of artificial intelligence (AI) makes the future of humanity ever more complex and unpredictable. At their core, all critical theories begin with the assumption that power and privilege asymmetries are at the root of most global social problems. Critical Hydra Theory (CHT) offers an explicitly pan-disciplinary and globally applicable approach capable of addressing 21st-century questions about the myriad social and, importantly,…

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Exploring the canon inspiring Critical Hydra Theory

Posted on: September 6, 2023 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

“It would be advisable to think of progress in the crudest, most basic terms: that no one should go hungry anymore, that there should be no more torture, no more Auschwitz [or Gaza or Cox’s Bazar]. Only then will the idea of progress be free from lies.” -Theodor Adorno   Critical theory, Critical Race Theory, and Critical Hydra Theory Though I could not have described it as such, I began my journey confronting toxic othering many decades ago0. It was the mid 1970’s in a graduate level sociological theory course when I was first exposed to critical theory. Our professor was passionate about sociologists Theodore Adorno and Antonio Gramsci, both associated with the Institute for Social Research at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, founded in the early 1920’s. I too was attracted to these sociologists and the Frankfort School because I found reinforcement for my urge to understand and address…

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Open letter to Women’s Peace Cafe attendees, Dhaka, Bangladesh 8 August 2023

Posted on: August 14, 2023 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

Open letter to Women’s Peace Cafe attendees, Dhaka, Bangladesh 8 August 2023 Esteemed students, staff, faculty, and friends, I have very pleasant and vivid memories of our short time together at the Women’s Peace Café last week. I found your attentiveness extraordinary, your questions on point and challenging, and your hospitality warming. Here is the article in The Business Standard reviewing our event. During our conversation I believe several points I made resonated with many of you and also I gave you a couple assignments or challenges. Below I review and extend some of my main points. Additionally, you are welcome to read this which I wrote when I was in Cox’s Bazar at a three day workshop focusing on power, justice, and how to use the Hydra model to better understand global issues. Listen to those who are marginalized One of the first challenges I gave you was creating…

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Thoughts on the denormalization of marginalization

Posted on: August 5, 2023 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

[This was written the morning after I had been honored to participate in a certificate awarding ceremony hosted by the Centre for Peace and Justice at the home offices of their Refugee Studies Unit located 1km from the Ukhiya Rohingya refugee camps south of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. This is a partial draft of what I plan to say to the Women’s Peace Cafe attendees in a couple days from now in Dhaka.]   Thoughts on the denormalization of marginalization I want to use an example to facilitate our understanding of the denormalization of marginalization in action, and that example is on the logo behind me, the Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ), and the way that this organization is functioning. Every day CPJ is a perfect example of allyship1. Not only is it a great example of organizational allyship, every individual within the organization functions as a positive ally. What…

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Imagining life before the Hydra: The Nole Exercise

Posted on: April 30, 2023 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

“The better angel is a man right fair…” -William Shakespeare, Sonnet 144 (1599)   “So do the shadows of our own desires stand between us and our better angels, and thus their brightness is eclipsed”. -Charles Dickens in Barnaby Rudge, 1841 Imagining life before the Hydra: The Nole1 Exercise A time before the Hydra? In a previous blog post [chapter] I sketch out a history of the eight privileging forces represented by the heads of the Hydra. Based on anthropological and archeological evidence, I argue that if one goes back in human history far enough, back to pre-agricultural times, the Hydra is non existent and social life is largely characterized by a marked lack of socially structured inequalities. All the privileging forces are muted by an egalitarian ethos necessary for the survival of the group. Hunting and gathering life is not perfect, but all evidence indicates that beyond age and…

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