The ultimate goal of the Hydra is genocide.

Posted on: December 9, 2019 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: Hydra "privileging forces"

“It is not power that corrupts but fear.”

–Aung San Suu Kyi,

Nobel Peace Prize recipient and defender of Myanmar’s genocidal actions


This is an important week
This week there is a Brexit vote in the UK and impeachment hearings against President Trump in the US. These two events are consequential, to be sure, but perhaps no more so than what will be happening in the Netherlands.

Brought up on charges of committing genocide by The Gambia, Myanmar goes on trail in front of the International Court of Justice. Heavy, somber, and immensely powerful words, those.

In anticipation of the hearing in The Hague, I spent part of this afternoon reading the 46 page document outlining Gambia’s case against Myanmar for the genocide against the Rohingya. It begins,

“In accordance with Articles 36(1) and 40 of the Statute of the Court and Article 38 of the Rules of Court, I have the honour to submit Application instituting proceedings in the name of the Republic of The Gambia (“The Gambia”) against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (“Myanmar”). Pursuant to Article 41 of the Statute, the Application includes a request that the Court indicate provisional measures to protect the rights invoked herein from imminent and irreparable loss.

This Application concerns acts adopted, taken and condoned by the Government of Myanmar against members of the Rohingya group, a distinct ethnic, racial and religious group that resides primarily in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. These acts, which include killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, inflicting conditions that are calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfers, are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part. They have been perpetrated in manifest violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the “Genocide Convention”).” (emphasis added)

Via the internet I will be watching the streamed proceedings, and I will be following the international media for news about protests and counter protests in the streets. My heart goes out to my many Rohingya contacts who I know will be watching as well -as much as possible, given the heavy restrictions on cell and wifi access. I am sure some will find a way.

The Hydra wants blood
There is much to say about the particulars of the Rohingya genocide case, but I want to address a larger issue, the fact that now, in 2019, humanity is still dealing with this grotesque phenomena. How is it that overt and extreme racism continues to be normalized among our ‘civilized’ nations? As I search for answers I am reminded of the words of Erich Fromm who, in his book The Sane Society, used the phrase ‘the lie of civilization.’ His point is simple but clear.  Though we are more technologically advanced and are making ‘progress’ in terms of our control over nature, as a species were are getting less, not more civilized as in being more ‘civil’ toward each other.

The Hydra wants blood, and uses fear to induce those in power to orchestrate prolonged, systematic, and brutally effective pogroms, genocides by another name.

Social philosophers throughout history have grappled with the problem of human nature and our species’ tendency to fear others. Here now in the 21st century we are still incapable of controlling this base urge. And so the Myanmar military, the ‘Tatmadaw’ went full bore, enthusiastically, about the task of dealing with the ‘Bengali’ problem.  The dehumanization of the Rohingya did not start with the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law, but the embedded privileging forces of race, ethnicity, and religion ultimately fed the Hydra the blood meal it craved. Not unlike Rwanda.  Not unlike Cambodia. Not unlike Bosnia. Not unlike 1930/40’s Germany.

My point is painfully obvious. The logical extension of unchecked ethnocentrism, racism, and nationalism is genocide. And humanity has yet to figure out how to permanently blunt this deadly process. The Myanmar case before the International Court of Justice is a critical moment in the evolution of our ‘civilization.’

Read here for an op-ed on this topic that I co-authored with Zayed Jack, a Rohingya refugee living in Cox’s Bazar.

The decision
What the International Court of Justice judges decide, finally, will not be known for weeks or months. The facts, for most, are clear. What if something less than a full ‘guilty’ verdict is handed down?

The world will be watching.

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He is currently working on a second book tentatively titled "Hearing Voices: Dispatches from the margins of the humanitarian sector".

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