I am no politician and neither do I have an ambition to become one. But I am becoming, despite my optimistic nature, a politically worried Jordanian citizen.
Almost everyday there is news in Jordan about this tribe bashing that tribe, about fights between students in universities, about security forces having to intervene in this city or that village.
Everyday there is more and more high pitched talk about “identity”. Who is Jordanian? How should all of us be represented? How are youth defining their identity? Are we members of tribes and families first and then citizens? Where did your grandfather come from?
Walk the streets, read the newspaper or browse the Jordanian web and you feel a degradation of spirit going on. Jordan’s once proud universities and institutions are falling apart. The political process and the drive for more citizen participation seems stalled at best. People have no problem making irresponsible pronouncements in the media. There is a degradation of trust in government.
The degradation is visible, even as pockets of entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity flourish in various places. It’s a very confusing picture!
Official statements alway talk about a “troublemaking minority”. About “phenomena that is not part of our society of solidarity”. I cannot help but feel a lot of officials are STILL in denial. Whenever they talk about our universities they talk of “monuments”. Whenever they talk about any body of government, they talk about “great accomplishments” and “great institutions.”
Is everything fine? Is really just a matter of a little minority of troublemakers?
Let’s make no mistake: the source of a lot of what is happening is economic. People who fight over resources end up using tribalism, religion or other affiliations in their quarrels. The country is in a transition that seems to have produced some winners and some losers. An economic crisis has exposed some of the festering problems across the country. Media is exposing long neglected spots of decay.
But even if the source of the current rifts and violence is economic, let’s not deny that social and cultural norms are playing a role in how disputes are being handled and how discussions are carried out.
Governments seem to be unwilling or unable to stem the tide of negativity. Only when we see true political, social, educational and media reform can we talk about progress towards a safer future.
But what is the role of citizens?
Is there a critical mass of Jordanians who are willing to stand up for dignified citizenship, a spirit of solidarity and against societal violence in all its forms?
We still have, in this country, a base of good will and a functioning state and society. Are people willing to be be vocal about protecting what they have?
And even if our problems are deeply economic and social, how many Jordanians are willing to at least agree that we should solve our problems using political mechanisms, open debate and peaceful reform.
Is it only the job of the political elite to talk about national unity, political reform and national dialogue? What is the role of every small school, company, club or societal organization?
Can we imagine a million Jordanians saying: lets stand together for dignity, solidarity and peace?
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