“What are you doing here?!” That’s usually the first question I get asked by those who discover I have a Canadian passport. The idea that I would choose to live in Jordan is unthinkable. There’s a long list of reasons and they usually run through my head the moment I’m asked but my answer tends to be physically articulated in the standard shrug and a mumbling of “idunno”.
Although I hate the question when prompted for an answer, I do enjoy its aftershock, the way it lingers in my head for days, letting me compile top ten lists in mind. And every now and then a new entry will makes its way into that list.
The latest one came one night during a political-economic-social-cultural discussion with friends at around 3am on a balcony somewhere on a hilltop in Amman. And when assessing our “Arab Condition” I discovered that despite all its massive shortfalls it is utterly boring to live anywhere else.
A highly developed and industrialized first world nation is done. It’s already accomplished, it’s already there. All that’s left is continued progress. It’s like coming to the party late. There’s really nothing left do here but enjoy the fruits of other’s labors.
The way I see it, if you’re a person who has an interest in issues, be they political, economical, societal, historical, current; issues that involve human rights, women, religion, ethnicity, the environment or what have you, then there’s probably no better place to live than in a third world country like Jordan.
You get to not only bear witness to the struggle, but play a role in it, be it a passive or active role; being a member of this society is a de facto implication of one’s involvement in its evolution.
You get to see the changes; the superficial changes, the real changes. Some times you really have to take a step back from the painting to appreciate it; to acknowledge or even accurately observe that change in its proper historical context.
And as for the things that don’t change, they are the most beautiful of the bunch. They represent a struggle. They personify the desire, on whatever level, to inspire change. And change is inevitable. Progress is destiny. We evolve. It’s our natural directive.
And Jordan has changed; parts of it for the worse, and parts of it for the better. There are still people who are struggling. There are still issues to be championed, battles to be fought, campaigns to be won.
If you have that active and restless soul that simply thrives on this evolution, this process, these issues, then living in a first world country is not the best place. For example: it’s great protesting something half way around the world where there’s free media and freedom of speech, but it’s even cooler to be on the front lines fighting, or at the very least experiencing the fight for freedom of speech and free media. The same can be said of every single issue that plagues the region; that plagues Jordan.
But let me emphasize that this is my world view and my world view alone. People reading this, especially Jordanians who have chosen to live outside the country or even those currently residing in it and wanting nothing more in life than to leave; these people should be cautious when coming into contact with these very words. Because this is not me shaking my head at them or even me tilting at windmills. This is not me being naive nor is it me being hopeful. This is not me telling you how to live your life or how to see things.
This is just the way I personally experience this world. It’s not a view that is easily sustained nor is it one that is easily imposed on others, which is why I don’t. People are free to makes the choices that they make in this life, without the burden of caring about certain things; especially of all things, a country such as Jordan that has probably failed to sustain them. I can empathize with that. Even though I never understood the correlation between those who leave Jordan and their incessant need to attack it from the outside when it always seemed to me that choosing to leave a country is a choice that includes forfeiting the right to attack it, given the fact that the choice of departure is also a deceleration of disengagement from the process, leaving the rest (usually the poor whom they always claim to champion) to deal with it. But that’s besides the point. A topic for another post.
I will say this though, as a final note. There is a difference between knowing that the grass on the other side is greener and wanting to be part of the process that improves your own side of the fence. Or to use another cliche: it really is easier to cast stones at a glass house, than help to actually build a home from the ground up.
And if anything, just being there is historical.