A Jordanian Writer’s Lament

Stepping out of a car and walking up the street towards yet another interview the other day, my boss tells me: “there has never been a worse time to be a writer in Jordan.”

Its statements like this that tend to fester.

I don’t consider myself a journalist. I don’t have a degree in journalism. Never went to journalism school. Never said “when I wanna grow up I wanna be a journalist” or “man biochemistry sucks, I think I’ll change my major to journalism”. But then again, most trained-journalists I know are writing press releases.

I consider myself a writer. I don’t know how you want to define that. Perhaps a person with the ability to form a coherent sentence, perhaps even be able tell a verb from a noun. I am simply one of many others who is concerned with the issues plaguing one of the things I consider dearest to me: my country.

No willingness to report news, but would much rather analyze, tear it apart, form an opinion of it.

So this is what I do.

Whether I’m paid for it or not.

This is what I do.

And it’s what I’ll continue to do, God willing, years from now, regardless of future or career.

And yes, perhaps it is true.

Perhaps there has never been a worse time to be a writer in Jordan.

Consider this:

It’s the 21st century and books are still being banned.

It’s the 21st century and journalists and writers are still being intimidated; their work is still being monitored.

All venues leading to free speech have been closed off. No freedom square, circle or shape of any kind exists.

Publications once known for being just a bit more rebellious than the ordinary, such as the Jordan Times, have now become an official sock puppet; fisted into submission.

A thousand radio channels, but none of them are allowed to discuss politics. Lest, of course, the surfs in the fields discover this new technology and stage a rebellion.

A channel once expected to be the nation’s first attempt at true media reform, went down in flames, with the match still smoking from between the state’s fingers.

Websites offensive to the political sensibilities of the country, are still banned.

Websites and blogs are now being monitored for content, leaving us to concede the last square inch of free-speech real estate.

Writers, politicians, and dissenters of any kind are still jailed.

Because in Jordan, the writers are the rebellious; if this is the status-quo then their pen is by default an instrument of rebellion.

And steam builds up beneath the eroded tin top of a pressure cooker.

And the whistle is blowing erratically.

And the whistle is blowing frantically.

And this is how we see it. This is how young people, the overwhelming majority of this country, just like me; this is how we see it. Is there really any other way? Is there something we missed?

So we are kept numb.

Give us propaganda, give us music stations, let us find religion on TV, but not too much religion.

Keep me threatened, keep me weary, keep me numb.

Keep the whistle blowing, keep the whistle blowing, keep the whistle blowing.

Yeah, there has never been a worse time to be a writer in Jordan.

But then again.

That’s why I write.

That’s how I rebel.

18 thoughts on “A Jordanian Writer’s Lament

  1. We must continue the fight. It’s too easy to stop and let the government and investors control everything.

    We simply must keep on keeping on. But only together.

  2. I do not consider you to be a writer, but one of the top writers out there. I do not care what is your academic background but writing is a gift and not a profession. Unfortunately the Press Association in Jordan does not recognise this and consider journalists are only trained and academic ones.
    I agree that this is not the ideal time to be a writer in Jordan but there have been worse times as I recall since 1994 when I started writing. The negative factors now are that only a small minoroty of the population do read articles in newspapers in a time where satellites have won the media popularity battle.
    If you want to continue writing in English I advise you to find a platform in a regional and international media outlet since readership in Jordan is very small.
    So, what’s all about you being in the game now?

  3. If you are writing because this is what you like to do then you are going to be okay, however if you are writing because you think that your writing is going to influence some decision makers in the upper echelons, then you are going to be very disappointed.

  4. for your reasons anyone can give up, it’s too dark and depressing, i’m trying to find the light in here, you seem to have already did, and is standing out there.

    blessings!

  5. Whatever are the restrictions, there are always a room for freedom.

    Isn’t that why you excel Nass? Having your freedom out at this blog. Having so much to critisize and talk about. Even if things got worse, and they stip you out of this space, you’ll always find a way to communicate your thoughts because you are not only a writer, you are an artist. And artists express their ideas in whatever medium they got at hand. They grow and norish with hardship. Maybe that is the worst time for being a writer can also be the best time for being one as well.

  6. You know what Naseem? I really don’t think that journalism has much to do with having a degree in journalism. Most of the decent and passionate journalists that I’ve met actually didn’t get a degree in journalism, and the ones that did, well, they seemed a bit off-key on the whole journalistic thing to me. I can relate to what you said, because I still don’t consider myself as a journalist, well at least until I win some sort of international award, then I think I would be at ease to call myself a real journalist.

    This status quo is what really is killing us Naseem; I was just writing about it a minute ago. This is what is really holding back and impeding our development as a nation.

    By the way, I can’t help but notice how much your writing style is similar to Chuck Palahniuk’s style! Especially this part: “Give us propaganda, give us music stations, let us find religion on TV, but not too much religion.

    Keep me threatened, keep me weary, keep me numb.”

    One of your best posts man. Salute!

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