Around 100 university students gathered on Saturday to review political reforms and means to improve their participation in civic activities. In a national conference on youth and political reforms organised by Al Urdun Al Jadid Research Centre yesterday, Jordanian students from four private universities presented their visions and suggestions for political reform. Inaugurating the conference, Minister of Political Development Musa Maaytah called on young citizens to take part in the Kingdomâ€™s development.
â€œThe ministry believes in youthsâ€™ role as an engine to make change,â€ Maaytah said, calling for the promotion of democratic principles in educational institutions. [source]
I was reading this short piece in the Jordan Times today and found myself laughing out loud. Yes, it’s insignificant news to the casual observer – several lines in a paper, a bare mention – but I saw a bit more. I mean here is an event that perfectly outlines the exact ingredients of a farce or a masquerade that the state has managed to fine-tune to an art form over the years. Let’s dissect this recipe for disaster.
First come the youth. This is the key ingredient. The base. As long as young people are there then we’re set. We are good to go. The conference of course is hosted by a ministry and its minister and that’s the second most important ingredient. If a minister isn’t there then this event is an utter failure. For added spice, inviting someone from the Royal Family to speak is always helpful for these events. Actually, it goes: deputy minister, minister, prime minister, a prince, or the King or Queen. The importance of such events is measured by that yardstick.
In any case, the guest of honor, must, as always, declare how important Jordanian youth are and how they should take part in the Kingdom’s development. Public declarations of encouragements are a must. But beware! This is in no way a reference to real political engagement because once those students become political then they’re all in trouble – and by the way, the students know it.
Then come the participating institutions who represent the other side of the dialogue. Of course, in order to have an essential dialogue about political reform and civic engagement, only government-run institutions get invited, right? I mean, you won’t see any “real” political parties here. After all, how well represented is Jordanian civil society without the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is arguably the largest organization of any kind in this country (including most university campuses). I doubt they got an invitation to this dinner party.
Then as the conference continues, an example of cooperation has to emerge. It’s a must. If no one presents an example then people might just keep on talking theoretically. In this case the topic was reducing traffic accidents. I don’t know how this relates to political reform.
Last but not least, something needs to be announced. You can’t have a conference without something being announced in Jordan, especially if the government is involved – even more so if youth are involved. Someone has to “call on something”. In this case, it was a call on establishing a “civil forum for youth activists”, which is code for yet another go-nowhere youth-related forum funded by tax payer money that will be a great place for youth activists to come together and talk cautiously amidst the lingering presence of a guy wearing a dark suit and sunglasses who sits in the back row.
And after all of that, well, then comes the press release for all to read.
For added taste-value, a picture of the minister posing with some of the youth.
Serves 6 million.