And Then The King Spoke

This was a very interesting video to watch. It is perhaps the first time I have heard the King speak to a local audience about a “national vision” (which in Jordan translates to “royal vision”) that states the end goal as being an elected government. All the magic words are reiterated. Democracy. Dialog. Constitution. Freedom. Reform. Combating corruption. Media. Institutions.

We have been given royal visions before. This is obviously no secret. In fact, these visions are very public. Never have I personally heard that vision to include an elected government, so in some way, it is important to have this on the record. If anything than for the sake of being able to tell others “see, I told you so”, as it seems many are convinced that the King does not support giving up his political powers for an elected government. What this speech, and others that have been given by the King in recent weeks seem to outline is the dawn of a new Jordan. They are designed to breathe hope in to a decaying political and social arena.

But then comes the quintessential question: will any of this be realized?

It is unlikely, or at least, improbable. Why? Precedent. History. While we haven’t heard “elected government” before, we’ve heard pretty much everything else on more than one occasion. To assume that the state can deliver anything of reasonable value at this point is bordering on absurdity. The past few months alone, a time when everyone is closely watching what the Jordanian state will do to maneuver through the chaotic turbulence of the region, we received mostly a general policy of appeasement, the renewed promise of reforms, nationalism, nationalism, and more nationalism. As if the act of waving a flag with enough fervor can produce magical results.

None of this is new and none of this is unexpected. Nothing that has been done since January has really surprised me. It is simply put, a heightened state of deja vu. Even the speeches are like a song playing over and over again; we’ve pretty much memorized the lyrics. The magic words.

Which brings about the other quintessential question many people seem to be asking: is the King genuine?

My answer to this is simply: it doesn’t matter.

From a strictly personal perspective, I do believe, or at least have some faith in the possibility that he is genuine. But again, it does not matter. It doesn’t matter what I think or believe, and it doesn’t matter if I am right or wrong. For even if he is genuine, the kind of change we need today cannot be dependent on the ability of a single person to deliver. And the majority of this country have been educated by the state to place all their hopes and dependency on the King and no one else. It is not a national vision; it is a royal vision. They are not national reforms; they are the King’s reforms. On any of our national holidays, we do not celebrate our national achievements and our national endeavors; we celebrate the crown’s achievements and the crown’s endeavors.

No doubt, this has been the political strategy from the moment the King ascended to the throne, and it was perhaps done in some attempt to solidify his position. This is not only natural, but expected.

But it isn’t enough that political power in this country is centralized in the hands of the King, the problem is that people have not only accepted that reality but have grown dependent on it. It is quite similar to the consequences of the one man-one vote system, where a citizen is unlikely to cast his one and only vote for anyone but a relative because of the perception that only a relative can deliver; tied to an ancestral obligation to do so. This is roughly the same relationship the populace has with the King. The state has done much in the past decade to encourage this relationship and deepen it that now, people look to the King to wave his magic wand and make things happen.

This makes it incredibly difficult to convince the average citizen that they share some responsibility in reform. That reform and progress is not dependent on the divine will of a King. This generation, more than any of its predecessors, has been taught to believe only in the King; to follow blindly, and question nothing. Nationalism is defined as the monarchy, and so is citizenship for that matter. No other forms of citizenship are taught. And thus people do not feel any sense of responsibility. Reform is a King’s game; one that does not require their public participation. That has been, by and large, the strategy employed for over a decade now, making it incredibly difficult to turn around and ask that people share the responsibility. That will not happen on the level that is required to bring about real tangible change.

Which is why I believe it doesn’t matter if the King is genuine or not. For even if he is, the reality of the situation is that people will simply look to him to deliver single-handedly. And perhaps more importantly, he will be faced with an entire political system that has no interest in changing the status quo because it either benefits from it or has grown accustomed to.

This speech by the King is an important thing to have on record. But it’s ability to bring about real change en masse is unlikely. This is why I am very pessimistic when it comes to accepting the idea of top-down shifts in a political paradigm. I am very optimistic about change coming from elsewhere. When change inevitably does come to this country, it will not come from up top; it will be from the bottom up. It will not come from a majority but from a willing and driven minority that has managed to survive the education system, the propaganda and the nationalistic indoctrination that is eating this country alive.


  • Brave commentary. I agree with you about the need for people to make change which has to be from bottom up, but the King can help the process by removing restrictions that deny average persons a chance to move the process of reform.

  • Well said. And you make a very good point about whether the king’s sincerity in all of this actually matters. I think you’re right.

  • Daoud: what you say is absolutely true. I think this is the most we (or at least “I”) can hope for to be delivered from the King. simply removing the obstacles bit by bit and allowing that minority to push on through. the only problem with this is that some of our biggest obstacles and restrictions are people themselves. products/victims of a system.

    but im optimistic that they can be overcome.

  • “This makes it incredibly difficult to convince the average citizen that they share some responsibility in reform. That reform and progress is not dependent on the divine will of a King. This generation, more than any of its predecessors, has been taught to believe only in the King; to follow blindly, and question nothing. Nationalism is defined as the monarchy, and so is citizenship for that matter. No other forms of citizenship are taught.”

    Damn straight. This year, my son’s first-grade class had an exam with questions like these:

    1) Why do you love the King?

    2) Why do you love Jordan?

    I was very, very disturbed. And the text backed it up – all the reasons a young person should love King and country – no room for discussion.

  • Spot on Nas – doesn’t matter what the king says, orders, envisions etc. There are layers and layers of backwardness and corruption plaguing the whole hierarchy from the king and down to the street. To achieve desired reforms, this has to be shaken from the bottom all the way up, not from the top down.

    I am afraid the king’s speech will once again fall on deaf ears, as he himself has criticized all consecutive governments of their lack of willingness (or competence) to implement reforms.

  • @Emi: i’ve heard similar complaints by parents as well. while the intentions of this kind of education is to turn out an obedient citizen, it does little to produce an effective and responsible citizen. once again making it difficult for that student to share in any responsibility.

    @rami: indeed. and at this point, we may be running out of people to put in government.

  • Although I may not agree with all the analogies, but I must admit that It cleverly touched on the core challenge that we face, this lack of responsibility that the populace has. Everyone is waiting for the King to make it better, I am not sure if this is based on indoctrination or force of habit carried through the experience of a nation and Kings that solved problems, made things better and pushed us always to a brighter future.

    One thing is quintessential, we as jordanians need to stop waiting and start doing each in our own way

  • It is true, we have been goaded into operating under a massive umbrella, held by one entity. However the truth is individualism is growing in Jordan. i see that, in art, in expression, and in entrepreneurship. The truth is, it is still marginal at best. but this minority like you mentioned, is to lead the change. and this change, is more likely to take place when supported by examples in the non-marginal segment of this society. these examples are the elected officials, policy caretakers, and the leadership itself. This change, if not supported by the government, should be at least be given the ground in which it can grow by defining modernized reflective laws that guarantee equal opportunity and promotes diversity as a method of development. as a human race, we have not reached the place we are in today because we’re all the same. we got here, cause we’re diverse.

    We need an environment which in its weakest position, allows for diversity, change, and allows for entrepreneurship.

  • Nas Nas Nas.. The truth is that so gathered so many of the core ideas ppl leave in their comments in this one blog. It scares as much as amazes me that ppl I graduated high school with (we are over the age of 30 now) are so defensive when it comes to discussion/ criticism of the royal family or any type of reform. Citizens want this status quo to continue. They don’t believe in each other and like you said, they always look to the king to solve issues. I don’t mean to generalize, but I can say those who call for the same principles as you are looked down upon and are outcastes. I always say in Jordan we teach our kids to love the king first, then God then Jordan. When I ask my sister why my nephew is always jamming to songs of the king, instead of songs about Jordan, she gets mad and again accuses me of the same thing the rest of family and friends accuse me of, socialism (they would also accuse you of that had they heard you). Not only that, she, a teacher herself, tells me that’s what the schools teach, and she is very ok with it. I wonder though, those of us who left Jordan, and came back (or didn’t), would we have had the same mentality if we stayed? When you are not exposed to any other type of political life, your frame of reference is limited and you only know what you know. So my humble opinion is, you are absolutely correct. Change needs to come from the bottom up starting with the people. But my opinion also, you are talking about changing years of brain washing which will also take years.

  • Small note. King Abdullah mentioned that he would like to have 3 major parties (left, right, and middle), and an elected gov. one year after he became king and it was published in Alrai newspaper if memory serves.

  • One has to understand that that king is a leader and as such has to ‘lead’, he has to set the vision..not so he can ‘go on the record’ but so he can set the vision for the country. We need to appreciate that there is a vision that needs to be executed, that’s leadership..

    And when it comes to citizenship, nationalism etc..again our leader has tried time and again to expand the definition and scope of those terms to extend beyond himself..he’s constantly encouraging people to organize in political parties, encouraging volunteerism, emphasizing that loyalty is about what u give to the country. Including in this speech nonetheless

    These days Sometimes I feel like we’re just critical for the sake of it..

  • Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Intentions aside, the speech highlighted much more than the elected government. HMQ stated that he has to be equidistant from all parties, that the reform process has to be respected regardless of the outcome, that no one should monopolize reform, that we should move towards a multiparty elected form of government, and that he will endorse adoption of the outcome of the dialogue committee. I think he took a lot of risks in all of this, knowing how divided this country can be. I had hoped that people would grab onto this, like a life saving raft, because it is a benchmark that can be held as a needed framework for everyone, and point of reference even with HMQ himself.

    While I understand the reform weariness of many at this stage, I am disheartened by the tone of the article and the unwarranted projections it makes . How can you generalize here from your e-tower, and pontificate smugly about attitude of jordanians to reform! I dont see the Tafileeh’s being inactive, nor people of the south nor the Islamists, only west amman. So just because you got beaten out of reform by one round of demos and activism , and off course some suppression, please speak for yourself. We are passing into critical times and this is not a time for amateurs with short attention spans to tune out. People dedicate their WHOLE lives to emancipation and engagement and change , so it’s to soon for you and your likes to tune out. Shooo yihki ahmad obeidat? This pouting is just about as childish and amateurish as it gets. With your pen and wits , you could be rallying people to build a more cohesive reform front-noting that the battle in Jordan is not just people vs the throne, (which I dont deny) but primarily at this stage, and sadly still, people v. people. And the king is very very right in not taking sides and not resolving the dispute one way or another, but rather accepting the outcomes of a fairly representative dialogue process, which if not optimal, at least arguably is a significant improvement.

    In any case, thank you for sharing your revelations about your political existential boredom. If you ask me, this is getting to be a bit too boring itself.

  • @Zak: can you dig that up by any chance…?

    @Ahmad Mousa: thank you for demonstrating quite clearly the very problem I’m trying to highlight here. your constant use of phrases like “our leader has tried” and “he’s constantly encouraging” is exactly what I am talking about. This insistance on placing all the emphasis on the leader as being the personification of the leader.

    This isn’t the King’s job. It is about an entire system that needs to be codified with these ideals. Good citizenship doesn’t come about magically because they King mentioned it in a speech. Nor do the evolution of political parties.

    Also, I agree that having a vision is integral to leadership, but leadership is defined by execution.

    Lastly, I think this whole “we’re being critical just for the sake of it” critiques have to stop. Those who have critical voices have something to contribute and the country’s best interest at heart. To sweep them aside with an “oh they’re just being critical” statement is to negate their contribution, and prefer silence and the status quo over progress.

    Thanks for the comment though. Your thoughts are much appreciated.

  • @Nisreen: thank you for your comment, which I generally take as an attempt to cast stereotypes on to me and negate my own critique of the political landscape. well done.

    but in reference to the few lines where you did demonstrate some coherent objective thoughts I’ll say this. Yes, of course I am generalizing. i make no denials of that. we are talking about a population and thus forced to speak in abstractions. and at the end of the day, this is my read of the social and political arena. you can feel free to disagree with it, but dont cast it off as some rant stemming from political existential boredom and fueled by own socioeconomic status. and even if you feel that to be true, i think my opinion shouldn’t be invalidated on those grounds.

    now, to comment on the active and inactive. yes, i do believe there to be some movement throughout the country, and this is part of the minority that i am speaking of. their movement is bottom-up, and they are not relying on the king necessarily to “deliver”. but that said, the status quo as it is, is simply based on a majority that has been nurtured by the state and relies dependent on the monarchy to deliver.

    this is the national problem we are facing today. in other words, the people themselves can be their own worst enemies without even knowing it.

    my point is, change will come when we move beyond the coddling, beyond the realms of dependency on a one-man army, and in to broader, more grassroots and en masse driven mindsets that are entrenched in actions.

  • Wow Nisreen. “How can you generalize here from your e-tower, and pontificate smugly about attitude of jordanians to reform” “because you got beaten out of reform “.
    I see you’re all about freedom of speech, and all Jordanians having the same right to express thoughts, opinions and ideas for change as well eh . You go girl.

  • Very wide-scoped analysis. Much needed at this time of fear of the unknown.

    But Nas, what makes you optimistic? If the people are in fact brainwashed victims of the system, how on earth will reform come from them? or how do u expect the minority of people who are not brainwashed to pull though and push for effective reform?

  • Independent Jordanian: What is it in my statement that you find inconsistent with freedom of speech. Not joining in the cheerleading, or being hesitant about the spectator sport West amman politics is turning into? Opps I am sorry , I apologize. I forgot this is a blog. Please continue to pour your heart out…

  • The tone of your statement is what I find not only inconsistent with freedom of speech but also terribly insulting everyone’s intelligence. You seem to think that this blog (e-tower) is not a serious form of media and continue to dismiss the validity of its comments as if ppl who write in it are not Jordanians and part of the society, which makes me wonder why you would ever bother take part of the discussion. No one is asking you to join the “cheerleading”. As a matter of fact, you represent a large segment of the population, and I am glad you took the time to express your views. After all, that is what blogs are supposed to do. Spark healthy debates. That being said, while I am not asking you to grow a flower, I also am asking you not to throw a rock. Lack of debt is what sets nations behind but worse than that is conducting a bitching session rather than a debate.

  • I dont think that Nas and Nessrin are speaking past each other although the tone of the two word masters (I love both of your abilities to write/speak) appeared to place you in opposite camps which I know isn’t the case. HMK providing vision is an important element of the political process in the country. If I undestand Nas correctly he is lamenting the fact that the vision remains untenable because the tools have not been developed for implementation of that vision. I believe among those tools are the politicians, the parliament, the judiciary and civil society and I agree with Nas that these have not bought into reform yet. But in some ways Nas you contradict yourself a little bit because on the one hand you are saying the King shouldn’t really become responsible for micro-managing the process of reform and that the system should rise to the implementation of his vision – and I agree with you – but at the same time it is evident that there is some disappointment in HMK not following through with the vision to the implementation stage. (I think we are all caught within this dilemma of just how much we want the leader to lead) There is also a disappointment that Jordanians didn’t get the bug of reform and therefore didn’t celebrate the opportunity provided by the regional “spring” to create a reform movement of their own. Nessrin clearly believes that we are missing the signs of the popular reform demands and that the slow pace of Jordanians in taking up reform does not mean that there is no such movement. Many in Jordan echo Nessrin’s feeling that living within the West Amman privilaged mood of lathargy and political apathy makes us unable to see the greater movements in areas like Tafileh and Maan etc. Maybe. I don’t know those areas well enough to be able to assess them accurately as reform movements – which honestly believe in democracy and equal opportunity – or are they movements of the old guard defending its acquisitions and opportunities, or are they the movements of the economically disenfranchised looking for a foothold within the current (corrupt) system. Time will tell. Thanks Nas for stirring and challenging our political thoughts. Thanks Nessrin for your energy and passion. Keep the dialogue going 🙂

  • خطاب سيئ بكل ما تعنيه الكلمة، هذا الرجل لا يستحق أن يقود دراجة هوائية ناهيك عن قيادة دولة، المضمون ØŒ اللغة ØŒ البيان، القواعد أسوأ ما سمعته من أي “قائد” عربي ØŒ يا للخزي Ùˆ العار علينا، كيف لهذا الرجل إن يسمح لنفسه بي ألقاء خطاب في اللغة العربية مليئة بكل الاغلاط اللغوية والنحوية ناهيك عن العجرفة السياسية والاستكبار ØŒ من قال له أنه ولي أمرنا ومن خوله إن يحكم بلدنا!ØŸ

  • To all reform enthusiasts, Keep dreaming on , aint gonna happen.
    الي كل هواة الاصلاح والمتفائلين والمتفائلات ، دعوني أنقل إليكم وإليكن خبر عاجل ومهم لا تتوهموا وتتوهمن وتبعدوا كثيرا ، الاصلاح وما ادرك ما الاصلاح ، كلمة طنانة ومخدرة لا تعني شيئ في قاموس السياسة سوى تهدئة الشعب وتخديره

  • Nermeen thanks. That pretty much captures it.I think the king may have spoken too late but not too little. Anyone reading the context should realize that what he said involved courage and is not old rehash because it will disgruntle many who dont take national unity for granted, and who don’t necessarily like the significant changes introduced by the outcomes of the dialogue committee.(not perfect but certainly takes us a long way from where we are , and yes I too was skeptical about their ability to deliver). We need to grab on to this and MAKE it happen, because there are many who will actively try to make it NOT happen. I guess what ticks me in this article, from a a blogger whom I have always and will continue to eagerly follow(eat your heart out independent!) is that it risks being a self fulfilling prophecy.

  • Although the vision for a political model whereby governments are elected through the parliament has been finally communicated by the King himself, and of course, its been packaged as the royal vision, its important to note two things: Firstly, this vision is not dictated or inspired by the King individually, but rather came after 6 months of peaceful uprisings, activism on social media, and even public debates calling for this vision. So regardless of how our state media presents this vision, we ought to give the King some credit for listening to the people, and acting upon it. Secondly, which depends on the first point, a significant segment of the society, at least the one you blong to, played a major role, whether directly or indirectly, in reaching to this vision. Hence, it does make that segment and you somehow share the responsibility and accountability for delivery. Now we need to work harder on growing this segment.

    We need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now that we have a clearer vision to the type of political reforms we seek, blessed by the monarch, we need to shift our reform efforts to act upon it. Its time now to start calling for forming real and influential political parties….its time to educate people about this new model, and how it can only materialise through their participation. I would say, continue what you do now, and change will come.

  • Please name one previous speech that MATERIALLY changed things on the ground, just one….and i dont understand how you can be pro-reform at home and send officers to suppress it in Bahrain! or launch major reform with the same PM you sacked a few years back…honestly some people are either seeing stuff we don’t see or just want to believe that something exists when it doesn’t…

    Reform in Jordan is like UFOs in the US – some people claim to see it, but you are closer to mad to believe its really there…

  • …and you guys speak of “sincerity”…geez…

    وكان صحافي في فرانس برس موجودا في المكتب ونجح في الخروج سالما من باب جانبي.

    وقال الصحافي كمال طه “كانوا تقريبا عشرة اشخاص غاضبين يحملون عصيا وقضبانا معدنية هاجموا المكتب وكسروا نوافذه الخارجية وتمكنوا من الدخول الى صالة الانتظار فحطموا الطاولات والخزانة والكراسي والتلفونات وبعض الملفات”.

    وروى طه ان “احدى نساء الحي التي يجاور بيتها المكتب، قامت بالاتصال بالشرطة التي جاءت في ما بعد” بينما لاذ المهاجمون بالفرار.

    ويبدو ان سيارة للشرطة متوقفة على بعد بضعة امتار من مكتب فرانس برس امام مقر قناة الجزيرة الفضائية القطرية، لم ترصد الهجوم. وقناة الجزيرة تخضع لحماية الشرطة منذ منتصف اذار/مارس اثر تهديدات.

    وقبيل هذا الاعتداء، اكدت مديرة مكتب فرانس برس في عمان رندا حبيب انها تلقت اتصالا هاتفيا من شخص اتهمها بـ”الاعتداء على امن الاردن” وهددها قائلا “سنجعلك تدفعين الثمن غاليا”.

    واتصل رئيس الوزراء الاردني معروف البخيت بعد الهجوم برندا حبيب “للاطلاع على الوضع”. وقال “لقد شعرت بالارتياح عندما علمت انه لم يصب اي صحافي بجروح. انه عمل غير مقبول”.

    واكد البخيت انه “سيتشاور مع وزير الداخلية حول الاجراءات التي يفترض اتخاذها. نحن دولة قانون”.

  • @Nisreen . Thank you for the good laugh. It was much needed.
    Not to belittle your senseless rambling, but you clearly don’t get the point. Regardless of where you and I (or anyone in this blog for that matter) stand, the point is that you cannot dismiss other opinions of the speech or the policy as invalid based on your own take on matters, and turn around and speak of reform and changes. You flourish no environment for debate. How is it that you want change, at the same time you want everyone to agree with you? BTW, I am very appreciative of you following this blog and offering your point of view. I can tell you love being in the spotlight no matter what the light is on you for. Have at it girl.

  • Independent Jordanian. You are confused between righteousness and self righteousness. I know a good therapist. Let me know when you are ready to cope with a real debate.

  • Thank you Naseem for your candid and insightful commentary. And it is true, any management advisor would also attest that visions and strategies are a bottom up, not a top down, approach. This also applies to any change process. In fact let me go further by asserting that for a change process to be successful three elements must combine. The process must be: participatory (all affected are involved, not simply the elites); democratic (rewards and punishment apply equally to all); and transparent (all members of the entity know what they have to do and what others are doing and have done). Such is the best practice in any change management process. It applies not only to corporations but also to countries seeking reform — in no way would I advocate that a county be run like a corporation, however anyone that desires to lead the change process should perhaps listen to basic leadership and management principles. A vision therefore which commences the process must arise from the majority of the people not the elites, or an individual, regardless of who she/he may be.

    To your credit Naseem, based on years of following your writings and finally coming to know you, yours is an honest and credible voice. The latter arose from the fact that you have not been a beneficiary of the public sector or a recipient of one of the many handout appointments; thus, you have remained free.

    Some mistake wisdom and knowledge with age; you have proven this, time and again, to be untrue.

    You see, some people believe that they and only they should continue to hold the mantra for reform while it is they, their paymasters, and cohorts who brought us unto the current state of affairs. Now that they have fallen out of favor, and are discredited at large, they desire to distract the potential reform into something they, not the nation, can live with, take a role in, and again benefit from.

    Unlike you, and the many young and bright intellectual voices that have emerged, the ugly, bitter ranters have amassed their fame (and fortune) not by doing right or speaking their minds when they should have, but by partaking in and creating a culture of acquiescence when a few good “no”s would have served the country well. Yes, I am, because of your age, intellect and independence, more likely to listen to your voice than I would to those who almost brought the country to bedlam.

    Thank you for sharing your honest and brave thoughts with us.

  • العرب اليوم :: رنا الصباغ-فوضى التايتانك… والضامن هو الملك!!! ::

    Unless people act and put the king to task on his promises, we will leave the vacuum to be filled by the same forces that already hijacked reform initiatives on which there was similar consensus. (Unless the national agenda is now considered a national neo-liberal conspiracy on this platform as well, which would be scary. )

    Naseem, my lashing out at you was not intended in any way to discredit you, and definitely not to silence you! Perhaps and admittedly maybe to admonish you. And no not because your are criticizing “authority” but because you somehow managed to draw a very defeated image of a whole people, notwithstanding the clear will for change demonstrated by continued public outpourings. It was the perceived tone of defeatism in the article that really bothered me, especially at this critical turning point, and yes I somehow expected that the young dynamism that you represent would be a rallying point for activism to consolidate gains at the time, when counter forces will make sure to consolidate losses.

    I continue to wish you a lot of critics and fewer cheerleaders…

Your Two Piasters: