Thoughts Beyond Friday


Image Source: New York Times

The events of last Friday have been refresher course disenchantment. To be honest, the event itself may have gone “unnoticed” had there not been so many journalists there to document the event, and had many of them not been beaten, which has caused much of the ruckus in the aftermath. Reading the papers in the last two days and the digital conversations abound, it seems the mistakes of the past continue to repeat themselves. It has been seven months since the Jordanian street began to move in the midst of the Arab spring, and it has been seven months since promises have been made by the state, and it has been seven months since dialoge committees were created, it has been a year since surprising voices of discontent began to emerge, it has been four months since the events of March 25th, it has been six years since the National Agenda, and it has been 11 years since the initial promises of reform by the state were issued. Suffice to say, time is showing no mercy. But more importantly, as more time passes, we are increasingly losing our grip on the conversation. Now, more than ever, the road is split between two different peoples who continue to have no understanding of one another. Now, more than ever, the polarization is abundant, and the schism continues to grow. The problem with these schisms is that they rarely ever heal; they just stay there, lingering, until someone deals with it. Kind of like Black September – by not talking about it, it has remained there, hanging over our heads like a missing page of history, which it quite literal.

The amount of mistrust between these two emerging camps is simply amazing, and the natural question to ask is, where do we go from here?

It is interesting to note that with all this going on, the state is either completely ignoring this schism or capitalizing on its ability to create divisions and offer a little self-regulation amongst the masses. But it’s something that will continue to plague the country long after any reforms have or have not been accomplished. It will continue to fester, grow and eventually find new avenues in which to manifest and explode, and has been witnessed recently, some of the manifestations can be quite violent.

As for the press. It is quite interesting to me that a great deal of the last Friday protest has become about the protection of journalists. One camp has made an issue about the rights of journalists while the other is convinced that journalists are unprofessional and seek only to paint Jordan as another Syria. The former camp seems to have lost sight of what these protests are all about to begin with, and the latter (which includes the security forces) have simply little to no understanding about what the role of a free press is or should be. The idea that because a news report or a photo or a video does not look favorably on the police is therefore evidence of a press that is bias and intent on making this country look bad, is as idiotic as it is incomprehensible. Those who demand “objectivity” are really calling for a bias that is in their favor. This is a very common mindset in Jordan unfortunately; we seem to constantly misdefine what objectivity means and demand standards of others that we do not apply ourselves.

My take on free expression is quite simplistic and perhaps even idealistic, but perhaps that’s what it should be. To me, as long as protesters are peaceful and unarmed they should not be attacked or persecuted by an armed security apparatus. If someone is causing trouble he or she should be arrested and moved away from the protest zone; no more no less. That person or persons should not be used as an excuse to attack everything that moves. Moreover, there is a need to hold our security forces to a higher standard. These people are trained and have a national duty to preserve and safeguard citizens. In other words, they’re supposed to be working for the people – not against them. Their role should not be political, which is something quite apparent during these protests when you talk to many of them and they go around calling people Islamists or Salafists or God knows what. This is obviously information being given to them by others, if not direct orders.

Then come the hidden agendas. Everyone is convinced that everyone else has a hidden agenda. It’s become a cliche and was even something poked fun of during the Egyptian revolution. But here it is again a testament to the level of mistrust that exists amongst different social groups. At this point, these so-called hidden agendas are becoming ridiculous and tend to pull out every single bogeyman in the book, from Palestinians looking to establish a state on Jordanian soil, to Salafists looking to establish the next Caliphate, to the Shia who are working with Iran, which is naturally a Hizballah/Hamas conspiracy, garnered with a dash of American and Zionist agendas. Somehow, those using these absurd arguments have gained possession of special x-ray glasses that allow them to instantly look at a protester and know immediately what their true intentions are and who is funding them. So no matter how many times any of these reform-minded protesters kiss the picture of the King (which they always bring along to the protest site) or wave a flag wildly in the air, they are viewed as liars.

Again, a testament of the mistrust that continues to rise and has made everything that much more murkier to understand. I mean who are you supposed to trust, the guy on the left waving a flag and kissing a photo of the King or the guy on the right, waving a flag and kissing a photo of the King. This naturally raises more questions such as, just how many times does one need to kiss the photo of the King or wave a flag in order to have their loyalty unquestioned? What does one need to do in order to gain some sense of trust from a segment of society that not only disagree with him, but seems him as a traitor? And that’s what’s interesting, it’s not that we disagree with each other on a political spectrum that is wider than Wadi Mujeb and yet can still accept one another. No. It’s that we disagree with one another and we consider one another to be irreconcilable enemies. So much so that I am prepared to physically hurt you for what you represent (in my mind).

Moving beyond last Friday is akin to moving beyond March 25th. There is no clear path and there is no one willing to take this issue on. Our leadership and our government is not playing any active role in healing this bleeding nation, and has resorted to public policy rhetoric as an exit strategy from this mess. But policy won’t do it. And neither will time. The national conversation that is not happening is allowing the void to be filled with thuggery, misconceptions, mistrust, anger, fear, frustration and violence. It is a void with no clear voice, no reconciliation, and no hope.

This is no longer about elected governments, constitutional monarchies, unemployment, poverty, electoral reform, corruption or nepotism. This isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. This isn’t about who has a hidden agenda or who has the ability to read minds and intentions. And this isn’t about policy or governance. All these issues are about to take a back seat because in my mind, this has now become about a society divided and struggling to keep it together. The security apparatus along with the executive branch is constantly going on about how protesters are hell bent on “destabilizing” the country with calls of reform, and their banners and their flags. The words “sedition” and “stability” are constantly being thrown around but in reality, this issue, this growing schism, is the greatest source of civil disorder there possibly is for Jordan. And if this issue goes unaddressed then my fear is that we will be swimming in the deep end pretty soon.

So again.

Where do we go from here?

26 Comments

  • أسد علي Ù‘ وفي الحروب نعامة فتخاء تهرب من صفير الصافر

  • Dear Naseem..

    I am so glad that there are voices like yours still banging on for change. you provide a rare ray of hope.
    I am going to post a comment that friends of mine have been putting up on their facebook walls. To say that after seeing this comment I feel that it is a lost cause would be an understatement. I honestly don’t know where we go from that:
    لسنا تونس فما زلنا نتكلم العربية لا نأكل القات ولا نزرع الافيون ولا وجود للشيعة بيننا لا نبيع شرفنا مقابل ليرات وملكنا ليس القذافي ليس لدينا ميدان تحرير فذلك انتهى في الأربعين لن نرفع القبضة الامنية لأن ذلك جُرّب في السبعين…..لن ننتخب وفق الكثافة السكانية لأن لا وجود للوطن البديل لانمتلك النفط لتنزيل البنزين , لانريد اصلاح النظام بل المحافظة عليه كلنا نريد محاسبة الفاسدين لكن وفق الأنظمة والقوانين, ويسعد رب الدرك
    does anyone else detect the racism in these sentiments. are we seriously that brainwhashed?

  • to tell you the truth Nasseem its really about the state army security appartus PM dealing with the people as if we are a bunch of idiots manipulated by islamists and extremists .. its rediculous that the beatings just go on against peaceful demonstrators and thugs show up like in a theatre play …the chorus verus the anti chorus…i really admire your ability to go on reflecting … i say they do not give a damn ..

  • man khalas go to dubai or something lol get a good job and go enjoy a good life there, there will be no reform in this country its same old same old until one day out of nowhere (like 25 January in Egypt) probably all mayhem breaks loose…in the meantime we have the highest internal politics apathy in the arab world and internal divisions in the society are worse than ever so don’t expect anything good anytime soon…

  • all said aside: i am most curious about the guy in white shirt, standing next to a Massacre, loads of darak running towards the victim not than 2 meters away, he is just standing there, hands behind his back, not afraid, not interested in running away, or running towards the victim, hands behind his back looking very relaxed. dont you find it strange?!

  • Nermeen,

    Just a small reply to your comment. First of all, I do disagree with several parts of the Arabic bit that you posted there, specifically, I do believe that relative representation is the best way to go. I also diasgree with the Shiite reference. I also disagree with the Darak statement; I think they we must make sure such transgressions doesn’t happen, and I am satisfied with the arrests that have happened to several police officers as a result (funny that Ammon never mentions this, though).

    However, I do think that you are making a bigger mistake than they are. To think that those who share a different opinion than yours are a lost cause is very alarming. I think we have been doing this a lot in jordan. We can accept some differences but when someone says a point that is radically different, we’d rather say they are racist than legitimate.

    No one shared this post without thinking about it, without having reasons and arguments for it, that are thought out. The second we think others who possess radically different views are a lost cause, we become a lost cause.

    If you have dreams for a country where people are free to express their opinions, then you must be ready to respect their opinions from now.

    Every point I disagreed with in the Arabic quote, I still understand its legitimacy in their point of view, and I still think its a legitimate debate about who is right, me, or them. For instance, representation is complicated and the issue of “Watan badeel” is real. The shiite reference, I think, is a misguided reference to sectarianism, that, was communicated badly. The Darak, while I think they committed transgressions, I also understand that they have committed heroic acts in the past, and I know that they were responsible for over 2000 demonstrations, so I understand why people would respond negatively to those who condemn the entirety of the institution of the Darak.

    I feel strongly about this, so apologies if my reply was strong or blunt in any way. I’ve actually also been writing about this kindof stuff, so its just in my head all the time now.

  • Eyas
    Thank you. I really appreciate what you said and agree wholeheartedly with your approach. I think what shocked me is that it was posted by friends I thought I had been able to have open political conversations with and thought that these conversations were transparent. Sadly it appears that they hadn’t been.
    I believe that what they wanted to say that Jordan has its own set of conditions and security concerns and the priority is to maintain stability of the country — which I would have been able to discuss without sensitivity since I am also Jordanian and understand the fears and concerns of all Jordanians.
    My concern is that this kind of narrative becomes acceptable and causes more division. At this sensitive time we all have to be careful of our words so we can transcend this time of reassessment and arrive at a positive outcome for us and the country.
    Thank you for being “blunt” as you put it 🙂

  • Nermeen,,, let me say this , there are lots of us who are very racist , yes racist to the core, I consistently fight with those racist Jordanians, the comment they adopt are worst than what the KKK has adopted. This dude that calls himself eyas has no problem in adopting and even except some of the comments in Arabic that you posted , just read between the lines that they advocate and adopt wholeheartedly , just look at this dude and what he wrote “Every point I disagreed with in the Arabic quote, I still understand its legitimacy in their point of view, and I still think its a legitimate debate about who is right, me, or them. For instance, representation is complicated and the issue of “Watan badeel” is real. The shiite reference, I think, is a misguided reference to sectarianism, that, was communicated badly. The Darak, while I think they committed transgressions, I also understand that they have committed heroic acts in the past, and I know that they were responsible for over 2000 demonstrations, so I understand why people would respond negatively to those who condemn the entirety of the institution of the Darak.” do you notice the contradiction of his words he disagrees with comments but understands it’s legitimacy, what kind of twisted logic you trying to adopt and promote Eyas and if we translate his words to Arabic it will be “أنني اختلف مع الكلمات التي أقتبست ولكن اتفهم مصداقيتها ” you will know what I mean , their words are always ambiguous and contradictory and look at the word he uses for beating the peaceful demonstration and journalists he uses the word “transgressions” which means in Arabic “تجاوزات” ØŒ أي تكسير عضام المواطنين والصحفيين تعتبر تجاوزات
    you got the picture Nermeen? . Then he uses the word, ” they have committed heroic acts in the past” , heroic act eyas? أعطيني مثال واحد فقط عن الاعمال البطولية لي هؤلاء أفراد الدرك؟

  • TFJ: Yes, I was pointing out contradictions, because what I was trying to say is that there nothing clear cut. Nothing is obviously good nor obviously bad. You are seeing things in black and white, and so you cannot comprehend that my point is percisely the opposite: we shouldn’t be too confident saying that people are good and bad, racist and intellectual, etc.

    Most points DO have SOME legitimacy, I assure you. No one says a point just because they are a bad person. What I’m trying to say is that some intelligent people can make arguments that are very different from ours, we should not be surprised.

    As for the word transgressions, if you translate everything to Arabic, some of the connotation will go away. The word transgressions refers to any violation, from small ones to the largest. You transgress my right to free speech, to freedom of assembly, to life, etc.

    As for the heroic acts bit, I do believe that most men in uniform are in uniform because they tried to follow a higher calling of protecting citizens, I do believe that. But I also understand that many of them are temperate, others are close minded, and they can also commit transgressions against citizens (there, I said it again, transgressions).

    If you want to apply the “you are either with us, or against us” on what I say, then you will always see contradictions. There is some rights and some wrong in the way you think, and there is some rights and some wrong in the way that your “opponents” would think. That is all I’m trying to say, and I’d appreciate being able to say it while still be respected. Thanks.

    Nermeen: I actually agree wholeheartedly with your concern. But I tried to communicate that it applies to all of us: I feel people are being overconfident in what they say (over-confident in the sense that they look down on those who disagree), like the Arabic quote you shared.

    I also definitely heard condescending remarks from The Free Jordanian before. And if he talks like that to everyone, then I doubt he is convincing many people to agree with him.

  • TFJ, I have seen them, and I think the Darak has also committed horrible crimes. This is my point exactly. It is a flawed institution, and its flaws are costing us, big time. I’m just saying, with some perspective, instead of hoping everyone in the Darak is executed, maybe we can hope those trouble makers are jailed and the rest learn well how to deal with these situations.

  • And, as far as heroism is concerned, all I’m saying is that we do owe our safety to many of the police and security forces in uniform. There is a reason why someone (male or female) wakling the streets in Amman is orders of magnitude safer than one wakling in any U.S. city, and it isn’t because our people are more peaceful and less violent. Or, just because there are incidents of police brutality in Jordan, doesn’t mean that you can say that every man in uniform is brutal, corrupt, and on the bad side.

  • انتا يا ليبرالي يا تبع حبر Ùˆ المنظمات المدنية

    خليك لاحق اوباما و الاجندات والاخونجية وبعد ما تخرب صير ابكي او اسحب حالك وشلف برا البلد

    بلا حوار ودمقرطة،من ايام الخلافةوالعررب لا ينحكمو الا بالمجازر والغزواتوالجواريوالفوضىوالدمار

    ارجع على امريكيا اشرفلك،انت محترم وشاطر مابدك كل هالمنطقة

  • frequent kissing of flags and the OVERUSE of other patriotic sumbols indicates only FEAR, fear of change… or fear of being beaten by some security guys..
    Unless the reforms start taking some shape (which this government proved to be just a bad joke), peace and stabilty in Jordan will become history, and where do we go from here? just keep on living like vegetables, who knows maybe something will happen one day and “Godot” will appear.

  • i can see it more clearly now..the photo above represents what the region is going through; fear pain, violence, but my question is whether those who demonstrate every friday, really believe that what they do is what they want to do, or that what they call for, is truly the things they want..i doubt it. Jordanians are still in a big bubble where we dont see the truth, may be some day the wind will blow, and the bubble will go away, our eyes could see what our heart want.

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