Jordan’s Middle Children Of History

I was having a conversation last night with my sister about the things that piss me off in Jordan, typically the whole west Ammani atmosphere, and an offspring of that conversation got me thinking this fine morning. The title of this post is derived from one of my favorite books/movies, Fight Club, in which the protagonist Tyler Durden makes the following speech in a dark basement, to a group of followers:

Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.

I look at the wealthiest people in this country, the people who, like it or not, have helped build this country. They represent the industry and business leaders, the factories, the companies, the mini-empires in this resource-barren country of ours. From manufacturers to sellers, many are self-made; most are first generation; most are now ‘old’ money. All of them have a story to tell.

But their children are disappointing. Not all, but many, if not most.

They are a generation of children raised by maids. A generation spoiled and trained in the ancient ways of elitism. And they are so many. And they will inherit much of this world created by their fathers who, for better or worse, emerged from the abyss of nothingness.

So I’m constantly fascinated whenever I meet or see or hear of someone who is of my age group and living a life that can only make one wonder how they could ever inherit empires.

Some have surprised me. There are second-generation businesses that are surviving and expanding under new and younger leadership, but even these involve heirs of an older generation. In other words, people who are 38 or 40 and have taken over their father’s company, did not grow up in the same manner that their own kids did (or are currently).

I don’t know if it a matter of masculinity, it’s more about leadership or lack thereof. But I suppose on some level, we have all been socialized to equate leadership with masculinity. Strong, bold, daring, sharp: strictly ‘male qualities’. And few of these kids embody any of those qualities, be they female or male. They attend western universities and are schooled in eastern philosophies, but none of them have anything really substantial to offer. Nothing that suggests they can take what already exists, to the next level.

Moreover, their fathers had or have some historic significance. They were born and created in an era far from our own, where there was so much opportunity to build from scratch. Whereas now, everything feels, saturated. There is nothing great left to overcome; and so it feels there is no more greatness to be achieved.

Which is why I often feel this new generation, are in fact the middle children of our history. They have little significance, only socialized and sensationalized dreams. It is an entire generation that has never pumped their own gas, or cleared their own tables, or experienced the economic tightening of the white collar. They have no great challenges or great achievements. No great war.

This is why I’ve seen a lot of fathers who have realized their mistake, reforming their companies; making them public or forming a board of trustees. A way to ensure their kids can survive without being involved in the company.

And I use the concept of companies, family businesses and inheritance throughout this post as a deliberate metaphor. It’s an analogy for what the next generation of people in whose hands this country will be in, will do; will accomplish.

It’s not about what is being inherited, but who the heirs are.


  • This is really critical; however, I have seen it from inside! I have relationships with family members of those who own a major business in Jordan; a group of youth (25 Dubai, 23 and 22 in Jordan) are running their family business. Their father still alive (may god give him health), he only monitor them without interfering their main decisions, it’s all going well. Another group of their cousins are managing a similar business and they are doing well too. I think when it comes to business –neither ethics, personality, nor behavior; the testator can really handle the process of transferring his legacy!

  • Lol @

    Thank God my father isn’t Abd Al-Hameed Shoman…

    ola: There are some facts, those if you know, I’m sure you will change your mind 😉 BTW Shoman’s family story is one of the most successful ever at the domain of Middle East; at least it lasted for 70 years!!!

  • Slam alikm
    I come from the other side where dad wants us to do everything regardless of the financial statues, by our hands on anything even in PLUMBING!
    His words are: ”yaba you never know what life hiding for you, so learn as you are at it
    يابا الواحد بدريش الدنيا شو مخبيتلو فتعلمو هسا احسنلكو”
    I hated it but it did come very handy many times
    I love my dad for every lesson he gave.

    What makes me afraid that many don’t understand that their action effects on years to come.
    We become number one consuming community more than ever.
    This is the problem but what is the solution?
    Any suggestions?

  • Ok. I’ll tell you in brief my future image. I think most of us, the generation who were born in 70’s and early 80’s especially males, are suffering from what they are living, and they are not accepting how backward our society is heading. As a result, and that’s an opinion, we are going to raise a better generation at the future. We are under huge pressure, and one day when we will have the ability and the responsibility, everything will change…

  • I think West Ammanites should be forced off the dole of their parents unending ‘masroof’ and get part-time jobs. Learning to live off your own earnings will jump start initiative in even the laziest kids.

  • Nassem,,,I must say this is one of the best post you wrote in your blog,but the same time, I have lots of reservations and disagreement with it
    For example,you wrote “I look at the wealthiest people in this country, the people who, like it or not, have helped build this country. They represent the industry and business leaders, the factories, the companies, the mini-empires in this resource-barren country of ours. From manufacturers to sellers, many are self-made; most are first generation; most are now ‘old’ money. All of them have a story to tell.”
    I disagree with your observations about “rich and wealthy” ,it is the the hard labor of mostly poor and Middle class and I might add the poor and exploited the Egyptian and Asian work force who built this country,while the “rich” became rich not because they poses extraordinary traits or skills but high level of corruptions and power through the allegiance with the regime and the whole sale of thievery of our national resources, and there are plenty of examples that prove my point.

  • You are correct to a certain extent. On the brighter side, the young generation is better educated, more exposed to technology and have outspoken personalities. These are good ingredients for the men and women of tommorrow.

    On the other side, I agree that the way they behave and dress, in many cases and under certain conditions, is disgusting.

    It all start with the family which is the real and main mentor.

    On the issue of family businesses, probably 98% of our companies are family businesses. Statistics indicate the 14% of the family businesses make it to the second generation and 3% make it to the third generation. A family governance and business governonce must be established to ensure that family businesses survive as these are the real asset of Jordan.

    Izzat Sajdi

  • Maybe it is not a good idea to judge this new generation for how they look like, ya they do look silly but they were not tested yet. after living with a european family a couple of years ago I realised the huge diference between the school person and the University person, I did not believe the way they change in the little months concerning the way they act, wear, eat. The kid I was living with and his colleagues changed from being silly teens into a serious hard working persons. This made me realise that this silly look can hide alot inside.

    If life was just an economical issue then ya, those children would have had no war, but life has a bigger scope (ethical, scientifical, social, religious). and this coming generation has a harder war than the one I and my generation lived because we simply did NOTHING, so they have to do our “unaccoplished homework” and their work. unless they want their children to hav more and more work to do.

  • this is one weird post, where i cant agree or disagree
    i see the same disapointment in people, but i cant relate it to a certain generation or financial class.
    being a failure,ignorant or dull is a behaviour, you absorbs it from your surroudings and the perspective you observe life from.
    i dont see it the same way you do.

  • Nas I do relate to the air of concern in your post, however the mentality you are exuding is prone to the traditional reasoning that “success” and “leadership” are reflected in the ability of the wealthy heirs to steer their dad’s business to the next level.

    This line of thinking disregards the fact that many children do not share the same passions nor talents of their parents; that they would actually excel more in other fields. The “pressure” imposed on the heirs-to-empires often stifles their ability to forge ahead with their own passion because of the existence of a “ready” livelihood. Persuaded to stick to the family business despite not being passionate about it naturally results in disappointing results.

    Oh and another thing, you give the older generation too much credit. Our levantian parents and grandparents both failed to restore dignity to our heritage and “arabness”, vis avis the ever worsening Palestinian situation we inherit, as well as the lovely authoritarian systems that we are born into (Jordan, Egypt, Syria etc…) that baffle political scientists in a world where even impoverished South American and African states have embraced democracy.

    So in terms of the Fight Club catch phrase “We have no great war”, apart from the reference being specific to the American middle class, we in Jordan and the Arab world DO have a great war: to reform ourselves & start contributing to the world.

    Oh and to free Palestine!

  • What a horrible series of cliches and generalizations. And what a shame that someone who claims to want to foster openness and serious dialogue would post a response that is a personal attack on a particular family, especially a family that by all accounts has done much to advance philanthropy and development in the Arab world. Shame shame shame. On you. Although, I suppose jealousy leads people to do all sorts of reprehensible things, primary among them the drive to hypocrisy.

  • Go Go Go bro,
    You just spill out what we all think. Man the other day i was standing at abdoun circle. And i was watchin the passing cars. And i guess cars worth around 4-5 million pased by, and the average driver was 22 or something.

    This is definitely wrong. How can they afford it.

  • This is not a Jordanian problem, but much more universal then you may realize. If you read “the World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman (look past the American Zionist and at the content) it paints a dismal picture for the lethargic generation. I’m optimistic for Jordanians though I see them filling in the crucial middle class gaps (middle managers, doctors, engineers, technicians, blue collar workers) in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. That’s what i liked about Jordanians (at least the ones i met) much more pragmatic and smarter then Gulf and Saudi Counterparts.

  • Very thoughtful post.

    Personally, I don’t look back much. What I see today is a lot of niches where a new generation of Founders can prosper.

    I also have seen a good number of 2nd generation rich kids who exhibit a better mentality than the fathers’ generation: more open minded, more inclined to deal on the basis of merit (rather than on pure family affiliations).

    One of the strengths of Jordan is that it continues to offer opportunities to people who decided to strike out on their own, based only on their knowledge and skill.

    No I am no talking about ‘equal opportunities’, but rather an ‘acceptable’ level of opportunities to keep the country ‘reasonably creative’.

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