Jordanian Bloggers And Blogging About The Issues That Really Matter

There is a question I am frequently asked by people who mistake me for an expert on the Jordanian blogosphere, and that is: why don’t Jordanian bloggers blog about issues (at all, or, more often). The short answer is: I don’t know. The long answer delves into a plethora of questions that are too complicated and of which none are absolute in reasoning. Some feel they’d rather avoid trouble, some feel they are not “qualified” to discuss issues, and some have no interest in the issues whatsoever. The list of reasons seems endless.

My point of view has always been that everyone should feel free to talk about what they want. However, my personal preference would be that local bloggers do start to engage a bit more with the issues that face us as a nation.

Unemployment, wages, poverty, education, health care, social security, and the people who make the decisions for us. This list too, is endless.

For one of the few times in our history, the overwhelming majority of our population is labeled as “youth”, and yet those who speak for them or claim to “represent” them are all in their 40’s. How many times have you seen conferences or even papers written about youth-related issues, all hosted, attended and/or written by people who are way over the hill? Open your daily newspaper and count the names and faces that are wrinkle-free.

That’s the country we live in.

(unfortunately)

Without a doubt, recent years have seen the state attempt to give the microphone to young people in this country as a demonstration of their willingness to incorporate their voice in to the public sphere. There are youth programs that range from the political to the social. Yet, it seems every microphone comes with an on and off switch and what you say (or don’t say) can be held against you.

And everyone under the age of 30 knows this. Whether the threat is real or perceived, it doesn’t matter. Perceptions are what matter, and this particular perception is fact.

Because no one in government really wants to hear what the youth of this country have to say, uncensored at least. There are brilliant photo-op moments of officials pretending to hear what students are telling them, but the hearing isn’t the hard part, it’s the listening that’s a bit difficult.

It stands to good reason that the Internet, personified by the blogosphere, may be the only remaining and true platform for free speech for Jordanian youth, if not Jordan entirely. It is, without a doubt, the most powerful tool of speech of our generation, and the most blunt instrument of change since the Gutenberg printing press.

And so I wish that power was more realized by my generation, and that people were more actively engaged with the issues on their own blogs, but that’s just wishful thinking. It is a blogosphere represented by the brightest and the most fortunate of this country; this country, where the overwhelming majority are marginalized and don’t have the opportunity to even access the Internet. This country, where the overwhelming majority of youth that do have the opportunity to discuss the pertinent issues, unfortunately don’t.

They, or we, often forget that these very issues affect us the most than anyone else. Whether in the short run or the long run. In newspapers, they all seem like complex, abstract, macro-economic issues that make as much sense as a mental word jumble. And so most of us retreat to the comforting cliche of not caring about the issues as long as water comes out of our faucet at the end of the day. Ironically, when it comes to Jordan, water coming out of a faucet might be a fading dream in 10 or 20 years, depending greatly on those very issues decision makers with one foot in the grave make today. And that’s why this matters.

It’s not abstract. It’s about real things, and real people.

Free speech, media, political reform, social reform, cultural reform, economic reform, unemployment, wages, poverty, education, health care, social security, accountability, transparency, corruption, fuel, energy, the environment, laws, immigration, rights, activism, discrimination, equal opportunities, capital punishment, labor laws, conflict, peace, crime, violence, religion, extremism, stability, and of course, the people who make the decisions for us…

I think there are a great deal of issues worth discussing, and a great deal of things worth fighting for, and these causes could use a few more soldiers.

33 Comments

  • you were lucky enough to drink tim hortens every morning on your way to the university that your dad worked hard to pay, it gave you good english and brains, but stop patronizing for once, people are expressing what they think is worth expressing.

  • “you were lucky enough to drink tim hortens every morning on your way to the university”

    Oh don’t remind me, that stuff rocked.

    “but stop patronizing for once, people are expressing what they think is worth expressing.”

    Ah, but how am I patronizing people when I am clearly stating that everyone has a right to talk about whatever they want to talk about (or “express” whatever they think is worth “expressing”).

    Let me re-emphasize the point that perhaps flew right by you towards the end there: this is all wishful thinking. I simply, personally, “wish” there was more issue-based blogging. No more, no less.

    Also, I should add that this is not necessarily directed just at current bloggers, but at everyone with the potential of becoming a great blogger. Many of them post comments on this very blog, nearly every day.

    Thanks for the comment J πŸ™‚

  • J: I hear a lot of people say that, but I think its a gross exaggeration that tends to emanate from western observers, and for the most part, in their part of the world, complacency may be a disease. With freedom of speech and the tools for expression readily available, western youth have less excuses.

    Our situation tends to be a bit more complex, and boiling it down to mere apathy is far from accurate. Furthermore, anyone who charges youth in this region with complacency isn’t paying attention to Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and even Iran.

  • “It is a blogosphere represented by the brightest and the most fortunate of this country; this country, where the overwhelming majority are marginalized and donÒ€ℒt have the opportunity to even access the Internet. This country, where the overwhelming majority of youth that do have the opportunity to discuss the pertinent issues, unfortunately donÒ€ℒt.”<— Here is your answer. The brightest and most fortunate happen to be little affected by most of these issues.

  • Maha: granted, there is some degree of truth to that, however, in the long list of issues I’m sure there are at least a handful that are applicable across the board. Everyone is affected by laws, by corruption, by energy and by the environment to name just a few.

  • Nas, you were SO nice to J. Mind if i add a mothers perspective? πŸ™‚

    J, your comment is actually reveals part of the problem. He didn’t say fun posts about gender jokes and what folks ate for breakfast are bad. With a little reading and courage, bloggers who write primarily for entertainment can become agents of change.

    Imo, young commenters who pour contempt on those who inspire and challenge others to raise the bar are as much a part of the problem as the old guys in guv who don’t listen. You call that patronizing? Then you are just a younger version of the older generation suffering from the Tall Poppy Syndrome. Especially when you take little swipes at the writers level of privilege; many have that level of privilege, but few choose to use it for anything more than dissipation.

    J, you read Nas’ blog, so you are obviously interested. Go the next step and be part of the solution, as he is. He inspired me to blog less about cookies and more about issues. πŸ™‚

  • Nas
    I just browsed itoot, Qwaider planet and a few blogs and very few are on “issues” yours, bater wardam’s, and Jordanian issues and a couple more maybe.

  • Kinzi…

    I guess Nas already figured out though his blogstats that it was me who posted as J. Not that many in Sweden who are checking out Jordanian blogs after all.

    I do not see a point in defending myself here, really, I said patronizing because I believe that NAS has the capability and brains to dig deeper and present the reasons WHY he considers Jordanian bloggers apathetic to local political affairs, there are many international studies on the topic.

    Instead, NAS choose to completely disregard the many, rather successful, attempts by Jordanian bloggers like yourself to make a change, by generalizing that bloggers just do not take part in the online political debates.

  • Is it actually the fear? Maybe, but those who fear to say something will usualy tackle some issues that are local in nature without touching those “fearful” topics. You can’t assume that someone will talk about star academy because he/she fears persecution.

    So rami, yes he can generalize because the portion is significant scientifically.

    Of course there are some topics that are political in nature that people prefer not to talk about, just like race in america. Furthermore, there are some divisions that exist in our society where people are divided into two groups, and focus on the word divided.

    Also, many of the people in jordan don’t have the outsider(birds eye) view when it comes to their lives both politically and econmically, if you live something day in and day out you become used to it that you no longer see it. The big brother system that we live in also plays an important role, we jordanians have no say in many things, and the system treats the people as if they are naive and don’t know what is good for them, so the policies are set and we just ride them..

    Good post naseem.

  • Rami: thanks for the follow up and you mentioned some key points I think I need to address to avoid any further misunderstanding about what I’ve written.

    First off, I didn’t want to get into a discussion about the WHY-they-don’t – since as I said, the reasons are numerous as you and I both know – and instead I wanted to focus on the WHY-they-should, because people seem to focus a lot more on the former than the latter. I wanted to point out that there are a lot of things worth talking about and that our generation should be talking about those things online.

    Secondly, it is a generalization, you’re right. With a topic like this it’s hard to approach it or to even write about it without generalizing; you have to talk in abstractions, it is the Internet after all. There are numerous Jordanian bloggers out there that DO talk about the issues and I love every one of them for it regardless of where I personally stand on those issues. Their contribution to blogging, and even to the way I personally blog, has been immeasurable, but sadly you and I can both count them on two hands, and that is the point I want to highlight.

    So once again, my post is not focusing on those that DO or DID, but rather the overwhelming majority that unfortunately DON’T.

    Also, it is not limited to “political debates” as you said, my emphasis is on issue-blogging, and those “issues” are vast and concern various people in various ways.

    Adhoosh: Is that what you think it will take? hmm…

  • Comes to mind here what obama said and is now being grilled for:

    “Our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

    So yes even in america, when you say the abstract truth you are grilled..

  • Maha: there are a few more but the numbers are disappointing to say the least. at least from my point of view.

    kinzi: “He inspired me to blog less about cookies and more about issues”

    lool, let me be frank and say both are healthy topics for discussion!

    Mohanned: “The big brother system that we live in also plays an important role, we jordanians have no say in many things, and the system treats the people as if they are naive and donÒ€ℒt know what is good for them, so the policies are set and we just ride them..”

    You’re right Mohanned, and this is perhaps all the more reason why people should be talking, especially Jordanian youth: to prove that system wrong, to prove that no policy will pass unnoticed by the silent majority.

  • Nas, and others,
    After reading your great post, I turned my eye to the comments section excited and in hope to see 14 posts of ideas pitched in on how, for example, we can improve the education system in Jordan.

    Maybe, I was hoping to see some form of mobilization, maybe something alone the line of
    “The government and the parliament are too busy with other matters, if education, or lack thereof, is the problem that affects the youth , affects us, the most, then maybe.. just maybe.. its about time that we mobilize ourselves in a peaceful fashion to improve education in Jordan..

    Who knows.. maybe 4 years from now, Youth Action and its impressive work on improving the educational system in Jordan would be used as a model throughout the Middle East?

    Maybe someone needs to take the lead, an initial group of 4 or 5 five should meet up, brainstorm on what students and young people -from every city in Jordan (representation is key πŸ˜‰ – can do??

    I would love to get involved in any similar form of action in the summer.. maybe these groups already exist, but I just don’t know about them

    Sorry for my ranting… please let me know if there is anything I can do to help πŸ™‚

  • There is no such thing as the blogosphere , just like there is not such thing as the emaliosphere, just like there is no such thing as TV news casters-sphere. It is a way of communication and it is a simple reflection of the society. We barely have any authors or writers. We are believe it or not short on creativity in general. Even those who are trained to be real journalists have a difficult time fulfilling their job requirements for a million reasons. and all of a sudden I am expecting some schmuck to be the voice of reason because he or she has an internet connection !

    You engage in serious issues and we will watch.
    Good luck engaging…

  • Diala: there are various organizations that do get involved in public education, but like i said in a previous post, education is one issue that is in need of macro solutions by the government and not just the participation of the people.

    Musa: Sorry, I don’t know if you were making one or several points, but I think I’m not getting exactly what you’re saying. If you can clarify that would be great, thanks.

  • Rami, aha! I thought you might be someone Nas knew. No, you don’t need to defend yourself. I will now correct myself and say ‘dribbling’ rather than ‘heaping’, and it was for a good reason…to RAISE the bar. Baf7am. πŸ™‚

    Nas, maybe next batch of cookie I’ll add oats to make them ‘healthier’, and drop them by your office. πŸ™‚

  • I share your wishful thinking exactly … thanks for the brilliant post!

    rami – the majority of ‘international studies’ usually maintain that youth are politically apathetic because they are excluded from the process of political debate. It is a logical argument: the more inclusive the state, the more active the citizens. Media also play an important part in the equation because, normatively, they are responsible for mediating between politicians and the public; meaning they should focus on policies being discussed by government, scrutinize them, and open them up for public debate.

    As our state media have miserably failed to do that, what Nas is proposing, that Jordanian bloggers take up the initiative and focus on policy and issues, might actually be the cure to the apathy you talked about!

  • Wasta is another issue ripe for discussion. It is killing the ambitions of people who weren’t born lucky and/or causing them to emigrate to places that demonstrate more respect for ability.

  • “It is a blogosphere represented by the brightest and the most fortunate of this country;”

    I also agree with Maha @ #5, The children of the fortunate few in the Arab world are generally addicted to sitcoms, Lost, Housewives, and other tv shows. As long as they can watch these things, go to Starbucks, shop at (or complain as why there isn’t an) IKEA, and pretty much imitate what they see on tv, they are satisfied, and thus there is no reason for them to massively complain and discuss real issues.

    I understand this doesn’t apply to everybody, but sadily it does apply to many. In the past 8 months i used an extended break from my studies to live and work in Jordan and Palestine. Unfortunately, what i saw shocked me. Many people are more familiar with Oprah and issues discussed on that show than they are with REAL issues that are affecting their own country.

    Heck, go to west Amman and try to pick up Arabic words if you can. People are even choosing to communicate in English … ORALLY !! I think the fortunate few are trying to live the illusion that they see in TV, and Nas, if you are living an illusion, then you don’t have to discuss real issues.

  • “Go back to America and stick a silver spoon in your mouth, you white, elitist, antagonizer!” Oh, wait…that’s the type of comments I get on my blog when I bring up such topics. πŸ˜›

    Nas, I agree 100%. People underestimate the power of words. There are so many issues in this country that need discussing. With the turbulent economical system, education, traffic, infrastructure, health care, and lack of so many essentials, it’s amazing that Jordanian society hasn’t just collapsed (although it may be on the brink of doing so). The fact that it remains is a testament to the resilience of the people, as well as the governments ability to smoke screen the at-home issues (cartoons, anyone?), but resilience only goes so far before the snap. If we don’t begin addressing the issues that affect daily Jordanian life, that snap may occur soon and turn out to be quite nasty.

  • hmm i almost agree with rami, the issue is that there are a lot of schism in society. for one the issue of language, the majority of bloggers who whole heartedly discuss and raise some issues write in English that limits the audience to a minority few of the already low number of those who even read blogs.

    Then you need to tackle the fact that even those that read blogs and write them they are more interested in stats and stating things rather than discussing an issue. The trend is that the only ones that discuss issues consistently on the comments are those who are outside the country or are foreigners in the country. So the impact of any issue raising on blogs is not minuscule its an illusion really.

    then you can go with all the on the ground reasons of why there aren’t any.
    So the fluff will only increase in percentage πŸ˜€

  • Bam,
    1- Arabic writers will be under more pressure, you know,it is like english raises the bar a little bit, you feel more free and under less self censorship. You can take an example of the Jordan times and Al-Rai.
    2- Agree on the schism.
    3- The audience: Even when you discuss some local issues, some people won’t be able to grasp the idea that you can love your country and be able to point to its flaws. In their mind, the country is the system that protects them. Also as I mentioned in a previous comment, many of the locals don’t have the bird’s eye view, so it will be difficult to see things for what they really are.
    4- The content: I for one prefer to point to things rather than critically analyse them. You may ask why? In a way this helps make people aware of what is happenning around them and may go unnoticed. It can also help initiate a discussion that is lead by the readers not the writer, and that is ultimatly a good thing. Journalism in our part of the world is biased by nature, look at the writers in the papers, you can easily tell where they stand. A journalist should be as objective as possible, he/she simply should tell a story and leave the readers to decide.
    5- The commenters: They are what blogging is all about, but I agree that there is a sense of fear when it comes to some issues. And back to your point where you said that most of them are foreigners or expats: This adds to the notion that many of the locals lack the bird’s eye view.
    6- Blogs being an illusion: Blogs do not work alone, it is a combination of things that was enables by the net: youtube, google news, foreign entities discussing some of our local issues, NGOs, etc… Blogs alon won’t change anything, but in combination with all of the above it can have an impact, and you can feel it, people now are more informed than ever, and they have no choice in that, it is forced upon you.

  • there is another Laila who is not blogging?

    I don’t know if blogging will solve the problem, lack of serious debate and interesting quality topics is a mentality issue and lack of readiness in terms of awareness and before anything else the freedom to discuss our local and international issues the right direct way with out being afraid from getting arrested or maybe had another black dot in our record.

    I am saying that because was it online or in a real brainstorming session; we still have to reach a level where we can discuss and analyze things and people by their name and not blame any deficiency on a corrupted “system” or “men” or “the regime” or what ever X we can’t clearly say but we all know who is who !!

    CHE,

  • Hi there.

    I’m a recent resident of Jordan, and there’s one thing that really bugs me: the fact that everyone thinks it’s normal to accept to have their religion stamped on their passport and official ID.

    And the existence of discriminatory laws whether you’re Christian or Muslim, regarding marriage or alcohol.

    Cheers

  • Ibn Battuta – welcome to Jordan πŸ™‚ actually I am a Jordanian and I agree with you regarding having ‘religion’ on ID cards and passports; however, as you will soon find out, removing it won’t make that much of a difference because you can tell from a family name what religion the family is affiliated to! (in most cases at least) … I just wanted to, if I may, point out that there are no discriminatory laws with regard to alcohol. A christian or muslim are both free to drink and purchase alcohol if they wish to do so! Also in the case of marrige I am not sure what you mean. If you are refering to intermarriages then there are legal hurdles when a Christian man wants to marry a muslim woman, but the opposite is legal (a muslim man marries a christian woman). Hope this helps!

  • Dude, this post is brilliant. It’s on my list of favorites so I come back and read it every couple of weeks. Just thought I’d share that! πŸ™‚

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