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.
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.