Somewhere in the depths of the Royal Hashemite Court and perhaps even the King and Queen’s respective offices, there are people who dream up wonderful initiatives. From education to dialog to just a whole bunch of other great initiatives that span the spectrum of issues. They are all well-branded and well-publicized and it’s hard to live in this country without knowing about them. From press releases and articles (in these cases they’re usually the same thing), to billboards and God knows what, if you are alive in anyway, you probably know them all.
And while the King and Queen have their names stamped on initiatives, such measures are complemented with royal patronage – something which comes with a nice golden crown on top of an event name, and is given out (arbitrarily) like candy. If we’re being honest with ourselves, most of these initiatives fall short of their success rates, or at least lose their initial hype, and most of the patronages are undeserving.
Both measures are designed primarily to enhance the profile of the King, Queen or the Crown in general. They are, for this new era, the main marketing tool. This is not to say the intentions of such initiatives are sinister, but rather that they are designed by people who are more concerned with how their bosses look instead of what’s being done. Style over substance.
The issues being tackled are very serious so it’s difficult to criticize them.
In many of these cases, the King and Queen are rarely ever involved, but in some cases, they are the center square. In the past year for example, the Queen has been involved in the Madrasati campaign, in an attempt to reform school infrastructure, as well as developing a YouTube channel to try and engage in some cross-cultural dialog (which won her an award), and the latest Ahel Al Himmeh award that looks to give grants for local champions of causes.
In the wide-spectrum of things, some of these initiatives are good, some not so much, and some have sustainability issues. The latter problem is what you tend to get when you design an initiative that is, once again, based on style as opposed to substance. The short-run hype only lasts for so long and like any good seasonal marketing campaign, that’s what it’s designed to do.
But overall, adding up all the initiatives and all the events given patronage, suffice to say, the King and Queen are rarely involved, but their names or the name of the Crown is invoked with that nice big golden crown on top. I should note, my style-over-substance argument is just an opinion based on observation. I’m sure if we conducted a study we’d find many of these initiatives to be a fading and forgotten memory, and many of the events blessed with patronage are truly undeserving.
And while I think the argument still stands, my concern here has less to do with style than outcome. The outcome of all of this is the fueling of this ever-increasing culture of dependency on royal patronage.
If something doesn’t have the seal of approval from the Royal Court, then it’s not a worthy cause. So we end up sticking the King and Queen’s name on pretty much anything, and you’ll never see a reaction to any of these initiatives or events unless those names are there. Because in the end, these things are given a certain amount of prestige and exposure that style-dependent people (the influentials) want to be associated with.
This culture of dependency erodes any chance to build solid, democratic, and self-sustaining initiatives that are led by non-governmental institutions. In fact, it erodes any chance for this country to be dependent on institutions as opposed to names. Or, to put this in the form of a question: couldn’t all of these initiatives have been carried out by institutions that are not associated with royalty?
In my opinion, we need a moratorium on, if not an abolishing of, all these royally-driven initiatives and patronages in general. If the idea is a great one, then outsource it to civil society and help strengthen those much-needed institutions instead of putting it in the hands of the King, Queen, the Crown or the government.
Moreover, if whoever’s responsible for helping design and promote these initiatives is so keen on enhancing the image of the King and Queen, then why not simply have them cut a ribbon. If the King was truly serious about shifting the Jordanian paradigm in to more of a constitutional monarchy, then shouldn’t steps be taken to transform the position of the monarch in to more ceremonial role as opposed to increasing their involvement in every faucet of Jordanian life? Would that not fit in with the vision the King has clearly stated?