Surviving Jordan: Independent Thoughts On Independence Day

It’s an interesting time to be celebrating or honoring Jordan’s Independence Day today, and that probably has a lot more to do with the times we find ourselves stranded in. A region in disarray and regimes struggling to hold on for their life. But then again, when in the past 60 years has the region not been like that?

With all that has happened in Jordan these past few weeks and months I’ve mentally attempted to trace many of our problems down to their sources, and in the process, I’ve found myself losing hope more often than not. In university, I used to chastise Jordanian peers who were opposed to the idea of coming back to their country to contribute to its progress. It was an unacceptable attitude in my head. It was selfish. In my mind, we were those people who were fortunate enough to study abroad and had a duty to come back and benefit the country in one way or another. And even though most Jordanian peers I encountered felt this way, I came back anyway.

Living in, and experiencing this country, come hand in hand. And as time passed I discovered the people who hadn’t left the country to study or work, existed in Jordan within a bubble – and so I chastised them. How can you live here and exist within the shelter of a bubble? It was a waste of a life. To surround yourself with family and friends and shun everything else is to exclude your role as a citizen. It was a neglect of duty.

Since then, I’ve learned a few things.

I’ve learned that if you want to keep your sanity while living in Jordan, existing within a personal bubble may be the best to do it. And I’ll emphasize the word “sanity” here, because those of us not interested in preserving it will have to exist without the protection of a bubble.

I’ve learned that, for the most part, the country is not interested in what you have to contribute to it. Whether it is the government or the people, no one is really interested. Everyone is self-driven and doesn’t really care what you have to offer unless they can benefit from it without having to sacrifice anything in return. Indeed, most people will even chastise you for having come back in the first place, and will offer you a sad and apologetic look. Meanwhile, those who come back and work for the government will, for the most part, find their education squandered on being offered medial low-paying dead-end jobs – unless of course your father was a former minister.

I’ve learned that we’re a country quietly at war with itself; struggling to find an identity. Our relationship with one another is largely passive aggressive; like a mother-in-law who isn’t crazy about her son’s wife but won’t show it outright, relying instead on snubbing her. I’ve learned that our history is a record stuck on replay – deliberately. And even though over 60% of the population did not live through nor experience Black September, our political thought is inherited, and we have never really gotten over it as a nation. Times are different today and the surface we’ve built and dubbed as “national unity” is quite superficial, flimsy and fragile. It is a layer of ice on a lake that could break due to the burden it bears. And I’ve learned that this broken record is our state’s favorite tune, offering it up to the public in subtle ways, but causing just enough discord to keep people suspicious of each other. To keep people in a constant state of passive aggressive behavior.

I’ve learned to expect less and less of my government to the point that there is really very little that can surprise me now. In fact, I will say that without a doubt, I have given up all hope when it comes to the government. While solutions to many of our problems are solely in the hands of the state, I believe that it now represents one of our biggest problems in itself, and its willingness to genuinely solve anything is absurd. It does however manage to put on a great show and at times, it has its lucid moments – the moments where something good actually slips by, perhaps accidentally. But all in all, the words “progress” and “reform” and even “democracy” has come to mean nothing more to me than “window-dressing” and “superficiality”. If a country’s functioning and development is based on the macro and micro – I have abandoned faith in the macro.

I’ve learned that good citizenship is non-existent in Jordan. The population is taught to equate good citizenship with nationalism. Pop-nationalism at best. Flag-waving and slogan chanting nationalism that yields absolutely nothing of good for the country but wasted talent and energy. We cross the street at red lights, we throw garbage on the ground with ease, we feel no obligation to get involved in our own communities, and on and on and on. Our civics lessons in school are void of anything valuable for the country other than being ingrained with indoctrinating principles regarding God, Country and King. Our youth do not practice citizenship, but are encouraged to demonstrate nationalism, because it is the only outlet that allows them to demonstrate loyalty. And to the few activists that have attempted to reverse, dismantle and rewrite this equation by working heavily in local communities – I declare all my appreciation, support and respect to them, because they are likely having an impact on young minds in ways the state, the macro, has never even bothered to do.

I’ve learned that we are taught to dwell amongst the lowest common denominator in order to feel better ourselves. If Jordan is a country that has benefited, as some believe, on the suffering of others, in reality it has also been sustained by that same kind of suffering. Our educational system is a mess, but as long as it’s better than Iraq, we’re ok. Corruption is palpable, but as long as we’re doing better than Nigeria, it’s alright. Our standards of living are barely livable for most, but as long as we fair better than Egypt, we can’t complain. We shouldn’t complain. In fact, don’t criticize the country. And if you don’t like it, go live somewhere else…and this is the kind of mentally retarded opposition you can hear quite frequently from those who would prefer silence and consent over criticism and even progress. Those who benefit from the status quo have absolutely no desire to see it change.

I’ve learned that maneuvering through Amman specifically, is to navigate through ego-infested waters. Everyone is concerned with their name, their accomplishments and themselves. I don’t see much of that outside Amman, so part of me feels it has something to do with the urban lifestyles that have overtaken us.

I’ve learned that people think in absolutes. You are either with them or against them. You must pick a side and stick with it. You cannot dwell in the grey, nor can you practice that which makes us human – the ability to change your mind. There is little ground to compromise, and everyone tends to resort to their own comfort zones of beliefs and absolutes, fearing everything else. The more you approach, the further they dig in to their corner, the more absolute their resolve becomes. We could even want the same thing but as long as we disagree with each other on how to achieve it, we need to become enemies. We must insult, attack, beat, poke and annoy each other until one of us surrenders. And these days, to add to that mess of an equation, we must also question each others loyalty to the country.

Above all, I’ve learned that if you want to do something for the country, contribute to it, you need to live in a bubble. Not a superficial I-don’t-care-about-anything-but-myself kind of bubble – but an enclosed virtual or artificial space where you can work on doing something of value, but ignore everyone else; a “civic bubble” if you will. Ignore the government, the macro, the system, the status quo, the naysayers, and just about anything else. If you focus on doing something that can actually benefit the country, it is more than possible. It isn’t easy, but it’s very possible. But to do it well, and to retain your sense of sanity – you must construct that bubble and sustain it. Elements will always try to penetrate it, and will do so randomly and without warning, in the same way that journalists and editors get threatening phone calls from the security apparatus, but as long as you’re in the right you’ll be ok. But don’t give up the bubble. Bring people in to it, and expand it step by step, but don’t give it up. Let it engulf others, and let others contribute to it. Do not allow it to remain the same size and grow to be a comfort zone. Allow it to grow and consider everything else to be “the dark side”. Bring to it your education, your experience, your passions, your desires, your beliefs and your principles. Every now and then you’ll run in to people who have their own “civic bubbles” and like a Venn diagram of intersecting circles you’ll find you can expand exponentially via common ground.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, gee, this is a pretty gloomy view of the landscape, I assure you, I’m trying to simply capture what I see through my lens. People are free to disagree with me and offer their own perspectives. But, in truth, I’ve actually seen this in action and the kind of people these civic bubbles tend to yield, the kind of good they’re able to achieve is extraordinary, and I’m beginning to believe that if more and more people head in that direction, it may actually have a tremendous impact on social development in this country. Because the government is just not going to be able to do it. Whether it is genuine about it or not, is not only besides the point – it’s no longer relevant. And that is perhaps the most beautiful thing about this – the equation no longer requires the government to be genuine, it exists despite it. Change has to come from people – from key people – from community organizers and activists. From opinion makers and journalists. From artists and engineers. From those who are bold enough to envision their own bubbles, and then grow them to fit the mold of a nation.

The best part about this is that it’s already happening – perhaps randomly and accidentally.

I think I’m just trying to put words to it.


  • I can see your love for your country through your painful observances and the desire to see improvement.

  • Eloquently stated and unfortunately more hard truths than someone working so hard to bring about positive change should be forced to encounter.
    intersection of your expansive venn diagram, for as you highlighted those little bubbles can be wonderfully infectious when they bring together people with a shared vision for a better Jordan.

    A case in point was the exhilaration I felt at being privileged to attend TedX @ the Dead Sea – an event organised by Jordanians, for Jordanians. Not only was I inspired by the whole day but it confirmed how it only takes one person with conviction to make an impact on their society.

    As a simple example Dr Rana Dajani who came to Jordan from the US to find a dire lack of libraries and took the initiative to obtain international funding & setup libraries at mosques. Or the married US Peace Corps dedicated to training more Jordanians in order to scale-up their critical thinking course to all government schools. Education is fundamental to creating an enlightened society that is capable of thinking for itself and is happy to embrace differences as opportunities for discussion & growth.

    It may be baby steps but the impact will be felt and there has never been a better time to start than right now. Keep up the good work Naseem!

  • Your best blog so far; I don’t think you are speaking though about a bubble but about a genuine autonomous perseverent mindset and that can always be a good thing, especially amidst the noise and cluttered landscape. We need more autonomous bubbles and less chatter.

  • Naseem you have actually put into words exactly what has been on my mind the past few weeks. For the first time ever I have been considering finding a life in another country. I have never felt so heavy with negativity and even dispair as I do now. But I kept struggling with the point that if we – the educated, driven and skilled young generation give up and leave then how can anything change?
    Your point on citizenship is, I believe, the core of all our problems in Jordan. I complain about it and recognise it but I am not so sure I am behaving like a loyal and responsible citizen myself all the time.

  • From wikipedia on Nietzche:
    “However, Nietzsche cautions that morality, per se, is not bad; it is good for the masses, and should be left to them. Exceptional people, on the other hand, should follow their own “inner law.” A favorite motto of Nietzsche, taken from Pindar, reads: “Become what you are.””

    So Nietzchean of you Naseem 😛

  • I must say this , this is one of your best post, because you speak from your heart and mind , I have noticed you have become anti nationalist and in my opinion that is a major shift in your thinking and perception about life, politics and social structure of our society , i understand you frustration and anger of how is “our” government treats it’s citizen , and I would like to assure you and all of the people who is reading my comment , that we are living in very historic moment in the Arab world , who would think that Pharaoh of Egypt is in jail along with his corrupted wife and sons , who would ever imagine and dream that Zain al Abdeen of Tunisia would be forced to run away from his people after 23 years of the most dictatorial system in the Arab World , who would imagine that Khadafy’s rule is about to be ended and who would think that Bashar Al As’ad’s regime will be challenged heroically as we are witnessing right now and look at the people of Yemen , they are drawing their own history with their blood, even in Jordan , we will be making our own history , it is only a matter of time, when we will have a meaningful change that will better our life, It is inevitable process that is coming our way , yes governments including”our” will be forced to except people’s demand whether they like or not..

  • Nasseem your refections are valuable insights …i take away “CIVIC BUBBLES” developing theatre through co authorship was a special bubble for me was a safe dangeourous space where we could all push to break taboos question the unquestionable and create an interpretation share discuss move on …do you think Civic bubbles will gradually melt down the one dimensionality of what it means to be a Jordanian …could they truly transform the pradigms and destroy the walls and liberate the inhibitions …can share a transformative “Civic Bubble “moment to embody the notion in its complexity .Happy Jordan’s Day

  • Naseem, I am feeling and thinking so much having just read your blogpost. I could tell you that you are an extraordinarily keen observer; authentic; perceptive; genuine; original and on and on; but, I suspect you are told this often and know it. Let me just tell you that I have had all these thoughts a long time ago (I am much older than you) and seeing another human being put them into words is almost eerie but highly gratifying. I remember going through a dark night of the soul, and grasping the reality you depict and deciding in a final way that I could not live in Jordan or Palestine; that given who I am and how I perceive and think, I would have been utterly overwhelmed and my life rendered meaningless had I lived in Jordan. I am hopelessly bad at pretending or following rules or succumbing to the dictates of others. I have felt guilty and still do on occasion for not having returned to fight the good fight; but, I simply felt the macro was too intractably primitive and hostile to any genuine freedoms that no amount of effort or energy at the micro level would have yielded any meaningful change. I felt so, specially, as a woman, because female souls are horrifically chained back home.

    You reference Black September in your post. If people won’t even talk about that scarring dark chapter openly and honestly and take it apart and put it together back again, what hope is there that it can be understood, metabolized, and leveraged to advance a healthy national narrative that benefits from its past; even a painful one.

    More than anything, the “taboos” that suffocate the soul with which our culture is replete must be smashed to pieces. It takes courage and selflessness- no doubt. I fear I possess neither in sufficient quantities. Jordan needs an Oprah who will relentlessly talk about the “untalkable abouts”; and enough people need to grow some brass to stand up and say no to taboos. I am certain there are people like that in Jordan; you are certainly one of them. That is a beginning.

    I have never met you but feel “mad love” for you as my son would say. I admire your mind and turn of phrase and feel hopeful that if Jordan has young citizens such as you, there is hope for a brighter future!

  • Well put. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog post. I do relate to this in many ways. While taking many good points from this, I think finding your own bubble to preserve any sanity left while living in Jordan is really the key point that stood out to me. I think when you can master that, you’re good. So perhaps you can send some pointers over to us close-to-insanity fellow Jordanians! 🙂

  • Perfectly describes my feelings of despair and cynicism about Jordan recently. The thing is, I don’t know if I am capable of constructing this so-called bubble. It’s like being in such an abusive relationship where you just can’t keep watching the other person destroy themselves and you along with it. And at this point, I am contemplating a break-up. Hope that made sense.

  • Seriously, some people are too bubbly. People are shedding their blood in Syria, Yemen, and Libya for a better life….Egypt and Tunisia are going through short-term economic misery soon… and some people here are complaining because change is not coming fast enough. Every country in this world had to make incredible sacrifices for democracy, from France to the United States, and some are comlpaining because of the instituitional resistance inherent in any change is too much to bear; because change always means that someone will lose the privileges. People outside are especially to blame; sitting in velvet towers outside while preaching to us, choosing individual comfort while daring to critize the system which they did not even try to improve. Get over it. This is a difficult task, we are in for the long-haul, things are improving at snail pace but improving nevertheless. So saddle down and realize that you are doing it for your children and theirs , and if you can’t take the heat, go the Canadian or Austrailian embassy…. and 20 years from now when you look back, you will realize that you could have been part of the solution rather than a spectator…

  • I left Jordan in 1974 and returned in 2009.That is a total of 35 long years. Just about all of the things that you mentioned above existed back then and the same exact things are still existing today. Yes there are many more streets, bridges, tunnels, and thoroughfares. There are more hospitals and universities, there are more high rise buildings and variety of international food menu to choose from, what has not changed though is the people mentalities, they are still thinking and behaving the same good old ways, that goes for the government too, they are still treating the people as if they don’t know nothing about the outside world.They think that by withholding the information and not explaining to the people about all of the mysteries that are taking place around them people will eventually move on and forget about it.I admit that this policy works in some instances but it does not work all the time and for each and every critical instance. When will things get better? Probably when the Palestinian issue gets resolved, if and when this thing happens a lot of the pressure will go away. People will no longer worry that Jordan will become Palestine, the government can not use that ace card and pull it from the bottom of the deck every time the people ask for reform, the size of the population will be reduced by one or two million, job opportunities will become plentiful, and most importantly real estate price will go down. The rent and the land prices are so high people can no longer afford to buy an apartment let alone house or even rent in a decent neighborhood without risking an arm and a leg for rent payment. Plain and simple maintaining a standard decent living in Jordan is too expensive , way more expensive than the United States, I know what I’m talking about I lived there for 35 years. With the bread being an exception everything in Jordan is way more expensive than in the States. Bottom line Jordan has many political, economic and social problems. You can’t solve one without solving the other because they are all intertwined and overlap with one another. So I would say that love it or leave it is still the most appropriate answer for all of the problems put together, like the Americans say If you can not stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

  • “Change has to come from people – from key people – from community organizers and activists. From opinion makers and journalists. From artists and engineers. From those who are bold enough to envision their own bubbles, and then grow them to fit the mold of a nation.

    The best part about this is that it’s already happening – perhaps randomly and accidentally.”

    Not that I really understand what’s going on, but i have often suspected that these ‘bubbles’ will bring about wider social and political changes, because the individuals working in these fields, in their own small way, are subtly and perhaps one step at a time reshaping the cities consciousness, providing jobs, and provoking questions the more their networks expand. Anyone who can offer opportunity, aspiration and the encouragement to build on potential will surely – somehow – contribute to the future in a really quite meaningful way, even if its invisible, or not reflected in government policy.

    But this is the two cents of a probably quite naive foreigner 🙂

  • Passionately said..
    One issue I would raise is: Why would you ask people to participate en-mass? It will be difficult to ask the needed majority to take responsibility for change when there is no representation for those people. Humans are just not wired like that. You will find the selfless dedicated people out there, unfortunately, you won’t find enough of them (this fact is not limited to Jordan).

  • Naseem, will this post be published in Arabic? It really should be because it is urgent that a bigger part of the population reads what you have written.

  • Though your thoughts came from a very personal analytical framework but since they ended with a call for the public to endorse them and with that every righteous man or woman can actually make a change, allow me to just throw in a couple of ideas tangent to the above.

    You illustrate how we as individuals tend “to resort to their own comfort zones of beliefs and absolutes, fearing everything else. The more you approach, the further they dig in to their corner, the more absolute their resolve becomes.” and I am somehow feeling this strong connection between what you have described here in the illustration and the very definition of the bubble you later on describe as “you must construct that bubble and sustain it. Elements will always try to penetrate it, and will do so randomly and without warning, in the same way that journalists and editors get threatening phone calls from the security apparatus, but as long as you’re in the right you’ll be OK. But don’t give up the bubble.” In both illustrations there is one and the other, the affluent and the ill-informed, the good and the evil, or by the least the “me and people like me” and the “them and people not like me”. While the above juxtapositions can be easily justified with the picture painted with use of the particular wording and examples. Anyhow, what if this comparison between the “hole dug in the corner running away from counter thought or (with no cynicism) the enlightenment” and “the bubble to achieve one’s self produced good running away from ‘elements’ that will hinder this good” stand? Are you adopting this “other’s” methodology of running away from dialogue in the name of a (unquestionably) good intention?

    Let us assume that creating a bubble is actually effective, will those outside this bubble feel the same towards this bubble as you have felt towards the “comfort zone or corner hole”? If you have studied outside and are going to engulf yourself and people of your choice to be invited in to that bubble, and on the other hand we’ve got the certain proclaimed affluent in the government in their own bubble, who will actually interact with the masses? Wasn’t this interaction the very reason behind why those same masses were running away to the corner and digging deeper to comfort holes? If your type of bubbles and those of the government’s do not cross with the bigger bubble of those masses in a Venn diagram who will actually know about the masses? The government by purpose certainly needs to know about these masses or supposedly so, and has obviously failed at it (there was an occasion where an entire government was described of being unable to return to the 4th circle if put 20 KMs away in any direction). Isn’t this “good” you’re trying to achieve of collective nature and aimed at masses? Thus if you are secluded from these masses how helpful to their specific needs will your initiative/s be and most importantly if it does come parachuting how will it be viewed and how much are they willing to adopt it?

    I have a couple of alternative solutions here that are merely thought through from also a personal analytical framework/experience; all but a reaction to the same problems we have on the table. 1- Keep engaging with the same society you’re trying to do good for, otherwise you have solutions that could’ve been more tailored towards them from more first hand interaction. 2- Education shall be considered a privilege, with a privilege such as education, if seized, comes great power; with great power comes great responsibility. Just a small thought, if prophets decided to do the same as encompassing themselves in bubbles we’d all be atheists right now. 3- On another privilege which is media at your disposal, and this time to address something that takes way longer than a comment here which is the issue of national identity. In my humble opinion, how our nation is in terms of dialogue is the product of systematic and non systematic shaping, with or without intention, just to give examples we’ve had systematic erasing of our “political street”, our history prior to 1900’s, our sense of pride and/or adoption of our own mosaic structure identities, while importing economic/political systems applicable elsewhere and then importing reform models also applicable or inapplicable elsewhere. Non systematic eradication to our identity, whether you and I like it or not, comes for example in our inability as those who have had the privilege to rub shoulders outside the country to rub the same shoulder with our fellow citizens and wish that what we’ve had from positive friction can thereby move towards them; failing to do so you and me remain “those who studied outside living in a bubble” who are not part of what is so ill-defined national identity. Going back to the media means point, and I’ll draw on a comment above by the famous Samia Dodin, we need an Oprah to dismantle the elephant in the room staring us in the eye that we so love to neglect its very existence. Otherwise, we’re left with bubbles and an elephant.

    At the end, there are still people in the grey, I’m one of them and even if I don’t fully agree with your methodology I do not consider you an enemy, and have no doubt of your good intentions. That being said, I actually salute you that you haven’t surrendered to the bigger bubble of negative energy eating us alive.

  • Firas, first I count on you to get beyond the emotional into the analytical as you did here. Your observation that Naseem’s logic is potentially internally inconsistent on the point of bubbles is quite valid I think. I still endorse the overall power & validity of the piece; but your point cannot be dismissed in my view. I differ with you on the following: value systems & cultures are not relative in my opinion. For me, there are “enlightened” people whom I distinguish from those who are not or what you refer to as “the masses”. For me, a belief in democracy (yes, Western -style..gasp!!), freedoms of religion, speech, assembly; universal suffrage; an independent judiciary; equal rule of law applied to all citizens; etc. are superior to other values related to citizenship & governance. As a student of literature, I can’t help but see that a lot of our tribal practices & taboos existed in England for example in the 11th century. We are definitely behind in a lot of ways & the sooner we confront this painful realization, the sooner we will be able to progress. (Here cue the “Arabs & Muslims ruled the world & is way more civilized & advanced than Western democracy diatribe”).

    Now, let me tell you why I believe absolute freedom of speech is a pre-requisite for change. When people are allowed to call out what they see; describe, discuss, dissect phenomena & experience, that very act begins to challenge & dismantle old paradigms. I believe on that we agree. But, you say you are in the grey. You see I have thought long & hard about this: there is no grey. Unless things have changed radically since I lived in Jordan, the constraints, boundaries & expectations are so monumental; I don’t see how you can live in the grey. Do you believe in democratic rule or don’t you Firas? Do you believe in the equality of men & women under the law & in terms of their ability to choose for their life or don’t you? Do you believe in free speech or don’t you?

    The issue of Jordanian identity is a complex one; you are right. But, let me personalize it. If being a Jordanian woman means I must accept subservience & bowing down to anyone because of their rank, gender, religion, tribe, etc. then I don’t want it. If being a Jordanian means I cannot choose as a human being what to believe religiously, politically, socially, then I don’t want it. If being a Jordanian woman means you can be utterly annihilated and neutralized by simply being labeled “sharmoota”, I don’t want it. If being a Jordanian means I cannot talk candidly & bluntly about the fault lines and painful feelings related to being a Jordanian from Palestinian origins & allow Jordanians to speak frankly & honestly about their feelings toward immigrants who came to their country, then I don’t want it.

    I think you get the picture. I think people play at & pretend at being free in Jordan. But, they are not. And individuals are constantly being blackmailed with “what will people say”; what will happen to your tribe? What will the tribe think. Individual freedoms are subordinated to tribal codes that that same individual may find ludicrous. So many red lines: Islam is a huge redline & the quickest way to get one killed if one simply questions aspects of its application vis-a-vis women. Violence or the implicit threat of violence ranging from a beating to going to jail to being killed are there under the surface.

    Now, when individuals emerge & begin to organize the community in any meaningful way that may ultimately threaten the regime or the status quo, such individuals will be neutralized. No doubt in my mind. Just look at the reaction to the March 24th initiative. What happened to that? Just step back & watch the Twitter feed from Jordanian. So much fear governs the dialogue or lack thereof.

    Now, lest you think I exempt myself. I totally chickened out and decided to just live my life in America an bark at the system from afar. But, make no mistake. if a woman in Jordan challenges the system in a meaningful way, she will be dealt with harshly. I remember hearing about some lady in Jordan’s parliament who expressed opinion about Islam & the position of women & I think the men almost beat her down or something.

    As a disclaimer, all the above reflect only my views & no one else in my family or tribe!

  • Great post indeed.

    I think this post in particular is not gloomy at all, in fact it strikes me as a pure realistic portrayal of Jordan, especially today.

    The term ‘National’ is probably over and misused in Jordan; how does littering and waving the flag out while blocking other drivers’ view of the street and songs with lyrics glorifying a person with terrible or even violent lyrics came to be ‘National’? People who bare the frustration, hypocrisy and corruption and still end up wanting reforms, with integrity and persistence are the ones that we should be celebrating today.

    Anyway, I agree that change at this point is up to people, not the government. As some people kindly created civic bubbles and continue to widen them and influence our society, there seems to be a huge problem of communication building up in society …No one wants to tolerate, hear, think, or even embrace what others are expressing. While there are ‘Civic Bubbles’ working for change, there are, on the other hand, there are also the very negative ‘Anti-Other Bubbles’ in which one is more than happy to settle for ignorance and selfishness without any interest or care in the state or the world for that matter.

    Let aside our government’s failure at being a good communicator, and the media’s at championing diversity and free thought, people are also responsible for shying away from the tiniest principles of good citizenship.

    Thank you for a well written post.

  • It took you all this time to reach this post? I think you had high expectations for this country and its people, something that I lost long time ago. It’s not gloomy because you see it like that, it’s just the way it is. I don’t think anyone with a working mind can be surprised while reading your post.

    ” After a decade of political reform efforts in Jordan, it does not appear that the process has made any significant advances. In fact, as is clear from some of the key indicators above, the process seems not only to have stalled, but regressed as well. ” Marwan Muasher

    and this applies to many aspects in Jordan.

  • Samia dear, my stance on grey was not a position of morality or value system, it was in response to Nasseem’s “You must pick a side and stick with it. You cannot dwell in the grey, nor can you practice that which makes us human – the ability to change your mind.” Hence, while I stand firm on absolute morality issues like the ones you brought up, I still “dwell in the grey” on where I stand for in stance on solar Vs. nuclear energy, joining the GCC, and most importantly in the grey with certain things the gov is doing and against a whole lot other, nevertheless, I do not chose to be against it just for the sake of being against it and will refuse to do so along with a bigger refusal to anyone or anything cornering me to make such a decision.

    As for Jordanian identity, I’ll say it bluntly, we do not posses a collective Jordanian identity and will never do unless we start having Jordanian comics with a Jordanian super hero given to kids, Jordanian music which tunes are not imported from Swaidah and lyrics written in longer than the actual duration of the song, a Jordanian media industry (I repeat industry and not the sum of individual efforts), our food from manaqeesh to labaneh being labelled as our food on restaurant menus rather Lebanese food (which bothers me to think that our own citizens need a different country’s country specific advantage to sell more, what bothers me more is that it works), and mostly our accents in school, radio, and daily transactions to be accepted as is. On the last point, I’ll share a personal experience where on my first week at my first job, all the new recruits and myself were told we were supposed to maintain a “business accent”. What the hell is a business accent and you know what if such accent exists, where is it on our radios? why do I have to go through a dozen Lebanese shows on the way to work with no prejudice towards any other country but who and why was our accents discredited as being media friendly or “cool enough” and for the love of all what’s sacred why am I the only 1 bothered with this and seeing it as a symptom for lack of a national identity.

    Since, the symptoms where opened lets discuss the roots, it is quite mind boggling to me to note that we do not have until this day a clear cut cultural paradigm to shape our identity, do we follow the States’ melting pot, do we follow Canada’s mosaic (we did at the time of 3elmo noor but somehow it stopped), do we follow any other country’s paradigm or are we keeping ourselves without an identity whereby Homos is labelled as non Jordanian in the same frikin land whose people feel agitated at the thought that Israelis market Homos as a product of their own. All said, not having a well polished identity or paradigm is very dangerous, nevertheless, it is an opportunity to build one from scratch, a fresh new start, a new definition whereby it is encompassing to all and built by all.

    I second all what you said and hereby declare my slogan “Lets Kill The Elephant In The Room”. I am seriously sick and tired of not being able to discuss all these issues from identity, to a rule of civil law, to the possibility of changing our national anthem to at least something longer with the same lyrics. On this note, do we really need the well spoken like Nasseem wondering off in a bubble or leading the way, this remains my point. Salute to both.

  • Welcome back Nas,

    I recently made a decision to stay in Amman and carry on with my work rather than take up a fellowship to do my MsC at Columbia University. I alternately kick and assure myself about that decision. Your post, grim as it is in some parts, has managed to encapsulate part of the reasoning behind it.

    No question that the government is telling us, in no uncertain terms, to shut up or ship out. That the government is beyond reform is beyond doubt. That offline and online bullies are the types of people preferred by the system is sad, but true. That little hope rests with the system as it stands, is undeniable.
    I could, of course, go on.

    I am one of the people who moved beyond my bubble and in so doing found my bubble. There is a meeting of minds and hearts taking place every day beyond superficial forms of “nationalism”, beyond religion, origin, status and the socio-economic gap. It is this place, where I live, that hope resides, and where life-lessons are more valuable than anyone could ever receive at an Ivy League school.

    Thank you for reminding me that I made the right decision.


  • First, i think this is the best piece you will ever write 🙂

    Second, glad you came to the resolution the status quo is hopeless FINALLY, been saying this for a decade…good you now know ” Change has to come from people – from key people ” – and for key its obvious…

    Third – congrats on getting married 🙂 now start looking for a job in Dubai and join the rest and transform this so called “country” to a weekend break where you stop to see some friends and family, because thats at best what it will ever become for ANY person living in it…

  • This is a brief comment to let you know that I still follow your blogs and appreciate whatever light they can share on the present times. I have not had a comment recently because I was not able to give an enlightened opinion on daily new development in your world. These are difficult times in the hands of God as I pray for strenth to face floods and tornados while you pray for more peace and freedom. I spent last night in the basement in Missouri after the sirens went off, and it occurred to me that the suffering of neigbors should make us more compassionate. I can at least offer you my sumpathy and concern.

  • Simply True !
    Even with my little Family and friends . True ,Helpful and Hopeful read as Grim as it may seems .
    Thanks Naseem

  • Beautiful article! Full of many deep meanings and powerful thoughts! Change is coming one day soon, and I think that day is around the corner! The youth are waking up.. the youth are taking action.. change is coming insha Allah! God bless..

  • Clear, simple, and heart warming. Our civic bubbles do overlap.
    working for the day that we can live in Jordan instead of surviving Jordan.

  • I don’t think the post is that negative (see below for the real facts). Nas is just expressing his feelings and describing a way how to protect himself from becoming “insane” becasue he had high hopes and is now very frustrated; I understand that so many feel the same way..
    Fact 1: don’t count on all so-called activists: Many so-called “activsts” are rather selfish and suddenly become active just because they think there are some agencies out there that would fund their activities or they can become popular and famous ;
    Fact 2: the rural areas are becoming just as bad as the urban, maybe worse, maybe due to the urban, for example I cannot understand all this campaign against the military academy in Bergesh, maybe the “activitsts” found an opportunity to say something loud and become known, or it’s just due to the ignorance of the “activists” driving this campaign, who do not know that the local communitites are cutting down all the trees anyway, just to produce the Sindian baladi charcoal, most of the “activists” believe they must have to grill their meat every Friday..

    to summarize: many so-called activists are hypocrites, and in rural areas poeple are just as selfish and careless as in urban areas.

    living in a bubble ? that could “save” you from becoming because you cannot handle the problems around you, in fact it may indicate a very selfish attitude that is typical to puberty or general mental weakness. Well, maybe the Jordanian youth (although in adult age) is just going through a late mental, political and cultural puberty ..

  • I second Ahmad Hallak this post needs to be translated into arabic and re-posted where a bigger audience can read it..anybody willing to take that up?

  • Nas,
    I think there is a fair amount of condescension with people saying that it’s good that you finally realized what many had known for years, blaa blaa… And this, of course, is a pretty simplistic way of looking at it.
    I can say for myself that I was in the US, studying for 8 years in a variety of different degree programs, and was achieving success in my chosen field of violin performance. Nevertheless, eight years into my life, I decided to return. In retrospect, this was clearly the wrong decision, but it doesn’t change the fact that I needed to go back to Jordan and try to make a difference, as hopelessly naive as such an idea always is.
    You’re right in saying that the government doesn’t care, and that the bubble is required to defend one’s own “turf” (and I use the term in a metaphorical sense), while allowing it to be permeable enough to allow other people who genuinely want to help things develop as well. With that said, the gains are too small, and to my mind the system is too flawed for anything to properly happen. And no, it’s not just the system, it’s the people themselves, and not just the older people or people of our generation, but kids too. There is simply no interest in doing things properly.
    I realize the concept of “properly” probably irks many people. After all, who is the purveyor of what is “proper”? In the context of my work, however, there is definitely a proper way of doing things (classical music education and classical music performance has been around for hundreds of years, so things have been somewhat formalized), and yet in Jordan there is no interest in doing things properly. Instead it is all about the “appearance of accomplishment”, with no actual substance. It’s all a souffle, and a particularly lousy one at that.
    I firmly believe that there will be no gradual change in this country. Any change otherwise will only be on the surface and won’t have any meaningful impact on the nation. It is either a complete sweep or nothing at all. My not-even-worth-a-piaster thought…

  • I think the entire population is living in a kind of permanent cultural, mental and itellectual adolescence

  • People have been bubble wrapping themselves and bubbles have been intersecting for decades in Jordan (and in other places), to get on with things, to be able to deliver on remarkable, and to shelter from obstacles. It’s inherent human nature.
    In turn, our government did exactly that too, bubble wrapped, disengaged, fell out of sync, and now tangled in layers of frustration towards figuring out a fix….and in turn gets someone like you to view the whole gov picture as hopeless (which in the current structure it in fact is). They first thought to bubble to get things done, then the oxygen stopped.
    Some public sector orgs/groups have bubbled themselves for the same reasons you’ve realized, and to be able to deliver on their vision and plans…some have succeeded in part, but there comes a time when they face a lot of scrutiny from those outside the bubble, slam against rough edges daily, inside the bubble structures didn’t evolve as needed, and some have reached a saturation limit where what was once a positive environment has become a challenge.
    Bubbles, while seemingly enablers, can equally warp reality & perception.
    Today some bubbles have become toxic, and they’re leaking. Where they intersect with others is resulting in a lethal concoction.
    That’s one of the reasons we are where we are today. Frustrated. Marginalized. Shocked. Disappointed. Hopeful. Wondering.
    What happens when your bubble pops?
    What happens when you fall out of the bubble?
    What happens when the bubble becomes too comfortable and people’s lizard brains start to take over?
    What happens to those who can’t enter your bubble, nor realize that a bubble of their own is their savior?
    That identity we’re trying to find will become harder and harder in a bubbly Jordan.
    If we are to truly break free from this choke-hold of an impasse we’re at today, we may be better off considering a bubble bursting conspiracy.
    If it’s a bubble way forward, I hope it is holey too.

  • You delved deeply into many difficult topics and did it so simply and clearly, can you write it in arabic? trust me there are many people out there that feel the same way you do, don’t bubble it

  • The Bubbles Economy

    I have read your post and felt, hopefully, the passion and intellectual drive that prompted you to give this honest yet sad view of the odd place we call home. It is an odd place, and I share your desire to change it and the hopelessness you and I and others find ourselves mired in. However, I rest the blame with our governance institutions and the people for the invention of bubbles.

    First let me start by asserting that it is the institution of government, our consecutive governments, and their unwritten policy of maintaining forever the status quo, which derailed reform and the progress of a people toward a unified social contract from which a powerful economy could have grown. This is an assertion that is evidenced by our march from there to nowhere, which is the here and now.

    After Black September, instead of unifying a people, we created categories that could easily marginalize the many. Family name was not enough in many official posts and the name of the clan became a requisite. The practice which emerged or re-emerged after 1970 became so entrenched in society; became a source of rent seeking—whereby one secured income and benefits based solely on the side of the divide from which he or she hailed.

    A society as such has to divide and shatter into fragments, especially if it is one that is in the early stage of development and being. Depending upon your tag, the divide asserted how and where you will receive livelihood. And not having removed over the years the demarcations from the governance mindset and our daily practices, we parceled out a society that through the years re-broke into clans, tribes, and regions.

    The surge of regionalism (not nationalism or patriotism) did not die in time but was sheltered and nourished; whether by design or an active historical chance, it grew stronger to blossom into ugly, bitter and sad realities. Regional, clan and tribal bubbles emerged.

    Discrimination, which is the basis for the collapse of the social contract that bounds a people into an identity, was nurture. Consequently, it grew and blossomed into a force that manifests today in challenges not only to the unity of a people but also a state. The latter could be substantiated by recent incidents where security forces had to ask for Atwa from clans through Jaha and other prescribes of pre state methods and approaches. The very device by which statehood was to be preserved after a brief, albeit painful, episode in the history of a nation became a challenge to the state that perpetuated thinking and behavior.

    Those that have for long endured or enjoyed the state learned to survive it. Their decision could only be described as rational and emerging from self interest and not a patriotic one. It is said that discrimination survives as long as a group benefits from it; the group will muster all it can to safeguard the chick that laid the golden egg.
    The other group found refuge and relative success elsewhere. The oil rich Gulf became the group’s golden egg. Those that remained within had to associate with the bubble and prove on daily basis that they are similar not different; that they are loyal and true; that they descended from grandparents who were here so long ago; that they were more loyal and fierce in their defense of the domestic chicken than the rest.

    As long as funds flowed from outside and the groups remained small in their collective, the beneficiaries could find refuge in government employment and benefits, and the disenfranchised found solace in the oil rich states where they were allowed as serf labor to work and earn but never, except for the lucky few, gain citizenship status and even then they were considered second class citizens—but why not, they never had it any different.

    The schism was encouraged, as I said earlier, and I don’t think that there was a grand scheme; simple myopia and the desire to maintain the status quo were enough. Growing the wealth of the nation had to mature also along these divides; yet development and with it the wealth of the nation do not emerge form a parceled people but the unity of most. Look at the war to unify the states in the US; the fierce civil war that had to emerge to give birth to a great nation.

    The small market of Jordan that was once a melting pot for all traders and producers, who in their celebration of their variety and respect for the other could have grown a nation as wealthy and developed as any, became even smaller and regressed into relative backwardness. The Jordan that boasted of the best medical doctors is no longer the regional leader. The country that was ahead of Egypt in terms of per capita income is now behind it. The land that grew most of its grains now produces no more than 8 days worth of its needs. It is also the third poorest in the world in terms of water availability. Its GDP per capita is only higher than those of Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and Somalia.

    Jordan, as a result of this inaptitude to remove the bubbles, began to divide more and more and become even more tightly controlled as bubbles sought to protect themselves from the other. Yet, the very concept of bubbles must have emerged from larger bubbles and comfort zones. “I will only trust; deal with; hire; or work for those that are from within my bubble”, must have been the model so callously introduced, and it came from the top down. It had to; otherwise why hasn’t it been nipped in the bud so early on and as soon as it became apparently unnecessary.

    Bubbles are the very lazy approach or path we must all avoid. Comfortable as they are, bubbles, whether social or political, create ignorance of the other and consequently fear, distrust and a breakdown in our fabric. And the status quo is evidently not working!

    Yet there is an inherent laziness toward changing the state of play. This lethargy, which ahs cascaded down and emerged from a larger set of bubbles, has become inherent and easier to live with as long as remittances and foreign aid came. As long as were stuck somewhere in the middle, there was no danger and, thus no need for reform. We were only awakened when shocks occurred to suddenly jerk us into realizing our vulnerability as a people and a state.

    Reform was, as a result, to occur only in jolts. In 1989 we had to reform as the pie was dangerously shrinking and the very beneficiaries found themselves suddenly in the cold with a bankrupt state whose funds could last for only a few days. Reform was not started in 1989 though; as soon as funds were received from the IMF to ameliorate upon the worthlessness of the situation, reform was shunned. It wasn’t until 1991 when half a million or 300,000 Jordanians returned (official count is still not out) and the Gulf became for all practical purposes no longer the available safety valve that the reforms were to seriously start. This second shock brought with it reforms, semblance of democracy and a quick shedding of government assets in so many corporations. Funds that came with the returnees brought years of unparallel growth, yet even then, the government spent more, hired more and started to accumulate the seeds for another crisi; yes, even as we embarked on the so called reforms we never departed from the formula of hiring from within this or that bubble.

    The reforms, needless to say, were not effective and a new surge started in 1996 when after signing the peace treaty the government realized that the funds had gone into real estate and greater consumption. No jobs were created; and how could the government create more jobs when the model it operated under decades was to create jobs within government not in the private sector—which was possibly still not to be trusted. Until today, the government invites only those from the private sector that it considers loyal and can sign upon whatever it dictates.

    During 2004-2007, the government could not listen to any call for reform because the country was doing well or so every one had thought. But it really wasn’t. As the economy grew, unemployment also grew and the divided people became even more divided. The government, used to operating within a tight bubble, was not to listen to anyone from outside the bubble. Marginalization is easy in Jordan; all one has to do is to earn a tag and she is suddenly out of the loop or bubble. It is a stamp of intellectual/social/economic/political death.

    Have we not grown a culture of bubbles? I think we have; and I think it is a lazy approach to matters. Comfort never creates greatness; it should be aspired for but wrought through a path of hard labor and work.

    Note that the talk about reform only emerged after 2009 when the economy dipped into a dangerous level of low growth. Again, we were awakened by shock not by a vision or desire to forge ahead our path into a great small nation.

    And again, to listen to the voices of our unemployed and impoverished youth (the other, a bubble), we had to have a massive Arab awakening. But, trained in and drenched with years of servitude to laziness, we quickly returned into our individual bubbles. We became afraid of what the voices will ask for. The other bubble is not my bubble and it has different demands. The trick worked and we returned and so did the government into the status quo.

    So yes, bubbles are comfortable and I may be in one of those as are many people I know. Yes, we find in them comfort and a means of survival but what a low quality present and future we have created not only for ourselves but for the generations that will follow. It is a preponderance of a status quo that will usher even greater oblivion and backwardness to a country we have come to call home.

  • I have followed your blogs for some time but (surviving Jordan) is the only piece that compelled me to comment and write to you. I think like myself there are many Jordanians who felt moved by your view that in order to prserve one”s “sanity” in order to exist in Jordan,sometimes one finds themselves compelled to do so through remaning confined in their own “bubble” as you put it……..I am one who has done that too and quite often most people do not understand that many find themselves forced to do so because they have tried their utter best to be understood as individuals rather than people who come labeled underfamily names,ethnicity,religion even attire!
    However through the struggle to understand one s own country and one s own identity in it (,which I agree can lead you down the road of utter cynicism as well as ” nausea” towards the social and poltical reality we find ourselves living in, I have found through my personal journey of trying to figure out my own country and how I can be of any meaning in it…ive realized that ive had to come out of my bubbble to do that ,and in doing so i have realized that there is so much that is original as well as noble in both our country and many of us Jordanians….. the trick perhaps is to really have the will to want to see through our own fear and expectation of the worst…….I have seen good citzenship and true nationalism that doesnt just invovle manic flag waving and over passionate nationalistic songs blasting from car windows and over dramatic slightly ridiculous demonstrations of so called loyalty to king and country…….I have seen love and dedication to protect our national interests ,I have seen love and loyalty offered by people from simple backgrounds who expect nothing in return except that their GOOD citzenship and loyaly be recoginized to actually exist………..I respect and totally understand your view that if you want to contribute something for Jordan you must need to live in a bubble but perhaps I agree with it more in terms of presevation of your own individualism and privacy…..but in terms of contributing towards advancing Jordan both in social and political terms I think the only way is to be courageus about your views and what you truly believe ,without infinging on the rights of others… you say maybe this kind of change is beginning to happen although accidently…its beginning and we must try however hard to contribute towards evolving it in the right and more importantly most transparent way……..good job…..

  • Bubbles are not mechanisms for getting through the day, although I too wish they were. They are templates. They force us to repeat the same old tactics and the same old deficiencies, but they invent a new language to hide it. So for example, you get preoccupied with making sure the bubble is “inclusive” and “diverse”. Get a few people to represent the “marginal” or, worse yet (to me), this notion of recruiting people who represent “the people”. If you get enough people you tick enough boxes and suddenly, your bubble is different! They recruit, expand, find resources, set goals, tick boxes, and call themselves a success (they “work” as you put it). It gets better, not only are they a success, but they are a success in spite of very “unfavorable conditions” that are out to burst them, literally.

    The thing is, just because there is diversity in boxes, doesn’t mean the discourse is new. It is not people who are marginalized, but voices, critical voices. But sharp edges burst bubbles (so they are left out, shhh).

    That is my first issue with the bubbles template: that by faking the “liberalism of naming” (community, inclusivity, empowerment), it completely masks what it does to critical discourse: pretty much annihilates it. I know you discuss bubbles as means of surviving, but that is precisely why bubbles are so welcoming. They feel warm. They promise you they work. They invite you to “see” the “effect”. This is exactly what is at stake, the “effect”. A quantifiable, measurable “change” that happens by organizing yourself and the community around you in a bubble. It is your salvation, and that of your society too.

    So this barricade is created from which you seek to “change” something. Let us not be grandiose and say that this is about a small change in a small neighborhood, ie. change within the bubble, because change in the “big” state is hopeless (as you yourself feel at this point in time). Let us say use rubbish sorting/ recycling as an example. We start telling people that the resources and the solutions to their problems exist amongst themselves. We ignore the fact that while communities have resources, their issues are inherently political. We can get a group of people around us to change their rubbish sorting habits, and yes the capacity to do so resides within the community itself and that is a positive attitudinal change. We give them a measurable change on which to examine that, and in a year we say, “see, you changed it, you are all better now”. Job done. But this is not progress. Are the community immune to the effects of living close to a nuclear plant because they changed their rubbish sorting habits?

    What I am trying to say is that bubbles are not just escapist mechanisms, they become a particular way of looking at the world, and from there, of “doing” change. They compartmentalize issues. They introduce solutions as completely apolitical. They give people the responsibility of their resources (yes they have that) but also of the solutions. They ignore the ways in which the personal is deeply implicated in the political (and vice versa).

    This is my second issue with bubbles. While focusing on how successful working in “bubbles” and how “effective” it can be, it gives you a success story to make you feel better. We all need success stories so why not? Well, because they backfire. When, in five/ten years time, the health consequences of living close to a nuclear station start to bear effect, it will not matter whether the neighborhood sorted out their rubbish or not. Not only so, but the residents of the neighborhood will feel more helpless than ever after feeling that what they thought was “change” turned out to be a façade. They will be more demotivated than ever before, and are unlikely to commit to a new attitudinal change, no matter how minor, in the future.

    This has happened with the packaged “empowerment” initiatives (which have backfired severely yet gender issues continue to be compartmentalised and dealt with as “women’s issues”) and it has happened with political participation.

    I have more issues with bubbles and all kinds of political theory templates that sustain and nourish it as a way of doing something. I have particular issue with the idea that bubbles “work” because measuring how much something is “working” is relative and depends on what one overlooks and sacrifices. And so I have a particular issue, and here I mean issue as pain not problem, that this is coming from you in particular.

    I can’t remember how I started following your blog or when. But I have been an avid reader and participator for years. It didn’t start because I agreed with you, and I still don’t. But the Black-Iris was always a counter-sphere, never a bubble, and there is a crucial difference there. Within a bubble, people have to more or less agree, if not on belief, then on the measurable outcome. It means that only people who think the same (and ‘acceptably’ because bubbles don’t like edges) can take part (especially welcome if these people think the same but “represent” difference). In a counter sphere, unlike a bubble, diversity isn’t measured by people labels but by ideas. It is a space that can not be reproduced as a template, because it is always historically contingent. And while counter spheres can not measure change (because they have no previously verified “aim” they want to use as verification that they “work”) , counter spheres are spaces of transformation.

    Sometimes I read some of my comments on your blog posts from three and four years ago and I am deeply embarrassed by the opinion I used to hold and aggressively argue for. I can’t speak on your behalf, but it seems to me your own views transformed quite a bit too? We didn’t meet then, we don’t meet now, that is precisely the point. Thank heavens for the Black-Iris, for the space, for the negotiation, for the contestation, that allowed me to become more of who I am (who turns out to be totally different). And that is just me, one reader, not even the owner of the blog.

    I will not call the Black-Iris your “legacy” because that is a loaded word and because I am sure your best is yet to come. But I hope you realize that, without realizing, you have created something infinitely more than a bubble. It is what a bubble will never see (bad templates are blind to their own deficiency) but your counter sphere, your creation, is exactly the kind of space we need. Not because it “works” (we can leave that to the bubbles), but because it is needed, it is crucial and it is the ethical way to be political. To live.

    Your own creation is infinitely more nuanced than the creations and templates being delivered to you as a “way out”, and for that, you will always have my uttermost respect. Maybe you are too humble to see it, I don’t know, so just to make sure it was clear the post had to be this long and not a word shorter…. :p

  • Too much talking is going on…waste of time! anyone can have his own bubble, that’s a private matter – no need to over – share. Or is this what blogs are about ?

  • I don’t get a chance to read your blog all the time, but every now and then when I get a few minutes to myself I read on :). Every single line I read in this blog, my reaction was yes, I agree, yes absolutely, and I feel the same way. You have put into words what I have been feeling for many years and what I failed to put into words to my family and friends in Jordan. I have one comment to add, the person (Bubbly I believe was the name) objecting in so many words, and reminding us of people shedding blood. Let me just add that to fight for change sometimes blood is shed but more often than not, a fight that’s even worse goes on with society. I am not by any mean undermining what is going on in the Arab world now, I am simply stating that our fights are different. Our fight in Jordan, if there was to EVER be one, will take years of changing mentality, and that ONLY at that point will the fight of asking more of the gov will come. Not sure you know what an undertake that is, or how many years to come that battle will continue. But I know for a fact that simply because we agree that waiving the Jordanian flag All the time, and blasting 3omar el 3abdallat in your car and at every personal or national occasion does not make you a patriot, I don’t believe that we are “bubbly”.

  • Every now and then you reach to this point where you sit down, hug your laptop, and write from the bottom of your heart. When you finish and you look at what you have just written, it looks so grim that you want to pack your bags and leave the country, or if you are already abroad, just dig out your passport and burn it!… it gets better in a couple of hours or days and you just forget about it. The thing is, in the past couple of years it seems that these occurrences are happening with much more frequency than before. Instead of once a year, it’s once a month, once a week, once a day… and then every single time you hear the word Jordan. It is grim, really.

    I agree with Naseem. 100%. I think the bubble he is talking about, among other things, protects you from all the poisonous atmosphere out helps you protect your mind from all the crap that is floating around you, but I would take it all and blame it on what Firas Khleifat said in his comment, WE DON”T HAVE AN IDENTITY! We mask it. We make fun of it. We don’t even like what looks like a Jordanian identity at times.

    Firas spoke about accents, food, songs and other stuff. It’s all true. We are importing everything as if we don’t have anything of our own. I remember a time when there were shows like Al Elmu Noor, and Nabil and Hisham, where our differences were celebrated and emphasized. In a good way. People were comfortable hearing the Nabulsi, Khalili, Karaki, Qudsi, Ma’ani accents. People enjoyed the stereotypes. However, it wasn’t there to break us up. It actually brought us together because it celebrated our differences, and told us in one way or another that being different is GOOD.

    Our songs are rendered to Military marches music, and stories about shooting guns and killing enemies and scaring the shit out of the other even in weddings! The rest is imported. We call our food Lebanese, to make it sound better. I live in Dubai, and in all honesty this is one of the most annoying things I have to endure every single day. We have managed to dilute our identity. If you watch Jordanian TV series now you hear an accent that you never experienced in real life!! Seriously, who speaks like that?!?! It was carefully structured for you to lose any trace of its origin. A mutation built to make you feel, deep inside, ashamed of who you are.

    But you know what pissed me more than anything else? We think we are better than others! We believe we are better than Indians, Chinese, Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis, Khalijis, Filipinos. We believe that we are too good for anyone. We look down on them. How foolish. While the Egyptian revolution was going on a Jordanian friend of mine said this is not going to work, and he will not step down! I asked him why, his answer was “Egyptians are not like us, they are not hot-blooded!”. Come to think of it, it’s true. They don’t kill a daughter or a sister if she did something “immoral”, they don’t curse each other night and day if they were cut in traffic. They don’t stare at each other and then pick up a fight out of nothing… That’s how hot-blooded we are, and that is what we think of others.

    Unless a day comes where we respect ourselves and realize that we have much to learn, where we respect others for who they are and appreciate their contribution to humanity, we will always be stuck in second gear. Faceless, with no personality or impact.

  • Ehab, I could not agree more. I live abroad, and when I tune into a so called “Jordanian” station on line, I never EVER hear a Jordanian accent, not even through commercials that are supposedly made to reach Jordanian audience. The only reason I love listening to Mohamed el Wakel is not his views, nor it is his affect; it is in fact his accent. My friends actually make fun of me when I go home to visit, as I have not adapted a new accent. Ba3adni defshe as they say, especially for a female. I wish we would cling to the things that made us US. I was so aggravated with this one day that I actually asked my friends on FB. Why do you do it? When you’re not married to a Lebanese, your mom is from madaba and your dad is from Karak, how do you speak with a Lebanese accent? One of them answered, why are you pissed? It’s the style now a day. So giving up part of your national identity now is ok, because it makes you “in”. Could the idea be any more sickening? And then again, an engagement or a wedding party goes on, and everyone is blasting that same old new song about us, great Jordanian. Where the hell did we go wrong? Now if you have a whole class of young citizens who see nothing wrong with following whatever is in the market these days, even if that means giving up identity, how the hell are we going to move forward? How are we going to change anything? The mentality is just not there for the majority of that class, which leaves those who want to change looking like traitors. I truly wish I can gather the courage to move back, and deal with everything the society puts you through, not to mention expose my child to it all. I however for now, just can’t seem to digest the idea. I must say though, this blog and reading that people share my feelings gives me a glimpse

  • this is the first time I check your blog, and I couldn’t agree more, will probably do a lot of digging in your articles.

    I live in a a bubble as well and try to minimize my social interaction since I came back here and I even don’t go to many places in Amman to avoid the groping and harassment that you have to put up when going to a shopping mall, bank, hotel… all of them have security guards that for all I know could be gay perverts!!

    I don’t understand how people accept being touched and groped so willingly and passing over a dozen times everyday through metal detectors. can you please consider writing an article about it. I think you are optimistic about Jordan I am almost certain we are headed to the same destination as syria, libia and iraq. these security guards who have a right to harrass everyone are a good indication and I am preparing to make sure that I will be ready at any moment to leave Jordan when ever all hell beaks out.

  • Wow, did I miss a treasure in missing this. Echoing all, and the insights of great comments posted. Bubbles are tools for survival. When bubbles touch, they generally merge into one. Or pop.

  • For the 1st time -may be!- I`m going to comment here w/o reading any of the comments or even skimming thru them,
    I don`t know nas, but ===> don`t we all is the thought/line that keeps coming in/out!

    I think that being in a bubble of “I shall change myself/mind my own bus. and also the very tight close circle around me” is the dominating one for most!

  • I hope I never become like this. The article is well written and emotional, albeit grossly generalized.

    The bubble you speak of exists for everyone. All religious folk live in a bubble, believing the absurd shit it contains, because it gives inner sanctuary from all the bad things that happen outside it. Plato’s allegory of the cave exemplifies this.

    Losing hope is never the answer. Escape the cave and try to correct everything you deem wrong. Only few have the power to do this, and everyone chooses whether or not to be one of those elite few.

  • Dear blogger

    I’m really proud of u! it is the realty, and as u’ve said we have to live in some bubble to keep ourselves sane,, and I think most of the Arab countries now are attacking their peoples’ sanity..
    any way,, keep the bubble, but keep optimistic for your sake, when u take care of your self u’ll be able to do something to less fortunate people,,
    and keep faith

    God bless u

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