Photo by Ibrahim Oweis (edited). Source. License: CC Att-SA 2.0
As the end of my extended winter vacation approaches, the stay back home has come to a (temporary) end. I’ll be on a 15 hour trip to get me to my “third home” in Boston, Massachusetts (we have always been taught “المدرسة بيتك الثاني”, meaning “school is your second home”) in anticipation of another lovely semester at MIT! Though it is probably juvenile to ‘say goodbye’ before spending a short time apart from home, I have garnered a few observations and articulated my timeless feelings and attitudes towards Jordan, and why such feelings and attitudes (positively) inhibit me to begin with. So here we go…
I live in a country whose borders were arbitrarily drawn by Gertrude Bell, so carelessly that a misalignment in transparent paper didn’t seem to bother her one bit. A country low on natural resources, that the late King Hussein’s quote “الإنسان أغلى ما نملك” (meaning “mankind is our greatest asset”) is used jokingly to reference the lack of oil, water, and arable land. A country with a nonexistent independent historic cultural identity, and a nascent national identity.
Yet, not an inch of Jordan exists that I cannot but absolutely adore. More importantly, however, are the people whose culture and identity astound me enough to understand this “haunting beauty” the late king refers to. This culture and identity whose presence I am in awe of, is the same one that began to formulate a mere 64 years ago. What I like about our magnificent ‘national identity’, that I’d rather call a cultural identity, is how it acknowledges and cherishes the fact that it is indeed nascent; an identity summed by the thought that we, “the Jordanian people”, whether Bedouins, old locals, Circassians, Chechens, Palestinian refugees, Iraqi refugees, and others have come together to build something good out of… well, not much. It is an identity of hospitality, generosity, but most importantly, fraternity and cooperation of people united by sharing a common vision of seeking improvement.
It is hard for many living in Jordan to appreciate or even realize the goodness I feel. Indeed, we have problems of our own; we are no beacon of human rights, social norms can be disappointing, and a real influential and internal political party is yet to be seen.
Criticizing the wrong we have in Jordan is the only way to improve; and writing about what is missing is the best way to inspire future leaders to step up and fix things, again, to do something good in an area that was previously lacking. My only message is that such criticism, however harsh it may be, remains to be done in a light where the criticizer realizes that things aren’t necessarily static, and change is very well possible.
It is the duty of a critical thinker to point what is wrong, but it gets to a point where criticism is done in an atmosphere of negativity, a negativity that might convince the thinker and the reader that an effort to improve isn’t worth it… and that’s when the thinker needs to stop and think things through.
I mean hey, we just fixed our tax laws! We’re working on great energy improvements. We’ve made great progress on economical reform. And human rights, like it or not, have improved drastically over the past 20 years. Change is being done, and that’s a positive thought one should keep in mind. Never mistake my sentences as trying to impose satisfaction on whatever we already have; I’d like to remind you that change has happened in the past, and it can happen in the present and future if we work for it. Some things are easier than others, but it’ll work.
/end emotional insights