Jordan’s Revolution: is the unnecessary inevitable?

I have always believed that the Jordanian regime — here meaning the king, and the king alone — is genuine in its hopes for reform, and is capable of achieving a slow but solid transformation to a reformed democratic state. My thoughts on this haven’t changed.

But I am beginning to have concerns that all of that might be futile and altogether irrelevant, given the current conditions on the ground.

Since the political process is an interplay between the rulers and the populous, a failure of either party to participate is a failure of the system.

My thesis is simple: is a significant segment of the Jordanian populous cynical enough that it no longer has the patience nor the will to positively respond to gradual political reforms? To me, it seems plausible.

We have been hearing of many reformist and opposition parties declare their boycott of the coming elections under the new (and slightly improved) election law. The big one here is the Islamic Action front, the political branch of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, who seemingly defacated on Gandhi’s saying “be the change you want to see in the world” (excuse the language), and instead opted to not work towards reform, instead only participate in governance once an already-reformed Jordan is handed to them on a silver plate.

The truth is, no election law can produce a respectable, representative parliament if people and parties boycott the elections. I also feel that no election law can be produced under the current conditions to yield a different result.

The current system is capable of producing a solid, straight path to a reformed state, some few years from now. The fuel that would allow us to move along that path is popular participation. We need people to vote and participate in each iteration of the political system, which will each, in turn, spur out a new system that is marginally better.

Or not. Another option would be an abrupt jump towards reform. An abrupt jump is another word for “top-down reform”, reform that is initiated and executed by those who are in control of the system and imposed on the populous (willingly or unwillingly). “Those in control” here would be either the king, or some revolutionary authority.

I have always observed that we are a very cynical people, in our part of the world, and we are not getting any less cynical in this year-long Spring.

Are we cynical enough that the first option is no longer on the table — that slow, controlled, iterated, and organic reform is no longer viable? Are we only left with the second option on the table?

Embarassing Failure from Ammon?

This must be a joke, but it might not be. A few hours ago, Ammon News published this article on their front page:
http://www.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleno=120314

It claims that a British model, Katie Price Jordan, is suing Jordan, the country, for a billion dollars, for using her name, even though she is more notable. Funny story. But also false. The article initially appeared in satirical online article “the spoof” in 2009 (http://www.thespoof.com/news/spoof.cfm?headline=s3i60018), and then appeared in the Pan Arabian Inquirer under the “SATIRE” section on May 11 2012 ((http://www.panarabiaenquirer.com/wordpress/katie-price-to-sue-hashemite-kingdom-of-jordan/). There is no instance of the story anywhere else that I could find.

How can I believe any article published by Ammon about Jordan’s nuclear plans or political reform, if they are incapable of verifying the correctness of an article as straightforward as this one. An article that 21-year-old-me managed to prove wrong in less than an hour, while procrastinating between essay writing and finals studying.

I hope this is an April fool’s joke, a month and a half late.

Jordan in Numbers

In Jordan, hard facts are not commonly used, unfortunately. As I described at an earlier post, Jordan has a big social problem of bigotry and over-confidence is politics.  Many statements are given about the deteriorating status of living, which is true and sad in many cases, but are often expanded and generalized to say that nothing good has come out of the establishment. This is not true. Jordan has real problems: We have political problems, from the external climate of the Middle East, to internal marginalization. We have social problems, and problems in education, and problems in corruption, and a poor economic situation, etc. But things are getting better, and to say that the establishment has not done anything would be an injustice.

This is not to say that all is well: we are a long way to go, and we should obviously demand more from the establishment. We should also demand less marginalization, and to be included in the process. But to fool ourselves and say that we are living in a system where the Establishment is trying to keep is weak and poor would be an unjust, unfounded, and disheartening act.

This is a look at the last ten years King Abdullah II’s reign as the Kingdom’s head of state.

Can some of these developments be associated to the potential positive sum nature of the world, technology, etc.? Yes. But take a look at the data, collected from a number of sources, and decide for yourself if it shows the possibility of a benign, well-intentioned establishment.

Information is taken from the CIA Factbook (referenced CIA for short), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Ministry of Finance of Jordan (MOF). Currencies are either in dollar ($ / USD), or in Jordanian Dinars (JD / JOD), and are indicated.

Nor all numbers are necessarily useful; GDP for instance is often criticized for not being a good metric of a country’s economic situation. Keep this in mind while viewing.

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According to Abdullah II’s book, Jordan exports to the US shot up from “virually nothing to $18 million in 1998”. Under Abdullah’s negotiations, this number rose to $1 billion in 2009.

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Debt as a percentage of the GDP continues to drop. After it reached below 60% of the GDP around 2008, a new policy was adopted that indicated that public debt shall never go above 60%. Initial reports indicate that we are about to hit that mark now, a very concerning sign. But people forget we are in a global recession; things are indeed very concerning, but some people assume that the establishment has worsened our situation. Looking back at 2002, where public debts’ percentage of the GDP was in the high 90s, it puts things in perspective.

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Public and External debts in Jordan shown as an absolute number in JOD. These numbers are contemporary and not adjusted for inflation. As such, if adjusted for inflation, one would probably see a more level Public Debt graph up to 2011, and slowly declining external debts.

 

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Continue reading “Jordan in Numbers”

Let Me Speak My Mind: a Trend of Political Bigotry in Jordan?

I have not written anything in this blog in a long time. I have tried to start writing many times, but I never could finish. I have been, for the past few months, increasingly frustrated with the stiuation in Jordan; while the government is doing some right moves, politically, I became largely frustrated with the wave of bigotry that has swept our society off its feet. Bigotry in politics is almost deeply enthralled in the hearts and minds of many Jordanians, across classes, political views, roles, and perspectives.

Pro-Government protesters are bigoted against Pro-Reform protesters, considering them unthankful, unpatriotic “scum”.

Pro-Reform protesters are themselves bigoted against Pro-Government protesters, thinking they are government-funded thugs who want ot beat them.

Pro-Government media is bigoted agaisnt many political movements, consdiering them outside-fundedp lots against our security.

Anti-Government media is even more bigoted: against the government, police, and their supporters. Every policy is an evil plot, every anti-Government journalist is a hero, every incident is an attack, every violence is targetting thme, and every politician is corrupt.

Events are blown out of proportion at times, and are silenced at others. Every Jordanian reads the news they agree with, and stop: never the opposite perspectives. Our opponents’ political view does not exist. Our opponents’ perspectives are always unfounded. Our rivals are always bigoted, nonsensical, idiots, and fools–never us.

We need a national dialogue, yet all we do is push each other around. Videos of our protests are sad scenes of people yelling at people, fighting with others, and never listening. Never mind that some are reporters and other are policemen, neverm ind that some are politicians and others are activists, all act the same: Like the stereotypical impulsive man, violent, angry, bigoted, and never listens.

I try to go both ways, sometimes criticize the government, and at others support it, depending on what I think (though recently I admit I am doing more support than criticize, but I’m convinced I’m still rational about it). Yet, whenever I criticize, or express the need for a reform, I am called naive by some, and anti-Jordanian by others. And when I express that I don’t think the government was wrong in X, or that the government is doing the right thing in Y, I am either uneducated or have some sort of interest.

After debates with some, I often hear that people are surprised how there is someone smart who thinks differently. So let me be very clear:

People subscribe to all sorts of thoughts, beliefs, and views. Some views might be better than others, but all are debatable. Nothing is obviously true, and very little is obviously false. Most of those who subscribe to views possess a well-thought, legitimate reason, and many philosophical arguments, that lead them to possess a view. No view, belief, or side is exclusively more intelligent or just. My view can still be better than yours, and I will continue to defend it with confidence, but never condescension.

Political reform is essential, but the society must also rise up. We need a new atmosphere where one is not ridiculed for speaking his mind.

Journalism and Editorialism are Still Lacking…

I added this comment on a recent article by Basil Rafai’a that appeared on Ammonnews here:

مقالة ركيكة بعيدة عن المنطق، مع الأسف.

لا نستطيع أن نوصف الموقف بالمثير للشبهة إذا قال ناطق “ما حدث” بدل “زعرنة”، فعلى الناطق الرسمي للأمن العام أن يتكلم بحيادية وقد قام بذلك. لا يجب علينا أن نطالب ناطق باسم الأمن العام بأن يستخدم مصطلحات منحازة كمصطلحاتنا.

وعلى كل حال، توجد صور، ولكن الصور غير كافية. المرتكبون “مجهولين” حتى تعرف اسماؤهم ومواقعهم ويتم القبض عليهم.

أرجو أن يقوم رئيس التحرير بتدقيق أكثر جودة في المرات القادمة.

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