I don't normally like to post twice in a day, but this is a really interesting debate about Jordan's political system. The speakers debate the monarchy, freedom, and Al-Jazeera's newest focus: reform vs. revolution. It's intriguing to watch, especially having been here among the people themselves. The monarchy here is well established and seem to be rather endeared to the Jordanian people. Pictures of the royal family are hung in every restaurant, posted on the sides of buildings, the King's picture is often seen taped inside taxi windows and countless cars tout crown stickers on the back. At the same time, while most are not anti-monarchical, Jordanians want deep reform. They want the monarchy to institute reforms, and if King Abdullah were to implement more democratic policies, the monarchy could possibly secure itself a future. And yet, public demand is weak; while there have been demonstrations for the past 18 months, they've been relatively sporadic and public involvement is lacking.
It's intriguing to watch this and listen to these highly-educated, high-profile people discuss these issues. With that in mind, I love being able to go out on the street and talk to the taxi drivers, the doctors in the clinics, the restaurant workers, and our neighbors in our apartment. In the five weeks living here in Amman, the capital city, I haven't felt or seen the "ethnic tension" so widely described by the media. In fact, the people are most concerned and upset about tighter water rationing than anything else. 1000 syrian "guests" arrived in Amman two days ago, and we continue to accept more every day. The kingdom is allocating services to them - electricity, water, medical care - and the Jordanian citizens are feeling neglected. If there's any tension, it's over these basic services....or at least, that's what we've observed.
The situation is complex and multi-facited. There are many perspectives, many demands, many voices wanting to be heard from a multitude of ethnicities, demographics, and religions. I'm not a journalist and I'm not here to investigate, but having lived among and worked with both Palestinians and Jordanians these past few weeks, I haven't felt tension to the extent the news is claiming. I don't discredit or doubt the words of the people at the table. I want to explore what they say more and research the subtleties of the situation. Yet I believe, as in many situations, you cannot apply blanket statements - especially to Jordan; a patchwork country of so many different kinds of people.
This may be naive and simply because I've been fairly protected here, but again and again, the Jordanians present themselves as hopeful. The people I talk to speak of freedom, of possibilities, of trying to work make a better life for themselves and their families. They're optimistic. It's an interesting dichotomy: listening to the educated elites who describe political/ethnic tension and the need for reform, and the every-day, mostly poor, people who love to smile and want to survive.
I find the difference between what you hear and what you see fascinating. I think it's all true. I want to know more. I don't want to leave.