We never think twice about throwing out stuff, or do we? Last night I was walking home and I saw a man meticulously going through the garbage dumpster in the street. He was taking every bag out, opening it and riffling through. Looking back at the scene all I could see was a man bending down over a bag with lots and lots of other opened bags around him. I got to thinking about this man, his life, his occupation. I didn’t get far before getting sad.


What I saw got me thinking about my trash bags and what I throw out. Its stuff I wouldn’t want to go through again, yet here is this man who is not just going through my bags but the whole neighborhoods bags. I wonder what he is looking for? Clothing that can still be worn, household goods that can be salvaged, old perfume bottles that can be refilled, recyclable materials? Probably all that and then some. What does he do with them? Is there a parallel world of garbage collectors that buy all this junk, polish it off and reuse it? Probably! They may even resell it back to us!


Thinking back to the scene from last night, one other thought struck me. He is working late and into the middle of the night. I know it’s not because of the midday heat, even though that could be part of it. But I have a strong feeling it is because he is ashamed of what he does. He doesn’t not want to be seen in broad daylight rummaging through other people’s trash!


It is a sad existence, like a parasites, living off of others in such a dirty way. But this is what the existence chain is like. The weak feed off of the strong. I do not pity him because that implies arrogance. I am a privileged person knowing that I do not have to live off of other people’s discarded trash, but I do empathize with him. I know I will give more thought to how and what I toss out in future so that his pickings may be easier.  

The prices have gone up. We are all feeling the crunch. I noticed it immediately with the commute to work and how my transportation costs went up by at least 15%. I also eat out a lot and the prices there have gone up by at least 20%. The electricity bill has sky rocketed because we can’t really afford to buy diesel anymore and if we do we use it frugally. I have yet to go grocery shopping but I fear the worst there. Will this stop or is there more to come? And I haven’t even spoken about surcharges or taxes.

A lot of my behavior is going to change in the coming months. Things I took for granted and spending without thought are behaviors of the past. Today, before I open my purse I think twice and thrice. But I am still very privileged. I can make these choices. What about the poor?

I have heard stories of shoes being stolen from mosques to burn as fuel. I have heard stories of child prostitution late at night. I have heard grumblings from all around. I have heard of farmers who have given up on their crops because they cant afford to water them anymore. The result? Everyone is trying to make an extra shilling from everyone. People are even complaining about a difference of three piasters now; The three piasters may not hold a lot of value, they sure do make a difference.

We are in a situation that will explode if the people are asked to give one more thing. There is nothing left for us but to sell our souls, and hike up our skirts if anything else goes up. AND IT WILL. Something’s gotta give and I don’t know what it is. I am not an economist, but whether it is to divorce the weakening dollar, increase wages and not marginally and insignificantly, and infuse the economy in a way that does not depend on handouts, something’s gotta give and soon.  I don’t want to see our skirts being hiked up in anyway.  

I’ve recently visited a couple of malls and more than one coffee chain, these are things I rarely do. On these visits I noticed that the staff manning most of the stores and cafes were Jordanians. This may be one of the few redeeming qualities these places have. The creation of all these jobs and the fact that the “lazy” Jordanian is filling them is heartwarming.

Seeing  our youth working at these blue collar jobs is heartening. I guess gone are the days  when rigid parents and spoilt children refused the concept of labor in service, retail and hospitality industries. This is a small but good step forward in building the  character of our youth, now becoming the majority of our population, and tomorrow’s leaders.

What’s interesting to note is that in Thursday’s (Feb 7) Jordan Times the lead story on the front page was about unemployment. We still boast a very high rate: 13.1%, however, it is down from 14% last year. A major step in the last six years according to the article. Now I am no economist but with the growing population rate and the number of employable people, what that means to me is that there were enough job opportunities created that exceeded the rate of growth  for job seekers. How much of this is related to the boom in malls and global chains? I don’t know. I just hope we can continue to create more employment opportunities in all sectors, and in white collar as well as blue collar jobs. Perhaps this will help boost our economy and our people before they both collapse under the pressure of rising prices and inflation.

I read a headline that one of our prestigious banks turned a billion dollar profit last year. And somehow that didn’t make me happy. This is a capitalist institution and its supposed to turn a profit but turning a billion dollar profit in a country where the poor are getting poorer. People can’t make ends meet. Their homes are cold and their bellies are empty and here you see a front page news item that one of their esteemed institutions has turned this huge a profit. 

Now a number of people may jump to the defense of this organization since it supports the arts and culture as well as has numerous charitable functions. But what they do is a tiny drop in the ocean of poverty here in Jordan. With this much in profits you’d think their contributions back into society would be much more. I truly think that the haves should give more back to society than the have nots and I am not talking about individuals but rather institutions and organizations. 

Corporate social responsibility is something that such large corporate should invest in and invest in heavily. Jordan is going to start an economic era of need and desperation. When you have these two conflicting pieces of news side by side you can’t help but think what is wrong with this picture?!

I hope that I am wrong and that the organization in question and many others are investing heavily (not just tiny drops) back in the community and the country where it really counts.