7iber organized a debate last night that could fall under many categories, social media, activism Jordanian reform, and/or revolutions. They all intersect and because they do a lively discussion was had. Like in any debate you have the people who discuss the topic at hand, the ones that go off on tangents, the ones that bridge the ideas together and the ones that have no clue. Yet everyone had something to say.

 

I was surprised, and happily, with what was said. People discussed the influence of social media tools on organizing and everyone was aware and quickly moved on that these are tools. Yet some of the more poignant questions were: Is social media taking the debate to the next level? Is social media raising the ceiling for traditional media? And Is social media going to spark the next revolution?

 

But discussion that really interested me was one that was about Jordanian reform and political activism. I was pleasantly surprised to hear about political youth movements that have been active since 2006 and the political activity of Jordan in the 1950 and 1960 which had died down after 1967. It was amazing to hear about our first parliament and the political diversity and opposition movements in Jordan of that era, that spoke of anti- monarchy and elected government ideas and such; Ideas that are not new today and have been in our history for over 50 years.  It was bluntly said that 1967 had killed us, put us in a coma. One person went on to say that he grew up in the 80s and 90s with two central ideas Making Jordan a better place and the Palestinian Cause and the two just get so messed up in one’s head after a while.

 

So what happened, other than 1967 and the loss of Palestine? Where did all that political engagement go? Why do we not know about it? It’s right there in our history books and the media archives if we cared to look. Why didn’t we care to look? Speaking to a friend today  about what transpired in the debate, she said  “I was politically disengaged because it so disheartening and defeatist”.  That may capture how people were feeling , alongside many factors such as state propaganda, educational systems that fed us rote memorization and glorification or the system, the lack of political parties, the emergency/ martial law we lived under until the end of the 80s and other factors deaden us to political engagement. The few that did voice their opinions were marginalized and ignored by the media and so nobody really heard of them. Like the Youth groups that staged many a protest since 2006, or the hundreds of strikes and protests that took place just last year in Jordan.

 

But things have changed, and I think that change, that shift goes back to the Gaza Massacres. When Israel was razing Gaza, people mobilized and went out and voiced themselves. This was mostly in the form of humanitarian assistance, volunteerism and vigils and protests. But something clicked in the psyche of the people.  They felt they had a voice, and somewhere to pour their energies outside the shisha bars and cafes, away from television and computer screens.  A lot of what we did see in the past two years is social activism; People wanting and working on social change within their communities. A lot of initiatives old, new and newer became more visible as more and more people found them and engaged with them and thus with the various communities around the country and especially in the capital. And once again regional events have resonated and continue to resonate in Jordan.

 

The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have meant that the social has become political in the Jordanian context. It has sparked a different kind of debate and people have raised the ceiling and are talking about things that they would not have before without their eyes shifting and looking over their shoulders. I think the timing has a huge effect, now after two years of social activism and social work people know they have a voice, know they can make a difference, have seen people in action and are ready to go to the next level. This is where all the reform talk is coming from and this is where our energies need to be spent.

 

The #hashtag debates  are a great way to take the discussion offline and start bringing people who were invisible before into the discussion sphere and make us more aware. It is also time for more opposition voices and reform voices to come online and garner support to their demands online. The #hashtag is one of many things that need to happen.  I am optimistic about the process as we are talking and we are not afraid to speak and point the light at our issues and shortcomings and problems. We are crossing the first of our hurdles and that is the ostrich pose, our denial. What happens next is yet to be seen, and as always I am optimistic.

 

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OK so the US elections have concluded and Obama won. The sigh of relief has been heard all over the world with people expressing such joy at his election. I have seen this in emails, conversations, TV, blogs, even facebook statuses and just about every form of media that exists. Obama is being hailed as this messiah that will be the answer to the US’s and the world’s problems. I have not done the research; I have not followed the campaign; I am not into politics; but I will make a few observations from my end and what I see has penetrated my bubble. I know a lot won’t agree and I know a lot will call me cynical, jaded, pessimistic or what have you… but I am not jumping on the Obamarama band wagon.

I really don’t think that Obama is the “be all, end all” solution that the US is looking for. He is now part of a system where he does not have absolute power but answers to another: congress and the senate. At least that is my understanding of how the US works as a democracy. The people vote for a government not just a person. And so the rest of the vote is just as important as this one person. Who gets elected into government as a collective system is much more important that just its one representative. Which is why the results of more democrats in congress and the senate is more significant an indicator than just the Obama win.

This brings me to my next point, how much of this election was based on voting for one person or voting for all those issues on the ballots and for the seats in the house? This election was not just about voting in a president but also about congress, about laws, about issues in each state and making them or breaking them. The amount of work and the awareness that had to be raised for people to really mobilize and understand that they do make a difference is much more significant to me in so many ways. The amount of money it took to get people to go vote and make their voices heard it is phenomenal. That is how apathetic Americans are today, you need to spend millions and millions of dollars to get a person to move off their ass and into the voting booth. This may be a sweeping generalization but it looks like Americans who live in the epitome of democracy needed to be taught that their voices count, their opinions do effect change and that a democracy doesn’t work without the people!

I also wonder and would love to see any research or any polls as to how many people voted against McCain (or even Palin) rather than for Obama? The difference is not subtle and is in fact essential to understanding what happened in this election. Does the rhetoric work? Did the campaign of hope really create hope, a hope that the US desperately needs? Or are people just not wanting more of the same last eight years and so anything will do? Is America really ready for change or is this just their best choice?

I honestly think this is not an election of foreign policy or what Obama will do to or even for the world but rather on homeland issues right in the backyards of the American people. Looking at America today and the recession it is in and all the issues its people are dealing with and the topics that the candidates had take stands on there is no way this vote was in consideration of the rest of the world. It was only in consideration of The US and the cities, and States within it. Foreign policy may have been something that was considered but it was not the essence of the campaigns and so for the rest of the world to be hailing it as this massive celebration perplexes me!

I am not sure what the next four years hold. I don’t really see much change in how the US views itself and how it views its place with the rest of the world. There will be no change there I think and that means there will be no change in policy, just a delay of the inevitable. This change can only happen when the peoples of America truly learn to look outside their windows and not point out Russia, but visit it, study it, understand it and respect it!

Looking around me and seeing Americans chanting “yes we can” every chance they get, patting themselves on their back, and being smug and self congratulatory is grating on my nerves at this point. I smile and say mabrook (congratulations), but really people it took you long enough! It’s about time they took responsibility for who they put in office, it’s about time they paid attention, it’s about time they went out and voted. For a country that proposes to teach democracy education to the rest of the world their track record of bullying, waging war, human rights abuses, ignorance, and condescension to the rest of the world is no example to set. And my hope is that the slogan “yes we can” is one of responsibility and accountability not just to themselves but to the rest of the world, which is watching, and not the response of yet another bully in power!

I am not a pessimist by nature, I want to believe that this is the catalyst that will start to shift the world to a better place with more understanding, with more respect, with more exchange, with more listening; A place with less anger, less frustration, less bullying, less fighting. But I will wait and see. He is only now forming his team and so far does not signal change!