Oct 21, 2011

The Secret Theory

"When in doubt, kick the ball out". That was what I heard being shouted out at from the elderly retired in-need-of-a-shave man standing by the sidelines. This man was better known to us as the junior football team coach. I used to be quite a good little footballer, until I reached the grand old age of twelve. Better to retire whilst on top. Although my footballing career may have ended, if it had even begun is arguable, my skepticism was only just starting to flourish.

The word "energy" has been used in many ways, and has nowadays found itself thrown about rather often. Reminds me of that cheap plastic ball that I used to kick about the football field in my golden days. The word has even been escalated to become somewhat of a secret word, a conspiracy which has been hidden from the public for generations and has now been unveiled in the form of a book, not surprisingly titled: The Secret. And what is a book these days without a nice DVD to complete the package. One would think $30 (not including shipping) is a small price to pay for a truth that has evaded the radar of the majority of the human race for so many generations.

The theory as it goes, looks something like this:
The human body, just like everything else, consists of atoms. Atoms, in turn, are a bunch of sub-atomic particles comprised of energy. Science, in a nutshell.
Now for the fun part; humans have, and are, affected by two types of energy, positive and negative. Each of the two affects your life in a certain way. Surround yourself with positive energy and you become happy, negative and you become miserable. Not as scientific as the first part, I must say.

The picture should be a bit clearer by now. This is probably the most popular version of the theory at hand, although similar variations are on offer. Choose your own version, sit back, and make your own smile.

This may all seem poetic, a nice Saturday afternoon thought, or a motivation for those all so encouraging morning social media quotes, the rise and shine type which, I may add, get on a totally opposite start to the day than they intend to. But is there any truth to it, at all?

First of all, I'd like to take a look at the terminology. What is positive energy, or negative energy? And is there neutral energy? This terminology is purely incorrect. Energy is not charged. It has also been proposed that the polarity suggested is not that of an electric-like charge but a reflection on the effect this energy has on humans; if it makes you feel good it is positive, bad it's negative. That definition is plausible, on the surface of it, but it opens up yet another question and that is of the influence of energy on human feelings.

Here arises the need to differentiate between energy (be it positive or negative) and its effect on ones well-being. The fact that energy exists (in it's very different state than proposed) is not enough to assert that it affects the life of a living being in any way, and certainly not in means of will-power, telepathy or any other conveying contraption of luminous particles a vivid mind may conjure.

It is not a wonder why it would not seem sensible to plug in your home computer onto one of your less used body cavities in hope that your inner energy can power electric appliances. To do so would be committing to an assumption that the energy of the atoms of which your body consists can, somehow, spring into action and become an electric current, or electric "energy". Both are called energy. but they are not the same thing, not even remotely. More-so, if that were true then why wouldn't the atoms of the computer itself power the device? That would be an even bigger feat than the previous body-cavity trick indeed. The energy within the sub-atomic particles are bound by nuclear forces, and need a great deal more than wishful thinking to unbound them. Don't you think North Korea or Iran would have found out if there were any easier way? I think so.

The preposition that this energy that is withheld within an atom can be broadcasted  around the universe is, in itself, a damnation of the structure of the universe. Against the nature of the structure of the atom. If it were so, then the atomic structure itself would have to collapse, spelling a swift end to the universe as we know it. Seen as the universe is still functioning, evidently as you are reading this then it still is, then that can't be the case. This fallacious assumption put forward by advocates of this mystical theory is that it is not only true, but also wise to act upon. This in itself is a grave teaching indeed, and that is putting it mildly.

There does not exist any credible scientific research or study on the subject, not any I have come across. Yet this fact is somehow put forward as a counter weight on the side of this mysticism, not against it. This again is an insult to both reason and rationality. The reason this there is a lack of insight on the subject does not imply that one should remain agnostic towards it, no more than one should be agnostic about the tooth fairy or the Loch Ness monster, both of which also haven't been subject to close investigation. The tooth fairy, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of this life-changing energy are simply not regarded too highly by science. Nor is there any willingness to fund such nonsense research, and I do not propose any rational funding agency would be willing to invest in any, so let's not get anyone's hopes up.

There remains one argument that may be worthy of a scribble or two, and that is personal experiences which are put forward to assert the theory. People with far-fetched stories to tell.

When I first got my own bedroom, I wasn't aware that being alone in bed would trigger a hidden, albeit slight, fear of the darkness. I also had a fear, this one I knew about, of large-sized, snarling dogs. The root of that goes back to an even earlier childhood memory of a horse-sized dog that waddled into the back garden just as I had thought I'd mastered the intricate works of riding a bicycle without any clip-on balance wheels to aid me. I did not know at the time that this particularly large specie of dogs was a very tame and pet-like one, and that it wouldn't have harmed me even if I'd petitioned it to do so. But tell that to a scared stiff five year-old. Back to the dark bedroom, under the covers and about to sleep. I was overcome by fear when, what turned out to be nothing but a shadow, seemed like a large dog with glaring eyes and stained teeth was staring me dead in the eye without a flinch. It was certainly ready to pounce. It would seem naive of me to use this experience, as real as it seemed at the time, to support a claim that a large blood-thirsty dog used to live among the dusty coats that my my father had so kindly hung on the inside of my bedroom door. Was the dog real? It was to me, for an instance at least. In reality, my mind was playing a trick, using it's techniques aided by thousands of years of evolutionary training. The human mind is fully equipped to construct images, it is easy  to mistake a shadow for a dog, but it is very hard to mistake a stationary dog for a shadow. All you need is a dog-like shadow and the brain will fill in the missing parts.
Children often have imaginary friends, which are real to them. It has been reported that, in some cases, children can accurately describe their imaginary friends who, clearly, are non-existent. Children grow out of this, fortunately.

Not every story thrown about, mixed with shadows, is worthy of it's own theory, and that is no "secret".
When in doubt it's always wise to "kick the ball out".


Aug 9, 2011

Tolerating the Intolerant

In the wake of the Arab uprisings, the London riots, the Norwegian tragedy and even the African (labeled Somalian) famine, the world looks like it has done something wrong. Many see these and other similar events as a wake-up call. But a wake-up call to what exactly?

Just flicking through the many, many opinions on these matters you can see a dominant trend. It goes by the name "Tolerance". Governments in the middle east are asked to be more tolerant with their people, if they were maybe they wouldn't have taken to the streets to demand their basic rights. Right-wing everybody, be that Islam, Christianity, Jewish or even Liberal sectors of the global population are seen to be too intolerant, and that is seen as the root of many problems.

I watched a seminar by Professor Richard Dawkins recently. It was titled: Darwinian Medicine, should doctors be Darwinian. Totally irrelevant to anything I have mentioned, the seminar raised some important points to medical professionals, asking them to rethink the traditional approach to medicine, in a more Darwinian way. Most everyone should be familiar with Darwinian Evolution in this time and era, and for those of you who aren't, this neither the time nor place to do so. The idea of the mentioned seminar was to introduce a new concept in the medical field, a new perspective. Pathogens are the professional title given to anything that causes illness, and Professor Dawkins called upon doctors to look at symptoms of any given disease twice, to examine if the symptom was one of three; an evolutionary adaptation by the pathogen, or by the host (the poor sick person) or possibly a "boring byproduct" as he called it. And easing the symptoms of an illness would then depend on the classification of that symptom and so on. I am not professional, not even close, and I enjoyed the seminar. I would advise anyone involved in the medical field to watch it, more than worth the watch.

What do both previous rambling have in common, and why are they even on the same page? Take, for example, the Norwegian tragedy of late. A so called Neo-Nazi right-wing Christian brutally killed a hundred or more innocent people. Or take the Arab uprisings as an example, Arab regimes are brutally killing their people in the hundreds, in the most brutal of ways, for one reason: to stay in power, by force if needed - which obviously is the case. Similar examples can be found all over the place.

The reason these governments, organizations, groups, regimes, are powerful and allowed to be so radical and to inflict so much damage and be so "intolerant" is because they are allowed to be so. Their intolerance is tolerated, and when tolerated allowed to flourish, and allowed to become big enough to become dangerous.

The free-world, as it referred to more often than none, has a responsibility towards the global society. This responsibility is to be tolerant by not being tolerant if the intolerant. We should not let these ethnic, religious, political, ideological - or whatever their orientation may be, become so strong.

The intolerant power of poverty, the intolerance of middle eastern regimes, the intolerance of the many African groups fighting while their countrymen die of hunger, the intolerance of any group, party, or congregation should be stopped. The world can neither tolerate, nor afford to tolerate it any longer.

It is time we stood up and changed our traditional approach; intolerance should not be tolerated any longer ..

Jun 7, 2011

The Green Shirt Theory

I would have liked to claim the title "the observer", if not for the small matter of a British weekly newspaper which stole the name from me, or should I say beat me to it. The Observer has been around for over 200 years. So I cannot make that claim.

The human ability to distinguish between fact and opinion goes back more than 200 years, all the way back to the origins of human rational, sensible thinking actually. Our ancestral and evolutionary roots tell us that much at least. It is also defined clearly in any dictionary you may come across. And here is an extract from one:

something that actually exists; reality; truth: Your fearshave no basis in fact.
something known to exist or to have happened: Space travel is now a fact.
a truth known by actual experience or observation;something known to be true: Scientists gather facts aboutplant growth.

a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient toproduce complete certainty.
a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.
the formal expression of a professional judgment: to ask for asecond Medical opinion.

Although opinion and fact are in truth opposites, it seems like we haven't taken the courtesy, collectively, to really "learn to live" with both these terms combined, and by combined I mean distinguishing between them and presenting each as it is, not as the other. I also mean finding where our priorities lie. Should we value opinion over fact? I would say let's build opinions based on facts. I would also think of the consequences of reversing that formula, but I have not the time or will power to point out the obvious. And I'll leave it at that.

I've always wanted to come up with something smart, and I think I've got something here; I call it The Green Shirt Theory:
"To say a shirt is green, is a fact. To say you like green shirts is an opinion."

Seen as this isn't by any means a free English grammar lesson, nor a read into the history of British journalism, I think it's time I got to my point.

To the observer, and I do mean any observer, it is obvious that a significant amount of the Jordanian people have taken to mixing up fact with opinion. This has become a normal practice whenever any politics, or even religion, springs up in natural conversation, and I would point out that this has become somewhat of a trend as of late.. I use the term "springs up" in referral to the Arab Spring, or so it has been called. Another phrase I got beaten to by a journalist.

The criticism, analysis, or even mere mention of any of the following: government, king, queen, prime minister, traffic jam, etc, are seen by a large number of our "more amusing" citizens as non-patriotic. Things that real Jordanians, or Jordan-Lovers, do not and should not do.

It would seem obvious, but I would still like to take the following as an example:

Patriotism, love, red-lines. Opinions.

Limited freedom of speech, interference in journalism, downhill economy. Facts.

Respecting authority means being obedient to authority, and that shouldn't be automatic. It should be earned based on performance. Some times our authority deserves it, most of the time it doesn't. Period.

You can like your green shirt all you want, but do me a favor will you, don't tell me its white.

May 11, 2011

It's the GCC effect, not the Axe effect

Jordan welcomed the warmth of the Gulf Cooperation Council in accepting it, preliminary, as one of their own, well at least the official Jordanian response. It was a warm response, to say the least, but then again the GCC club of "oldies" does have their fair share of warmth, one would be inclined to say too much warmth. Especially when one heads toward the never-land of a certain sultan of Oman, and I use the word "head" cautiously.

The effect of such an alliance is really very debatable, for one it's not really all that clear as to what Jordan as nation has to give, or what it might be asked to give. But there is a lot to be given, if that turns out to be the case. Although, personally, I could think of a lot of things I wouldn't like to be given, even in the name of economic welfare.

To lay the cards down and break such a situation down into a business deal it seems like Jordan can really do with an economic boost, but in politics as in love, war, business, retail, and every other aspect of material life I can come to think of, there is no such thing as a free dinner, or breakfast, lunch or even brunch for those who prefer to skip the "early worm". So what do the GCC old school want from the new comers, as it will evidently cost them quite a sum in return for whatever it is they seek.

On the other hand Morocco was also shortlisted, for a trial period on the list of oil whales to be. So obviously the geographical element of the matter can be put aside, if it hadn't already been put aside upon knowing that Yemen isn't a part of the elite council of elites. So again, what can we add to this gents club, and I say gents because evidently Saudi Arabia is the big 'playa' in the GCC, so try hinting any female role whatsoever in this whole hullabaloo and see what happens then - wink, wink.

So if it's not geographical, economical (mutual-benefits as against leeching ), then it must be political. What does Jordan, Morocco & the other six existing members have in common, other than the fact that their regimes are non-democratic and still in unquestioned power? Huh, what was that? cough, cough, I said nothing. Oh yea, and I wouldn't feel too shy to add that the fall, or fall-to-be, to the neighboring Syrian regime opens a few doors around the place, and closes a few too, especially for Iran - another wink, wink? Maybe

I seem to have looked over the hedge a little bit too much, so lets lay low, something we've learnt to do well as of late, and think of this on a micro-scale, whats it to the average Joe, or average Mustafah more like. Should people get excited? I think not.

After all when you talk about sticky cover-ups for bad smelling areas, you can only think of two possible alternatives: politics or deodorant. For deodorant's sake we have the fast acting Axe effect, which is said to attract the opposite sex with its enticing oder, but I sicerely doubt the GCC effect will be anything of the sort.

May 6, 2011

The Painful Reality

The painful reality that was exposed by the recent Arab revolutions against their dictatorships is a very painful one, it is a reality that Arabs in general have been ruled for years by monarchies of dictators that hog absolute power and do not take "no" for an answer. The reality says that as democracy has grown in the world in the past few decades it has grown scarce in the Arab world. These dictatorship monarchies have reached the state at which they cannot even begin to fathom that the people who were always seen as a pathway are actually the ones who give them their legitimacy, and once you lose that legitimacy you are no longer a rightful representative of the people.

Giving people their rights, and listening to their voices is not something you should do expecting a Nobel prize for. Personally, I despise their attitudes. Arab regimes have only just began to give their people part of their rights, and that in itself is painful. Why does it have to take bloodshed, killing by the hundreds, mass demonstration and army deployment to give people their rights, rights they should have been given a long time ago. These regimes do not deserve a second chance, they do not deserve sympathy and definitely do not deserve to stay in power. They have ruled for years on end without changing anything and suddenly, feeling the heat, see the need for reform. This in itself is the painful reality.

Democracy should never be a privilege, it is a right.

Apr 19, 2011

Worst case scenario

The Arab region is a fertile region these days, I never thought the Arab world had that much intellectual diversity. Surprisingly there actually are a lot of people who have independent thoughts, who want to change, build and live their lives free of the restrictions of old; political, social, cultural and even religious boundaries are being overthrown along with the dictators who have come to represent these unwanted boundaries.

The wave of change has hit the region, this change is not only political, it a whole change in the mind frame of the people. It is a change that has been building up for so long, even though its effect is only surfacing recently.

To talk about Jordan specifically I think I can say with a degree of certainty that the general awareness is increasing and people are no longer falling one-sided stories in the age of globalization. I use the world globalization because I think that, as a people, we collectively respond to the world, especially the "Western world" in a much better way than we have ever done.

If we don't see any positive instantaneous political reform, which is the worst case scenario, then I think we have still gained the experience of peaceful demonstrations, demanding our rights as against asking politely, and increased our political awareness. I'm not leaning on any official (or unofficial) statistics but I find myself sure of the fact that Jordanians are reading a lot more news than they used to. I would like to read statistics from the large websites on this subject, until then I'm assuming its the case.

Another huge step is the fact that a lot more people are standing up and saying whats on their mind, even if it is not as polite as some might want, but because its their right to say it. The Jordanian constitution is, in theory, quite an open, democratic one, the flaws lay in the implementation of them rather than the written laws them-self. I think the situation we are in is a win-win situation; people are becoming more aware of their rights, more open to freedom of speech and most importantly more critic of issues that were previously prohibited to freedom of speech, even if it was by rule of thumb.

If we don't gain anything we will at least gain a boost to our awareness and a better implementation of our not-so-bad laws. That to me is not that bad of a "worst case scenario" ..

Apr 10, 2011

Are We Really An Educated Nation?

Ever since the big earthquake nuclear boy has had an upset stomach. “My tummy hurts” he shouted. “I can’t hold my poop any longer!” Nuclear boy is notorious for his stinky poop. It would ruin every ones day if he pooped. One day everyone did jump as he let out a big bang. Sniffer man came along and measured the stinky level around nuclear boy. “Thankfully it wasn't that stinky” said sniffer man. And the story goes on.

You probably have noticed that this silly story is talking about the nuclear crisis that followed the earthquake in Japan in March. This was only the introduction to a short cartoon made for young Japanese school children to teach them about what’s happening in their own country.
Apart from being quite amused by the funny story I was astonished by how important it obviously is for the Japanese to have their children educated about what is happening in their country.

Jordanians like to think of themselves as an educated nation. Although I do not doubt that Jordan has a high percent of collage degree holders and a low level of illiteracy, it still seems to me that we lack a decent level of general knowledge or as one may put it, common sense!

Our whole educational system is built on the result not the process. The syllabus by which schools run in Jordan may be quite sufficient on paper but it severely lacks the practical side of education such as the exercises and experiences that implement the educational process. To put it in one sentence, we lack creativity.

The most important year – or the only important year one can argue – of the twelve school years in Jordan is the Tawjihi year. The Tawjihi system determines the future of one’s collage education based solely on the exam results of one year of school with no regard to the previous eleven years the student spends at school and has no requirement for any kind of research or individual creativity.

I've heard many times that we are called a nation that doesn’t read. I may not totally agree with that but it is true that Jordanians – and Arabs in general – do not like to read. We have almost no real public libraries and only a handful of bookstores that only hold bestsellers and all-time classics. This is mainly because we are not accustomed to reading from an early age and the lack of book reading requirements in the educational system.

This insufficiency leads to students that are taught to learn information off by heart only to pass the next exam. School students later become university students. Again the same system that inhibits individual creativity or at least doesn’t encourage it is predominant until these students eventually graduate to produce a society of narrow minded, uncreative, non-reading collage degree holders.

Maybe we could learn a thing or two from nuclear boy before it gets really stinky!

Adam Bataineh

عندما تطبق القوانين

لا يكاد خبر يذاع او يكتب هذه الايام الا وبين طياته عبارات مشابهة لـ "الاوضاع الراهنة في المنطقة العربية" أو "الشارع العربي المتوتر" .. وما الى ذلك. الكثير الكثير من التحليل والقراءة فيما بين السطور وضعت أمامنا الآلاف من الآراء والتحليلات لما يحدث في الدول العربية، وربما أدق التحليلات هي أن هناك شعوب كانت مضغوطة لوقت كاف حتى أتى الوقت المناسب ليحدث الانفجار الذي تولد بفعل الضغط المتراكم منذ عقود. وربما أوجز أحدهم بعبارة شهيرة لخصت حال الثورة التونسية بقوله: هرمنا .. من أجل هذه اللحظة التاريخية. وهي تاريخية بالفعل. أما باقي ما تبقى من الكلام الفارغ حول الأجندات والتدخلات الأجنبية والكابوس العربي الذي تجده يلوح في وجهك عند "حزها ولزها" وهو اسرائيل .. الشعب (ولا أحد غير الشعب) يريد (اسقاط / تغيير / اصلاح) النظام. كل حسب حاجته.

الأردن قد تختلف في أن المطالبات اصلاحية وليست "اسقاطية"، ولكن الأمر في الحالتين هو نفسه، الشعب يريد شيئاً وسيأخذه بقوة العدد وبقوة الشارع - غاندي ستايل. سأجلس مكاني قليلاً لأتحدث عن واقعنا الحالي، ماذا نصلح وكيف وهل نحن جاهزون .. اسئلة كهذه تدور في رأس الغالبية الساحقة من الشعب الأردني، الذي أصبح الكل فيه "بحكي سياسة" هذه الأيام، ولا تسيئوا فهمي، فهذه عادة صحية جداً. 

حاجة الأردن للاصلاح تتلخص في جانبين هما: ايجاد طريقة لايقاف الفساد، واجراء تعديلات دستورية تتيح لجو أكبر من الحريات.

حول التعديلات الدستورية، فان قوانين الحياة الحزبية في الأردن من الأفضل أن تعاد صياغتها، لكن الأهم من ذلك أن يتم القضاء على نظرة المجتمع نحو "الأحزاب" على أنها منظمات ارهابية، وأن لا يكون الشخص "تبع أحزاب" كالكائن الفضائي بثلاثة عيون. ورأينا في الأيام القليلة الماضية مدى قوة ما سمي بـ"التجييش الاعلامي" ضد الاسلاميين مثلاً. شخص أراد أن يفجر نفسه في حزب جبهة العمل الاسلامي (ولو بخشبات التخويف فقط) بسبب أن "الاسلاميين" أثروا على رزقه ومعيشته (زعماً). يمكن هنا أن نسأل سؤال، أو عدة اسئلة شبيهة لكن سأكتفي شخصياً بواحد، لم أسمع بأن أحداً حاول تفجير نفسه في مبنى أمانة عمان مثلاً لأن أعماله تضررت بسبب الباص "الـ مش كثير سريع" الذي يخلق الأزمة أمام محل الأزهار أو الـ "قهوة" التي يمتلكها على شارع الجامعة!
لولا ارتباط كلمة الأحزاب والحزبي والعمل السياسي بـ نوع من الغصّة في أعماق البطن للمواطن الأردني (وربما بعض الكلمات الأخرى مثل: الدولة، المخابرات .. الخ) لربما رأينا أعداد أكبر بكثير من الناس يشاركون في الحياة الحزبية الأردنية المفترضة.

ويرافق قانون الأحزاب فانون الأنتخاب. المشكلة التي توضع أمام التعديل على قانون الانتخابات هي أن منتسبي الأحزاب عدد قليل من الأردنيين لذلك من الطبيعي أن يكون عدد المرشحين المستقلين واللذين ينجحون على أسس عشائرية أكبر من عدد الحزبيين. هذه حجة من يقف أمام تعديلات جذرية في قانون الانتخاب (بالاضافة الى الحكومة المنتخبة) لكنه من الخطأ تماماً أن لا نأخذ بعين الاعتبار أسباب هذا العدد الكبير من المستقلين اللذين لا يملكون نظرة سياسية وربما الكثير منهم يعتبر السياسة "وجعة راس". كيف يحصد هؤلاء عدد كافي من أصوات الناخبين للنجاح؟ أنه أمر بسيط، من خلال علاقاته الاجتماعية العشائرية والتي تتلخص في عدد اللذين تم "توظيفهم" على يده وعدد اللذين حصلوا على "مقاعد" جامعية على يده. بالمختصر فان أقوى المرشحين دائماً ما يكون أكثر "مساعدة" لاقربائه. بعبارة أخرى أنجح مرشحي النيابة هم من يمتلكون أقوى الواسطات ويفعّلونها. اذا كنا نتكلم عن اصلاح حقيقي فان وقف الواسطة والمحسوبية (الفساد) ستجعل الحزبي والمستقل على كفة متساوية يوم الانتخابات، ولنرى من سيتمسك بـ عشائريته وقتها ..

الكثير من الاصلاح يمكن تحقيقه قبل تعديل أي قوانين، من خلال تطبيق القوانين الموجودة أصلاً والتي لا تطبق.

البند الآخر من الاصلاح، ولو أنني أرى الاصلاح كـ package واحد لا يتم تجزئته لأن كلها مكملة لبعضها فكيف تحيي الحياة الحزبية دون قانون انتخابات وكيف تستفيد من قانون الانتخابات بوجود الواسطة والتي تسبب التصويت النيابي بطريقة عشائرية كنوع من رد المعروف لمن "وظف" أخوك أو ابن عمك وهكذا. البند الثاني هو مكافحة الفساد. وهذه عبارة من السهولة أن نطلقها ونطالب بها، لكن من الصعب قليلاً تطبيقها. نعرف كلنا أنها موجودة، ولو أخذنا احصائية لنرى كم وزير أو أمين عام أو مدير هيئة أو موظف حكومي كبير يعيش "على قد راتبه" لوجدنا أرقام تشير الى ما هو غير ذلك. مبدأ الفساد متجذر في ثقافتنا وفي لغتنا وهو مرتبط بالموظف الحكومي، عندما يأتي أحدهم الى العمل متأخراً يقال أن دوامه "دوام وزراء"، وربما من وراء هذه المقولة حكمة لا ندركها.

الآن الى كيفية المعالجة. ولكوني لست سياسي ولم أدرس السياسة أو القانون فانني تعلمت من خلال المشاهدة والملاحظة، وربما أمتع هواياتي التجارب الاجتماعية. في عام 2005 كانت أول مرة أحتاج فيها لمراجعة الكثير من الدوائر الحكومية، لأنها السنة التي كنت أتقدم فيها للجامعات للدراسة، وهذه عملية تحتاج تجديد الهوية وجواز السفر، ختم الشهادات وتصديقها، وعمليات كثير أخرى تتعلق كلها بمراجعة دوائر حكومية. كانت مشاهدتي قبل ذلك تشير الى أن الدوائر الحكومية كخلية النحل، وشباك الموظف كالزهرة .. والباقي عندكم. كما أنني كنت أستغرب موضوع التدخين في الأماكن العامة وخاصة المغلقة كالدوائر الحكومية. لكنني اكتشفت أن الحكومة في تلك الفترة كانت قد بدأت بتطبيق قانون منع التدخين في الأماكن العامة والدوائر والمؤسسات وكذلك اتخذت اجراءات جيدة لتنظيم الأمور لكي تبدو المؤسسات حضارية أكثر. كانت هناك الكثير من المشاهدات التي كانت تعكر صفو المنظر، فأحد الشبان يدخل الدور من حاجز الخروج ليستبق دوره، والعجوز في الزاوية ينتظر ابنه لا يقنعه سبب على وجه الأرض باطفاء سيجارته، والفتاة التي تحجز لصديقاتها الثلاث الدور لأنهن تأخرن لسبب ما. كل هذه كانت مشاهدات عادية، لكنها كانت تقل شيئاً فشيئاً لأن القوانين بدأت تطبق. وهذا الشاب يوبخ ولا يستقبله الموظف الا وهو منتظم في الدور، والعجوز يطلب منه المغادرة أو اطفاء سيجارته والفتاة تقف وحدها أو تنضم لصديقاتها في ذيل الدور. منذ 2005 وحتى الآن خطونا خطوات كثيرة جداً من أجل تنظيم المؤسسات الحكومية ومنع التدخين فيها. ومن كان يرى الحال قبل عشرة سنوات ويراه الآن يدرك أن تغييراً كبيراً قد حدث لعقلية هؤلاء .. انه مذهل حجم التغيير الممكن احداثه فقط من خلال تطبيق القانون.

هذه التجربة يمكن تطبيقها على نطاق أوسع، والعقليات الرافضة لأي شيء قد تتقبله اذا طبقنا القانون بشكل صحيح واذا كنا جادين فيما نريد تحقيقه. والاصلاح ليس اجزاء ترمى الواحدة تلو الأخرى ليتلقفها الشعب، انما قطعة واحدة، كل متكامل يقوّي بعضه البعض ويدعم كل جزء الآخر.

قيل أن المجتمع غير جاهز للديموقراطية، والاصلاح قد يأخذ 30 عاماً .. كما تعلم المجتمع عدم التدخين وهو يجدد هويته، وكما تعلم كيف يقطع "فيشة" لترخيص سيارته من خلال تطبيق القانون .. فانه سيتعلم الديموقراطية يضاً من خلال تطبيق القانون.

جمال بطاينه

Apr 5, 2011

Quite a show these days ..

There comes a moment where very contrasting terms like too little and too much seem very alike. The last few days have been a lot like that. There is so much I want to say, and so much to think about, yet so little I actually do.

Since the tragic events of March 25th in Amman, I have had a lot on my mind, and to be honest, have been given a lot to think about, to contemplate and to analyze. The national census that has emerged has split the country into two very clear cut sectors, and it is doing our country no good whatsoever. On the contrary I could debate it is doing a lot of bad.

A previous post was headed with the phrase: "we're barely out of the jungle", that phrase was quoting George Carlin, a man of which I am a huge fan. I would like to quote him again tonight by saying my role here is an observer. I observe my surroundings, the system of which I'm a part of, and I note what I see. I have no belief in the system, nor do I have much real intention, or should I say motive, to fix it, I'm merely attending a large show, laughing at the funny parts and bored mostly by the rest.

From my observation of the last few days, and the growing hostility in the Jordanian society by creating a national feeling of aggression for one side of the equation towards the other, I can see no happy ending. No real reform, no real "better quality" of life, and not much of a difference from the usual downhill that we've become accustomed to.

Reality is sometimes sad, but its the reality .. things around here need a lot to change .. it's happening, but a bit too slow for my liking!

Mar 28, 2011

A Local Wikileaks ?

We have every other franchise there is, why not Wiki leaks?

I have a proposal for fighting corruption in Jordan, it may sound funny, but it has definitely proven its worth elsewhere in the world. Wiki leaks. Corruption in Jordan is one of the most immanent dangers that face the society and always tops any reform agendas, both the political and economical ones. My proposal is a non-governmental body that can collect evidence of corruption without the disclosure of the identities of the people who provide it. This may be by means of the Internet,  a hotline and even a postal address. This can make it easier for people to come forward with substantial evidence against corrupted officials who abuse authority and dig into the taxpayers money without jeopardizing their careers by revealing their identities thus putting themselves in the face of the threats that must hold them back from coming forward with this proof in the first place.

I really think this can be done, and his worked very well for Julian Assange's real-deal. Why shouldn't it work for corruption in Jordan?

Reforming Reform

The past few days have been hectic to say the least. Name calling, stone throwing, pledging allegiance, re-pledging allegiance, and so on. Throw in a few car rallies, shooting weapons in the air and of course waving swords and you can easily be inclined to think that all hell is going to break loose! On the other hand, and to give credit where credit is due, I would like to express how proud I am with the level of intelligence and foresight I see amongst fellow reformers and non-reformers, especially the ones intelligent enough to use Twitter and to a less extent Facebook.

I am really torn in two. When I read the twitter reform page #ReformJO I have belief that a state as small and quiet as Jordan can actually do the world, or at least itself, some good. I wish I could say the same when im casually driving through the streets though, or checking some friends Facebook statuses. We live in country with a large amount of diversity, in a country with so much of closed social circle that its hard to add a random Jordanian without finding out we share a mutual friend or two. This diversity could be interpreted as a strength or as a weakness, I guess it depends on its utilization. As for the close social circle, this aspect cannot, to my mind, be anything but a plus. This makes the spread of a message easy, and the share of a thought an ease.

Now to diagnose a critical, yet not so critical, situation on the national front. We are faced today with a challenge; to keep our solidarity, figure out our national identity and then to live with it. No political reform can come without stepping up and making our voices heard, and to step up, of recent, may mean to get hit by a rouge stone or two. Our political reform needs to be clear and our agenda (I use the word in limited context) and make it clear what we want, and when we want it.

I have never been a big fan of conspiracies, and hearing of an Israeli conspiracy to turn Jordan into some kind of scape goat for a larger scheme barely intrigues me, but I am clear on one thing, and that is political reform cant do us any bad, may it be to save us from earthly plots, get us better jobs or even just make our electricity bill easier to digest. The fact of the matter is that political reform is a must. I want it, the people must want it and the king seemingly does too, so why isn't it happening?

The right of free speech is, to me, sacred (again, a word i'm not a huge fan of, for its relations to theism, but thats not of relevance right now) and by sacred I mean essential, one I would fight for, one I could say I might even die for, even though dying isn't up there on my personal list, not for now at least. And from what I've seen, we are going in the right direction, at least when it comes to freedom of speech, and thats a pointer in the right direction.

On the 25th of March the nation suffered a step backwards .. but two days later I can say that we have regained our ground and even took a step forward. Some of what I see around me keeps me from being optimistic, but in general I don't think it can stop me from saying that, as long as we have enough freethinking people as I know we do, we are heading in generally the right direction.

Mar 26, 2011

We're Barely out of the Jungle

The 24th of March started off as a normal rainy day for me at work, doing my rounds, here and there. I got off work early, as I always do on Thursdays, and thought I had enough time for one of my favorite things; a social experiment. The youth of Egypt had, and still do, surprised me, their revolution that started a short was a huge wake-up call to me, it made me think and gave me optimism. I used to think I was older than my age, seemingly I was largely mistaken, and there a lot of people who share my "mature" opinions.

My social experiment observed peaceful demonstrations that called for political reform, for a better Jordan. And above all, I can say with a high degree of certainty that the #1 Jordanian social problem, that is the Jordanians of Palestinian origins vs. Eastern Jordanians, has been effectively overlooked and as a people we can see that this can no longer stand in our way as a society.

As a child, one of my most vivid memories is sitting on my dad's shoulders as we strolled happily through Hyde Park in London on Sunday mornings. Listening to people saying that next Tuesday was the end of the world, or a Muslim standing on a rickety chair convincing his listeners how Jews own the world, with a Jew standing near by saying the exact same words about the Illuminati. I admit I didn't listen too well to any of them, as my highlight of the day began when we reached the other side of the park, where the ice-cream man was!

We like to call ourselves sophisticated, open and mature, and our government likes to think they are too, but amidst the glamor of our Queen and the hi-tech talk of our King, and after my "social experiment" turned brutal I can say; we're not sophisticated, or hi-tech .. we're barely out of the jungle ..

Mar 20, 2011

When Birthdays Turn Political

The Arab region has been in frenzy of demands for political reform for quite a while now, it is arguably turning into a new "trend". These demands are powered by outspoken youth and enforced by one the newly discovered hidden power of social networking. These demands have caused a widespread of marches, public speeches and days of "rage" every weekend in the Arab region.

Jordan has not been at the least immune to these new regional outbreaks of demands for political reform. And in the midst of this Jordanian political wake up calling for constitutional reforms headed by the demand for a constitutional monarchy which serves the rights of the people to enjoy their rights in democratic way to choose their governments.

In the very near past we have seen a wave of a fairly new social behavior, the celebration of the King's birthday, which was widely blessed by governmental officials and the King himself, which has turned into, basically, a rally of support by Jordanians expressing their loyalty to the throne. The question that surfaces here is: If the people love the King so much (celebrating his birthday more than a month after) then why are there substantial movements demanding to tie his hands with the constitution?

I think the answer to that was phrased in a very accurate manner by the former director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, Nathan Brown, in an article discussing the Jordanian political movement, by saying: It is quite easy to explain the expression of the people of Jordan towards the upkeep of the throne; as it is based on their doubts towards each other rather than their loyalty to the throne.

Jordanians are doubtful of each others intentions behind reform more than they are loyal to the throne. This issue in enforced very strongly by the complexity of the society which is made up of a mix of Jordanians with Palestinian origins and Eastern Jordanians (in reference to east of the Jordan river). It is debated which are the majority, but clearly whichever side is the majority, it is that only by a very thin margin. This complexity comes into play when it comes to demands for political reform. Political parties in the country have always been labeled to be on either side of this complexity.

These birthday celebrations have been politicized and used to carry different internal messages. They carry a message to reform seekers that the government might, and I say might, be reformed if u try hard enough, as for the King, well it's not going to be that easy!

PS: To whom it may concern: Children should be in school getting education, not marching to make statements. If you have to make statements find a way that doesn't involve children, our educational system is bad enough already ..

Mar 6, 2011

The Fall of Lord Voldermort

The freedom of speech is one of the oldest forms of human rights, yet it is both directly and indirectly the most oppressed right of all. Leaders have never wanted their faithful to just "speak their minds". The reason behind this is not very hard to see. The key to successful dictatorships, observe "successful" as a relative term here, throughout history has always been their ability to keep people living under a very delicate film of fear, aided by the number one weapon which is limiting their freedom of speech. This psychological  barrier is the one and only barrier that keeps people in line, making the trimming process of those who step out of the line much easier. 

This exact practice can be observed clearly in Jordan. The Jordanian secret police, commonly known as "Al-Mukhabarat" have always been a hanging mouth-shutter in front of the average citizen, whenever anything governmental comes up in the normal flow of speech. I have, on too many occasions actually, had friends have a quick glance over their shoulders whenever the word "King" is mentioned. Maybe its just a kindly gesture or habit, or maybe it is a lifetime build up of fear that lives inside each and every one of us. For those who have read Harry Potter, or even seen the movies, the term Lord Voldermort who is known to many wizards as "he who must not be named" may bring the picture funnily closer to their minds.

Recent events in the Arab world are nothing more than the people gaining the ability to speak Lord Voldermort's name in public, maybe taking it a step further asking for "he who must not be named" to not be named .. at all!

Feb 28, 2011

Were the Arabs the First to Actually Benefit from Wikileaks ?

Wikileaks is not a new idea anymore, it has been around for a good few years now. The revolutionary whistle-blower website opened eyes around the world to what was happening "behind closed curtains". Many of the cable messages that were originally sent between the American government and its embassies around the world did not really carry anything too surprising, what it did carry was a reminder of what things really look like.

Politics is, was, and never will be a see through issue, however much we are told by our governments that they are. And for anyone with half a brain, the wikileaks cables weren't much more than a wake-up call, reminding us of the dark side if politics, the side your not supposed to know about.

Arab governments have forever fed their people with ideas of nationalism, superiority and meaningless conspiracy theories which Arabs have become obsessed with, ones very similar to the one Gaddafi is trying to feed his people. What wikileaks actually did for the Arab world was remind them that their own governments are the ones to blame for things that are going wrong and that not everything is a Zionist/American/... conspiracy. This has caused a slight change in the Arab mentality, one that has been coming for years, but was triggered at last.

Wikileaks thank you for starting it !