Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sticks and Stones

When I was a child, I was taught to shout “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me” at any kid who called me a name or taunted me. This gave me a defense and some comfort to the hurt that name-calling inflicts. Children will shout nasty things – face to face – but adults have more insidious ways. Whispers, implications, innuendoes, and gossip are adult tools that can hurt and sometimes seriously harm others. Loose and idle talk is part of the human condition, but the reaction to it varies from culture to culture.

Since I came to Jordan I have repeatedly heard the phrases, “What will others think and what will others say?” It seems to be a common tool that parents use to control their children’s behavior. I don’t agree with this tactic nor do I take this advice seriously. I cannot control what ‘the anonymous others’ will think or say. Also, why should I give to ‘these nameless people’ power over my life, when in fact they have little or none?

However, last week when a friend commented that many Jordanians are afraid of words, I thought what a simple yet remarkable way of describing this cultural practice. Actual fear of what others will say must be a terrible and stifling thing to live with. It could affect a person’s decision about almost everything - taking a job, going on a trip, purchasing an item, taking responsibility for action for fear of being blamed, or killing a young woman suspected of ‘wrong’ behavior!

Is there dialogue about this fear of words within Jordanian society? If there is, I praise it – if there isn’t, there ought to be.

ASH

5 Comments:

Blogger kinzi said...

In my circle, we have been talking about the decided lack of affirming, encouraging, positive words. People are so afraid of making others 'proud'. Encouragement would give some the strength to go against the flow, to get away from 'tall poppy' cut downs and make real change.

Monday, January 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lately I've been thinking about how every one of us in Jordan live for what others will say. I felt immense peace in my anonimity during a holiday couple of months ago. I wore what i wanted, I behaved the way I really want to and I wasn't worried about what people thought of my very casual and comfortable clothes while shopping the streets of Eastern Europe.

It's not like that here at all. At least not for the minority of Western Amman where words are so powerful, it makes you want to stay in and hide from the stares and the words of the people who are probably so insecure that they try to divert attention from themselves by talking about others. Words here carry so much weight that I truly think no one is themselves. Everyone has to live up to extremely high standards that no one really set because they fear for the words that others might utter. And the others utter these words because they too are scared.

This kind of life is becoming too much for me that I've spoken to my husband about finding peace elsewhere, just not here. I don't want my children to grow up worrying about what others think. I want them to be children and do the stupid things children do.

Monday, January 29, 2007  
Blogger joladies said...

Dear anonymous,
If you know right from wrong and you raise your children to have those basic human values, neither you nor them need to worry about what others say. One only worries about the tongue of others if you allow them to have control of your life. I for one, do, (within the law) "my" thing and I don't allow the words of others to control me. You can do this in countries that you visit and also in Jordan and you can teach your children that the important thing is HOW they behave within the basic codes of society, not what they think that others "might" think!kag

Monday, January 29, 2007  
Blogger joladies said...

Dear anonymous,
If you know right from wrong and you raise your children to have those basic human values, neither you nor them need to worry about what others say. One only worries about the tongue of others if you allow them to have control of your life. I for one, do, (within the law) "my" thing and I don't allow the words of others to control me. You can do this in countries that you visit and also in Jordan and you can teach your children that the important thing is HOW they behave within the basic codes of society, not what they think that others "might" think!
kag

Monday, January 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

I quote you, "This kind of life is becoming too much for me that I've spoken to my husband about finding peace elsewhere, just not here." So you are worried about the 'words', instead of far more important things. This reminds me of the mother in an old french movie worrying about catching his son smoking. She didn't catch him smoking, but he managed to knock up a girl next door. The point is, we are regularly visiting our beloved Jordan since 2000 and worried about the visibly increasing militariazation. We miss the scenic TRUST bus ride from Amman to Aqaba next to the Dead see, because 2 years ago there were more then 6 police or military roadblocks on the highway and they caused intolerable delays. Now the buses take the Desert highway and even there we had to get out twice at roadbocks and they checked our luggages as well. There are Hummers with solders and machine guns at many street corners in Abdoun, as well as at expensive hotels. You will find submachine gun toting camoufage clad guards even at 3 star hotels in Amman and Aqaba. The same goes for bus stations and banks in Amman, not to mention the many street patrols. Aren't these developments and trends worry you more then 'words'?

Thursday, March 29, 2007  

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