Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Development and Impoverished Souls

In the last few years Jordan has really ascended the ladder of development. Every day we see new roads being built, bridges, gated communities, hotels, malls etc. and, if real estate development were the main index, we would surely be near the top rung. But sadly, this development seems to have brought with it a creeping descent into materialism, particularly here in Amman. There seems to be such a drive to become rich, to have bigger homes, better cars, fancier clothes, bigger weddings and more expensive jewelry. Everywhere one goes in Amman life seems to be about having or making money and I wonder what it is all in aid of? Does it really make for happier people and better citizens? Or does this drive for wealth make people forget their faith, their respect for authority, their families, and just plain decency?
Fortunately I have the chance to drive out of Amman fairly frequently and visit with some bedouin friends. Yesterday was one of those days. Recently this group of women were telling me how difficult their lives had become due to the rise in prices of ordinary food stuffs and high taxes. (One jokingly complained that she even had to pay a tax on her litdtle mobile phone prompting the woman next to her to add, "The next thing I suppose will be the government taxing us for having babies!!") But it is these women and their families that are the backbone of Jordanian society. And inspite of their complaints about the cost of living, they are the ones who are so fiercely proud of their country and their heritage. They are the ones who are the most generous, the most hospitable and the most loyal. And they are the ones that 'development' is supposed to be helping although they are often the last to benefit. Many continue to live in difficult conditions without adequate water and electricity, without good schools and hospitals, and without the means to buy enough food and medicines for their families. That old phrase, 'the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer' seems to be true.' Yet these bedouin friends are so rich in character and they are such a pleasure to be with for they have not impoverished their souls by losing their pride, honor, and dignity to the God of money................z


Blogger joladies said...

I have often wondered why the powers that be cannot implement a simple 'out-reach' health programme, that only requires 1 doctor and his van/truck/pickup to tour the remote communities in our beloved country ...and check up on the basic health conditions of rural families and in particular the children. By doing so you show respect for people who chose to live a rural/traditional life and who do not need the trappings of a so-called developed society, only what is their basic right to access water, electricity, education and health. When 'pluralism' enters the lexicon of Jordanian democracy ...then we will understand the true meaning of development. J

Wednesday, June 20, 2007  
Blogger No_Angel said...

Excellent article ! might come off as a cynic but here it goes.
I left a country for this "here seems to be such a drive to become rich, to have bigger homes, better cars, fancier clothes, bigger weddings and more expensive jewelry" add the on debt part. So now that its so prevalent here it is choking.
All the privatization of basic service companies and removing of subsidization of basic commodities plus the perpetual increase in taxation doesn't have the people in mind only the bottom line (atleast we are doing good with that)

if they do what you suggest then peoples' minds will be occupied with much more dangerous thoughts than "how am i going to pay for my food today", so that might be an incentive. Fear, sickness and debt are the tools of control ;)

as for mobile phones its funny, why does fastlink charge a 20% tax instead of the 16% ? anyone know ?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007  
Blogger publicfacing said...

I do think your arguments are slightly exaggerated.

Jordan is in the infancy of its transition from a land of tents to a land of houses, from a land where Arab camels are being fast-outstripped by the import of German cars.

It may seem that this drive for materialism, as you see it, is negative for the country. I contest, that at most, it may be negative to a few who make Mecca Mall their new Mecca, a temple to their consumerism.

Most people, however, can take both in their stride, I see many of those German cars parked outside my local mosque everyday of the week (especially Friday, of course), coming to the feet of God, not Steve Jobs' iPod. Whether in Armani shoes or thirty-year old sandals, they are all making them selves equal.

Native populations are always a challenging topic; most obviously the examples are in what is now the United States and Australia. Both have allowed the populations to exist (though things didn't kick off too well in the U.S. initially), but nowadays, the natives are allowed to follow their traditions as well as enjoy the benefits of modern society: good health-care; the educational system, upto world class Universities; as well as the wealth of literature available for pleasure and learning, etc.

Benefits aren't overnight, but nor are downsides overwhelming. So while it is unfortunate that inflation raises prices and effects many, in the long run, as Jordan carefully treads down towards the Rich World, things will get better, institutions open up, a more stable, open economy; where the staples of the current Jordan will remain: tolerance of religion, freedom of thought (mostly) and a forward looking Monarch.

I liked your post, a very interesting read that raises some points that are definitely worth raising.

P.S: It's late here in Amman, 4:19AM, so I hope I've managed to get my points across clearly. :)

Saturday, June 23, 2007  
Blogger joladies said...

Jordan is an oasis of peace and stability in increasingly violent surrounding. Long may it remain so.

I appreciate your comments, and like you am basically optimistic. I believe balance is the key to success in development. Citizens must maintain their rich heritage and worthy traditions along with modernity. The government, together with its citizens, must move as rapidly as possible with inclusive development plans that benefit all society......z

Saturday, June 23, 2007  

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