Independent Ink

الجمعة 25 أيار 2007


Sixty one years can seem like a short period of time but perhaps given the region, any nation in the Middle East can appear aged. It would be easy to reminisce about Jordan’s history, how it came to be; where it was and how it has become. It would be easy to focus on the changing skyline of Amman or the economy or the share of scars our nation has garnered over the years from simply existing in one of the world’s toughest neighborhoods. Time lines come easy; history hands them out for free. But can they really measure the experience?

Should we look to the past for reflection this Independence Day?

Many have come and gone on this soil. Civilizations and kingdoms have been built. From the Assyrians to the Nabataeans. Various languages and religions have made Jordan their home for centuries at a time. Many of their symbols remain scattered across the modern day kingdom as a constant reminder of the past.

What has come to define Jordan is its social cohesion; its ability to balance something so delicate as a unified identity, in a region where many peoples are struggling with their own. From Bedouins to Palestinians; from Muslims to Christians; the country has evolved and learned to keep its people together under a single flag. Today the capital hosts Arabs from all over the region; some who see it as a tourist destination while many others as a safe haven. In Amman these days, there is a blend of multi-Arab accents, the likes of which has never been heard on its streets. The country perhaps is slowly growing into the personification of what is means to be Arab and it has done this by showing the world what it means to be Jordanian.

Though other elements still linger. With more than half the country being under the age of 25, perhaps the time has come to define a new experience, to write a new chapter in Jordan’s history.

The concerns of the young Jordanian reflect much of the same concerns their fathers had in recent decades. Unemployment, poverty, inflation; or simply, the economics of being alive in modern times.

Yet there are new demands now; demands of reform. Political reform, economic reform and social reform; today’s youth wants to see the country change the way it works. From the Parliament to the village, from the classroom to the workplace. These demands are in hopes of seeing actual change on the ground, an impact in the every day life of the average Jordanian. Whether it’s more money in their wallets, more food on the table, or better access to essentials like water and education. Whether it’s being able to find a job that pays a decent wage or being able to go through the public sector system without the need for wasta or nepotism.

But how does this reform come about?

There are times in a country’s history when governments lead, and other times when people do. This is a time in Jordan’s history where both must find a way to lead together. At the heart of matters is the need for free speech.

On more than one occasion His Majesty King Abdullah II has said the “sky should be the limit” when it comes to freedom of speech and the struggle of this generation will be to turn “should be” into “is”; an aspiration into a reality. For without it, the voice of another generation is lost. Without it, accountability crumbles as do public and private institutions. Economies slow, corruption ensues, laws become unfair, societies intolerant.

Today, the progress of a modern day nation is defined by how free its people are. The domino effect of free speech can be infinite when used positively.

7iber as an online based community project aims to capture that spirit of reaching for the sky; of turning a single aspiration into a reality. Making free speech positive by empowering any Jordanian with the ability to voice their opinion. And hopefully it will be remembered as a point somewhere in Jordan’s timeline; as an attempt to have the community shape its own future through speech and through action.