Building An In/Exclusive Amman

الأحد 16 أيار 2010


Written by Saed Tillawi

Amman has flourished quite a lot in the past few years. With the big fuss being made about the big projects and plans for Amman, many people are saying that Amman is on its way to be a metropolitan city, with variety, zoning, and organization. I beg to differ.

Before I explain why I am not for this sudden boom of metropolis in Amman, I wish to explain social exclusion; a term I believe is ignored in Amman’s plans, and a term that can probably change the way a person could look at his actions in a society.

Social exclusion is when groups of people are left out (excluded) from regularly participating in a society, due to certain characteristics. In other words, it is the result of multiple deprivations that prevent individuals or groups from participating fully in the economic, social, and political life of the society in which they live. These deprivations include unemployment, low income, transportation problems, and lack of education; they are all factors that could lead to a person being excluded (or dubbed as “7afartali” in our culture).

However, why are these deprivations effective?

To start off, unemployment and having low incomes are logical factors when it comes to being excluded. No job means no income; and no income means no means of survival, or survival with low standards. Seeing the standards of living in Amman and the minimum wage ranging from JD220-230/month, you can either just about make it and have no money left, or you can look for another job, work even more and be able to get a certain amount of joy. This is exactly why the middle class in Jordan is dead, because you either lower your standards of living to survive, or you sacrifice a lot in order to remain in your relatively higher status.

Second, transportation problems. It is quite vague, but when one thinks about it, it makes perfect sense. Transportation is the means of connection between everyone, some areas are almost completely cut off from the world, and that, in turn, makes it more difficult to see what goes on in the country, and makes it more difficult to get jobs and reach them. Not to mention the stigma attached to people from certain locations, which further excludes those people with transportation problems from society.Bus Amman-Petra

Finally, a lack of education can affect a person being excluded or included in a society. Again, this has to do with being connected with the rest of the country; when there are different levels of education in a society, there are different levels of perception; therefore affecting the cultural growth of each person. Furthermore, it can affect the opportunities that people have for attaining jobs, which connects this to unemployment.

In a way or another, social exclusion is that major difference between people that prevents them from having equal opportunities, causing a group to be feeding off the other in order to survive.

How about we take a look at our beloved Jordan?

People from certain areas near the Downtown are considered something, people from “Zarqa” are considered as something, people from “Dabuq” are considered as something else; you can almost stereotype every location with something if you try hard enough. People from each area have different views of life, different morals, different ideas of luxury, and different ideas of expensive, which relates back to the aforementioned points; Jordan’s infrastructure is leading us to be divided cultures.

If by now this article’s motive is still unclear, then allow me to put it as simply as possible:

Before we start creating a metropolitan Amman, we should start creating peace/acceptance between the people, at least making sure that they are all on the same wavelength, such that the whole country would move forward; together.

So considering the infrastructural, social, and macro effect the Abdali Regeneration Project will have, how many people are really going to benefit from it? It would improve the image of Amman, and maybe it would bring more commerce to it as well, but do the public benefit from it? The project is in the middle of a low-mid income area, and it would stand out varnished with shiny glass, while the people around it are still in their humble, regular environments, only difference is that there is an imposed structure in the center of one of the oldest areas in Amman.

Rainbow Street, Jabal Amman by Roobee

In my perspective, the Abdali Project is a fortress in the middle of a public, “for-the-people” area, which would increase the level of elitism when it comes to the higher class, and once again force the public to merely accept and adapt to their new surroundings. The rich businessmen would end up riding their cars around Amman, continuing to avoid “lower people”, and the public would use the public transportation (which shows just how transportation can be an exclusion factor).

Looking further into transportation-based exclusion, what is the cause of huge traffic problem in Jordan? The traffic problems in Jordan show just how much segregation there is. Many people are in their cars, avoiding contact with others, screaming racist slurs, commenting on people from afar. Like a taxi driver commenting on women from his car’s window, scared of confrontation, the other high-class example of this is a person cursing at a car with a certain license plate, avoiding confrontation. In other words, our transportation habits as an entire country are not quite encouraging for interaction, for action, nor for efficiency; thus barricading people’s inspiration and ability to create and innovate.

Therefore, public transportation could allow a more interactive society, where people would not be as intimidated to approach each other. Public transportation reduces traffic and is cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and extremely efficient if well-organized; but not our system. So maybe this is a good starting point along with a public educational system as powerful as that of the private sector.

It would actually allow people to get better jobs, due to the better education and the infrastructure which allows the people to access anything they require. Thus they will have the ability to go out more, and there would be a common ground where people would be able to interact, and interaction is a key element to mutual respect and understanding. If a good level of income is added to the process, it will allow more spending, and more money for the government, but this is only possible when things are affordable to the people. In opposition to our current situation; taxes are high and incomes are insufficient for most of the people and are reducing their productivity and spending money; meaning there is less income for the government.

We are at war with ourselves, and crime rates are increasing, so more people are becoming scared of public transportation due to that. We are going to need a long time before we actually can move forward, generations must come and go before we can move. However, in our situation, we stand divided against each other; many people are losing the beauty of our culture and are in fact ruining it for others. Not only due to recent political events, but also due to our Jordanian culture being associated greatly with excluded classes/people, while pop culture and a good English-based education is associated with higher/richer classes.

Of course the system can never be 100% clear, but in order for the country to move forward, we must move forward as a unit. The more interactions we have between classes, the more change we will have; with every argument occurring is a changed mind, which is why we need time for our country’s change and uprising.

We cannot move forward as a country if we do not respect each other.

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