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We need to build on our humanity

Feb 24,2018 - Last updated at Feb 24,2018

Time Magazine cover page carried a photo of four very young children, collected on a single surgical tray while their stricken father looked on, who were killed in the attacks on the Syrian town of Ghouta and asked “have we lost our humanity?”

The Syria conflict has tested the limits of our global humanity time and time again, and it appears that as the battle has escalated over the years, the killing has become uglier and more indiscriminate, the injustice starker, harsher and more jarring, but the politics has turned more jaded, less ethical and certainly less humane.

And I think worst of all for us here in the Middle East, the political narrative around the conflict has become inhumanely divisive, dichotomising and without even a pretense of ethical or moral grounding. With the absence of that framework, we have become unable to reign in, influence or control the apparently merciless plan for a new Middle East, and I am going to stop there without claiming that it is a new Middle East “order”, because as we all witness there is absolutely no order in what is taking place around us.

I am sure that Time Magazine was not directing its question to the citizens of the Middle East or even Syria when it asked it. It clearly was addressing the global powers that have spent the last few years conducting a merry dance around the loot and debating when to end the war and divvy up what they have collected so far.

I, however, want to bring that question to us here in this region and then I want to add to that question another, and ask: How did we lose our humanity and compassion for our people and ourselves? It boggles the mind to see the abuse we hurl at each other as we entrench ourselves further into opposite camps of the Syria conflict. It perplexes how we have become willing to give away the future as we watch, and justify, children being killed and maimed. It also bewilders how willing we are to wipe out evidence of our history as our cities and memories of better days are bombed and demolished.

How did we give up on the impossible, yet so precious, political dreams we had for our world, including the commitment to our right to a liberated Arab Jerusalem and Palestine, and the continued pursuit of the beautiful mirage of Arab unity based on independent political decisions, human dignity and shared economic integrity, if only in continued hope and aspiration.

The question we need to really ask ourselves in this region is who are we? How did we, regardless of ethnicity, religion or political tutelage, choose division, hatred, racism and even fire and brimstone over peaceful pursuit of unity, prosperity and human dignity? What do we stand for exactly? What do we want? Again, who are we?

This past week, I was with a young Jordanian man, who started talking to me about a long-term training programme he is participating in and which aims to help Jordanian youth look into themselves and identify their biases and prejudices in order that they negotiate, rationalise and transcend those positions.

He said, and I quote: “In our circles, we ask ourselves really difficult questions about our prejudices, so, for example, we talk about how I would feel if my brother told me he is gay or that he wants to marry a refugee?” he rambled on but I was stuck. Being a gender activist I knew exactly how entrenched and socially complex the homosexuality issue is in Jordan and knew that on a scale of taboos, this holds the trophy.

To even begin to equate that level of prejudice and social rejection, wrong as it so clearly is, with marriage to a refugee was a truly shocking revelation and rang a serious alarm bell over where Jordanians are positioning themselves with regards to longterm, as well as recent refugees from Palestine, Iraq and now Syria, and exactly where Jordan is today on the tolerance and social cohesion scale and with it, of course, political cohesion.

And please bear with me. To take that forward and consider the nasty and sometimes outright offensive narrative that accompanied popular criticism of the government-imposed and parliament-sanctioned economic regime of price hikes and increased taxes, justified as they may be, we would have come full circle to what I believe, if left unchecked, could see us fall victim to this global, regional trend of normalising violence, division, racism for the sake of gain and consolidating power.

I believe, and warn, that it is not as far a distance from the now-normalised politically and socially divisive language and positioning of the Syria conflict with all its regional ramifications that we know, mixed in with the strong feelings of animosity towards “guests” of mixed origins, to land us in a situation where people find it easier to follow a violent and intolerant form of political opposition on the national front. Especially, I believe, as opposition voices are against steps that touch people’s pockets and challenge access to comforts that the Jordanian people have come to expect as guaranteed and, therefore, untouchable.

Lack of humanity, absence of a moral compass, diminished ethical barriers, normalisation of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, emergence of politically-savvy leaders delivering angry and exclusionist messages in short sound bites and videos for easy popular consumption, and the normalisation of violence as an acceptable political tool, are all worrying features of the new political mindset globally.

If Jordan, which was able to achieve stability throughout the so-called Arab Spring — and the regional crises that ensued including the Syria conflict — aims to withstand the challenges that come with the globalisation of this worrying political trend, then action must be taken to ensure that it can weather the confidence predicament we have in Jordan between people and state, including all of its arms and authorities.

To achieve that, in the short-term, there will be many steps that the state’s guardians can utilise to diffuse the situation quickly, including paving the road for credible and clean leaders to rise through the ranks of the executive and legislative authorities, improving communication strategies to use intelligent messaging that respects the astuteness of the citizen, consulting across the country with the people and their community leaders, regaining control of security and especially ending the spread of crime and uprooting corruption.

What I believe is more important, however, is our long-term vision and planning. For that, we need to use all our political will to build an oasis in the region, not only of security-centric stability, but also of social cohesion, inclusion, tolerance and most importantly basic humanity.

 

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EXCELLENT ARTICLE WHICH I RATHER RESPOND PARAGRAPH BY PARAGRAPH. FIRST, THE TIME MAGAZINE COVER PAGE IS REAL, HORRIBLE AND SHAMEFUL BUT TO WHOM?. IN MY OWN OPINION, THE BLAME GAME SHOULD SQUARELY REST ON THE PALACES OF THE ARAB LEADERS THAT ACCEEPT PROTECTIONS, AIDS AND IN MOST CASES, OLD FASHIONED BRIBES AND SLUSH FUNDS OVER THE CARNAGE, TORTURE OF THEIR PEOPLE FROM THE EAST TO WEST, NORTH AND SOUTH. WHAT YOU SAW ON THE TIMES COVER PAGE IS NOT WORST THAN THE USE OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE AS BARGIN BETS, MEANS AND SOURCES OF FUNDING AS REFUGEES WITH OUT END IN SITE. IN SUMMARY OF THIS FIRST PARAGRAPH, IT IS VERY CERTAIN TO ALL THAT WITH OUT THE SUPPORT AND UN-FRAGMENTED BACKINGS OF THE ARAB WORLD AND THEIR LEADERS, IGRAQ IS IN CHAOS AND DESTITUTE TODAY BECAUSE THESE LEADERS COULD HAVE OBJECTED AND REFUSED TO TURN A BLIND EYES FOR WARS AND MORE WARS. THERE ARE LOTS OF POOR COUNTRIES THAT CHOOSE TO SURVIVE ON THEIR OWN RATHER THAN TRADING THEIR PEOPLE FOR CASH AND CHAOS. ASK YOUR LEADERS TO STOP PLAYING BALL AND FOCUS ON THE LIFE, LIBERTY AND WELL-BEING OF THEIR PEOPLE. MERRY DANCE AND THE DANCERS HAS BECOME THE PART OF THE MIDDLE EAST GEO-POLITICAL EQUATION WITH NO END IN SIGHT BUT IRONICALLY COULD END TODAY IF YOUR LEADERS CAN CALL A SPADE A SPADE AND JOIN HANDS IN PEACE, GOOD GOVERNANCE, INCLUSION AND THE REALIZATION THAT "MINE IS MINE BUT OURS IS OURS". THEY WANT TO REMAIN COLONIZED AND THE PICTURE YOU SAW ARE ONE OF THE VERY MANY FRUITS OF WHAT USE TO BE THE PRODUCT OF SLAVERY AND LACK OF HUMANITY TO MAN. ON THE QUESTION OF THE STATE OF YOUR REGION, CAN YOU POINT OUT ANY OTHER REGION THAT HAS REMAINED IN STATES OF WARS, WANTON DESTRUCTIONS AND INDIRECT RULE BY ANY ENTITY THAT HAS HELD THEM HOSTAGE THROUGH BRIBERY AND CORRUPTIONS SO THERE IS NO WAY TO GET OUT OF THIS LOOP OF MESS. ON YOUR WISHFUL THINKING OF A LIBERATED ARAB JERUSALEM AND PALESTINE, HOW CAN YOU EVEN THINK OF THE PALESTINIAN STATE WHEN THE PEOPLES OF THESE CITIES HAVE NO SAY IN FRONT OF THE JUDGES AND THE JURRY?. IRONICALLY, PEOPLE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT WEST BANK AND GAZA AS OCCUPIED LAND WHEN IN FACT THE WHOLE MIDDLE EAST ARE OCCUPIED LAND WITH NO INDEPEDENT LEADER(S) SO LET US GET OUT OF THAT TANGENT BECAUSE THE JUDGE AND JURRY HAS SPOKEN. THIS IS AN OLD AND CLOSED CASE WITH NO HOPES OF ANY CHANGE IN THE NEAR FUTURE BECAUSE YOUR LEADERS ARE EITHER READING OUR LIPS OR HIPS OR BOTH LIKE WORD SALAD. ON THE QUESTION OF WHAT "YOURSELVES ARE IN THAT REGION", I AM AFRAID TO STATE THAT THE BEST ANSWER CAN ONLY BE DEDUCED THROUGH THE THEORY OF THE UNDETETERMINED INFINITY? ANOTHER ARAB SPRING OR SUMMER? SURELY NONE OF THE ABOVE BECAUSE THE SPRING ONLY BROUGHT CHAOS, ANARCHY, REFUGEES, HUNGER, KILLINGS AND THE BOAT PEOPLE SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? I AM AFRAID TO SAY THAT THERE ARE NO WAYS TO TURN TO AS LONG AS YOUR REGION REMAINS COLONIES AND NOT STATES. NOT ONLY THAT YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF A COLONY IS JUST AN UNDERSTATEMENT BECAUSE YOU ARE ALSO IN A CAGE SOUROUNDED BY GUARDS OF MEN WHO REGARDS WOMEN AS TOOLS AND TOYS RATHER THAN PERSONS WHO HAVE EQUALLY A LOT TO OFFER AND SO BEING A WOMAN NO MATTER HOW SMART AND INTELLIGENT YOU MAY BE ARE REGARDED AS PROPERTIES AND NOT A PERSON. WHILE THE MIDDLE EAST REMAINS IN A LOCK AND KEY BY YOUR MASTERS AND CEO'S, THE BAD NEWS IS THAT WE ARE NOW LIVING IN A WORLD WITHOUT MORAL COMPASS BUT DIMINISHED ETHICAL BARRIERS, ALL FORMS OF PHOBIAS BARRICATED BEHIND THE TALL WALLS OF SHAME STRATIFIED INTO EITHER THE S-HOLES AND OTHER FORMS OF PROFANITY SO WHERE WILL THE HELP COME FROM? IN THE WORLD THAT LACKS ANY CREDIBLE LEADERS WITH HOPE, COMPASION, LOVE AND RESPECT FOR HUMAN DIGNITY, IT IS FAIR TO SAY "HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM" THAT CAN ONLY BE SOLVED WITH ALL HANDS ON THE DECK, SPEAKING THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH AND PUTING PEOPLE FIRST BEFORE LOOTS AND CORRUPTION. IN SUMMARY, CHARITY MUST BEGIN AT HOME WITH OUR CHILDREN, OUR FAMILIES, OUR PEOPLE AND OUR DO NOTHING GENDER BASHING AND CORRUPT LEADERS.

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