Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yazan...I am really sorry

The crime I am about to write about is also one I am guilty of.

The crime I want to write about is not the brutal killing of the little boy named Yazan. The more shocking crime is the lack of public outrage concerning Yazan’s story. It is the complacency towards a suffering that many of us could have turned into a lesson of compassion and empathy.

Yazan is a Jordanian 5-year-old child whose mother and father were imprisoned at the same time. This left Yazan in the custody of his aunt, whose husband abused, tortured and viciously inflicted pain on this little child’s body. Yazan gave up at the end and fell into a coma. He died few weeks ago.

Yazan was laid to rest today.

For days I read about Yazan’s dead body laying at the hospital waiting for someone to claim this innocent angel. As if the lack of justice in his life was a foreshadowing of the misery he would endure in his death. The thought did cross my mind of claiming him and preparing a funeral for him. Every time I thought of doing something, I was worried of being judged as pretentious and butting into business that is not mine.

As I read news of Yazan, I had a strange feeling of detached sympathy. I somehow believed that my reaction and contribution wouldn’t count. There will be others who will take up the cause of Yazan and deliver justice to this little boy. The faith I did not have in myself was sadly misplaced in others.

As I learnt that Yazan’s misery is finally put to rest, I also saw images of his funeral. A funeral I thought would be a crowded show of love and apology to this child who fell victim to a system that failed to detect his suffering. A funeral that turned out to be a gathering of no more than few kids who were pictured seated in front of lecterns on the ground of a mosque reading Koran while this little boy’s body laid wrapped in white cloth waiting and desperately “wanting” to be interred.

The gist of what I am writing is that whenever one detects injustice, and whenever one is blessed enough to do something about it, one should rush to do it. I hope I won’t be faced with a similar choice again. But if I do, I will go by what my gut feeling tells me to do and I really won’t care what cynics might make out of it.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gross National Happiness and Jordan

In 2001 I moved back to Amman after having lived for over 15 years overseas. My move came with the absolute conviction that I was doing the right thing. I never regretted my decision. In fact I always felt fortunate for having the choice to do so.

Coming back with me home was a feeling of romanticism of how things are done here in Jordan. What many perceived as retarded customs or invasive traditions, I was so willing to consider as simply part of the culture. I guess this was due to the fact that I had lived in many different so called developed societies that were far from being perfect or developed in the human sense. My attitude when I moved back was one of empathy and an unconditional acceptance of the way our society is run.

It is only lately that I am starting to feel suffocated by the pathetic state I find our society in. I suddenly realize that in our quest for development we have lost sight of what really matters while consistently failing to preserve anything of meaning. Instead, we have opted to hold on to false claims of entitlement only to legitimize a debilitating general state of laziness and demoralization that the majority seems to be suffering from. It has been extremely hard for me to come face to face with the ugly truth that our situation today is at best pathetic and at worst mediocre.

The disconnect that I am seeing among the various strata of our society is a further evidence of how a whole nation can live in denial and turn a blind eye waiting for some magic wand to come and do the job for it. In general, I feel that the majority of people are unhappy and feel alienated for many reasons. The end result is that we happen to be a bunch of disconnected class groups who have nothing in common except for one thing: We all seem miserable and unhappy.

What is behind this unhappiness? I am no expert on this. However, I recently learnt about a measure that was started in Bhutan and that has gained some merit lately: Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH is an attempt to define quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms than Gross National Product. “While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH claims to be based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are:

1. The promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development
2. Preservation and promotion of cultural values
3. Conservation of the natural environment
4. Establishment of good governance”

One question I will leave you with: How does Jordan score on the above four pillars?

On that note, I rest my case.