I finally got back from Jordan and am totally fed up with writing about Occupy Wall Street. The protests are just depressing. So I thought I’d write about Jordan instead.
It’s a dictatorship. It’s in many ways a benign dictatorship, but there’s a lot of weirdness between the ethnic-Palestinian and ethnic-Jordanians. Basically, the government bureaucracies are stacked with ethnic-Jordanians as a sort of “buy-out” of local tribal loyalties. Need I say these are positions for life? Palestinians, for the most part, are not allowed in this protected bureaucratic class, so they’re the capitalists, running businesses and paying the taxes which fund the government positions they’re not allowed to have. (If this sounds eerily familiar to you, minus the ethnic bits, it does to me too). Still, all in all I think that Palestinians are better off – I’d rather be an entrepreneur than a mind-numbed bureaucrat. Eh, maybe not. It’s just hard for me to imagine employment for life…
Funny story – it’s one of those friend of a friend stories, so take it for what it is. This friend of a friend had a father who had fallen afoul of the government. In order for him to get a new apartment in a different part of the city, therefore, he had to apply for permission with the “authorities.” He went into the office and the “authority” immediately put out his cigarette, apologizing since he knew the applicant didn’t smoke. Then the “authority” (what else to call him? Secret policeman? Creepy official?) called in his secretary and ordered coffee with two sugars for himself and without asking, black for his “guest.” My friend’s friend said at that point he knew it would be pointless to lie — the guy knew he didn’t smoke, knew how he took his coffee, clearly, he knew everything about him. I heard stories like this when I was back in the ex-USSR but it’s weird to think this stuff still goes on. I probably shouldn’t think it’s weird, I think of myself as a bitter cynic. I guess I’m not.
Pretty much everyone I met assumed I voted for Obama. I quickly disabused them of that notion. The people I talked to generally liked him, but thought he pulled the rug out from under the Palestinians. Their attitude was that it was a rotten trick for him to say last year that he wanted to see a Palestinian state by this time this year, and then welching on the deal. Yeah.
Still, don’t think I didn’t enjoy Jordan. The people were universally friendly and from a tourist perspective, the place is amazing. I’m glad I got to spend time there.