Thursday, February 28, 2008

A call for civil obedience

Considering the massive effort being put into enforcing the new traffic law, it seems appropriate for people to take action in response. Here is my proposal:

Nobody honestly believes that the purpose of this campaign is to improve driving behavior and conditions, and since considerable investment has been placed in buying new civilian cars, radar equipment, cameras and so forth, the best way to respond to this highway robbery is to abide strictly to the speed limit.

I mean it. Today I went to Irbid, and on the way about 8 patrols were stopping cars. As for me, I used my cruise control to adjust my speed every few minutes (whenever the speed limit changes). It took me a few minutes longer, but I managed to avoid being stopped. I have vowed that they will not take another dinar from me for any traffic violations.

Imagine if we all decide to do this. Nobody will be fined, and the government will lose the investment that it made. What better way to lift our collective middle finger to our insatiably greedy government?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shrinking Jordan

In another example of using media to hype bad policy, a number of traffic accidents in the last months have been used as a pretext to keeping the temporary traffic law on the books. This, despite the fact that the lower house of parliament rejected this legislation.

Now, the 80km drive from Amman to Irbid takes about 1 ½ hours. The highway has no less than 6 patrols looking for speeders. Most of the road has speed limits set at 80 or 90 km per hour.

Now, in principle there should be no objection to controlling speed. However, the speed limits are much lower than any reasonable driver would feel comfortable adhering to. To be blunter, one feels like an idiot driving at 70 km per hour on some of the stretches. It is obvious that these limits were not placed based on consideration of road conditions, but were set simply to entrap drivers.

In the final analysis, this short lighted approach of money grabbing will lead people to restrict their travels outside Amman to the bare minimum. The fines are too high and the limits are too low and the road has become too unpleasant. In the final analysis, this will lead to even more isolation for cities outside Amman. Who needs to leave Amman and invest someplace else anyway?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The herd mentality

Well. The CARTOONS are back. The parliament has denounced reprinting them, and a number of newspapers are planning on publishing a “joint response”. Even Jihad Momani, who was fired from his job and jailed for reprinting “the CARTOONS” has joined the act, bravely standing up for “the Prophet”. Time was that people took pride in expressing their individuality. Not any more. Now, it is chic to think, say and act just like everybody else. Scour as you may, you would be hard pressed to find anybody in the Arab world defending freedom of expression.

Oh please, please, ask me this question:

Q: But Khalaf, this is a spontaneous reaction to insults to the Prophet. Would you deprive people of expressing their feelings?

K: No. Express you feeling all you want. Here is the point. Earlier this month, the (dis) information ministers of the Arab World met in Cairo. They issued a “charter” for regulating satellite television stations. This charter states that broadcast material should not undermine "social peace, national unity, public order and traditional values" or "defame political, national and religious symbols." It demands "adherence to objectivity, sincerity and respect for the dignity of countries and their national sovereignty."

So, in order to gain support for this pathetic attempt at turning back time, what would be a better time than now to revive the CARTOONS issue? Before it was taken out of the freezer and thawed out, the press was rejecting this charter. No mention of it any more.

Q: So, people are being manipulated into accepting restrictions on their freedoms through this issue.

K: Well, DUH!

What's up with me?

As some of my friends have noticed, I have not been blogging for a while. While I have always said that this blog is not about me, it is sometimes impossible segregate my blogging from my private life. The passing of my dear father recently is an example of this, as it has has put me into a passive and introspective mood.

My father was an important and inspirational part of my life. He was a person who was never afraid to stake out controversial positions, in public or private matters. More importantly, no matter how outrageous some of his ideas initially seemed, in the end he would almost always convince those around him of what he thought. Needless to say, growing up with an intelligent and strong willed father like mine required the development some level of stubbornness, just to be able to preserve one's unique personality.

My father didn't like the idea of blogging anonymously. More recently, he has been encouraging me to write under my own name in a "real" media outlet. In fact, I have written occasionally in some newspapers (in Arabic), but blogging kind of focuses a person to write more regularly (until now). He would say, why waste your time writing that blog? Nobody knows who you are! At that point, I would retreat to my now well developed stubbornness.

But after his sudden passing, many premises in my life became open to re-examination. The least of these was whether I should continue blogging. How much of what I have been doing has been rebelliousness as opposed to good judgment?

Anyway, I am getting closer to the position that I am doing fine the way I am, although I am still not sure about whether I want to continue to blog, anonymously or not. I may abandon this one and start a new one later using my real name. I am not sure if I would write the same way if people know who I am.

Any insight?