Friday, 27 January 2012

No Middle Class

"I followed him, the slam of the door and chink of keys echoing with our footsteps along the corridor. We burst into the bright neon light of the reception area and a woman in her late twenties rose to her feet, her kohl-accented eyes flickering uncertainly."
Olives - Page 9

And so we meet the character Aisha Dajani in Olives for the first time, a young Jordanian woman working for the Ministry of Natural Resources in Amman. From a wealthy family living in the West Amman district, Aisha is from an unusually liberal family that has, however, some murky connections.

The unusually liberal aspect of her character and background has occasioned some comment, with some readers wondering why I chose to make the Dajanis non-practicing Muslims. This was a conscious decision on my part to minimise the unfamiliarity of the environment and create more empathy with readers - bear in mind the original audience of Olives was intended to be British.

However, it's not an unrealistic portrayal - particularly within wealthier circles. Like everywhere else, Jordanian society encompasses a wide range of attitudes and behaviours, in belief as in everything else. In general, Jordanians are conservative - a conservatism to be found in Christian as well as Muslim communities - and yet at the same time generally tolerant of others. As in much of the Middle East, this tolerance is an attitude that goes hand in hand with respect, so people will generally pass things by if they feel at least some attempt is being made not to force it in their faces.

It has long been said that Jordan has no middle class. You're either very well off or desperately poor, the latter being by far the majority. That is less true today than when I first heard it in 1988. But the streets of East Amman are still a very different place indeed to the wealthy pale-stone mansions that bedeck Abdoun, where many families have links to fortunes made in the Gulf.

The funny thing about this deeply conservative Muslim society is they never censored the Internet. And society didn't collapse. Something I like to point out to UAE based telcos when I get the chance.

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  1. I got your liberal non practicing muslims right here Alex

    The only reason i think that girl did what she did is because she had opportunity, willingnes and no direct cost or consequences to her actions.

    Willingness: A man or a woman, must be willing to commit the act of betrayal of the mind, and the body. For that to happen, the initial foundation on which the original relationship was founded must be shaken. Aisha was willing to do what she did because she was trying to run away from something... call it society, culture, whatever. She was running away.

    Opportunity: There must me ample opportunity for the betrayal to take place, this one is directed to all the woman and men who are in long distance relationships. And the women and men that think it's very normal to spend long hours in private places together. Damn liberals.

    Cost: Coming from a liberal family, I think she didn't have any fear of consequences of her actions.

    And that is why as you say.. I question her character, even though she's raised proper like.. like you say.

    Damn liberals.

  2. Aisha's not betraying anyone, though. Unless you're saying it's a betrayal to fall in love. Even in her mind. It's Paul confesses to a betrayal of the mind...

    Or are you being terribly traditional and blaming her for 'leading him on'...?