CITIZENS OR ONLY CONSUMERS
"There is something wrong with our modern society," my colleague said the other day. "If you look at the leaks of documents from Wikileaks concerning Afghanistan or Iraq, people in the 1970s or 1980s would have organized huge demonstrations and asked for accountability from their respective governments for the damage done to the local population, for accountability of military expenditures, etc."
"Today, people have become passive. All they care about is their small world, a stable job and the ability to consume. They are only consumers and not citizens, and this is valid for each aspect of life," my colleague added in a very forceful manner.
Has it really come to this and is it really universal?
Whose job is it to blow the whistle when something goes wrong? Journalists? Trade union leaders? Religious leaders? Surely not politicians! Who is prepared to stand up and say: "Enough!" Citizens are consumers, and the economy, the military, the police and government have ways of retaliating against whistleblowers. How often have we read about those who reveal corruption being harassed, disbelieved, arrested, thrown into prison, disappearing? People are reluctant to become victims through an act of self-sacrifice. We really should take more care of our whistleblowers who take the courage to rock the boat.
One hope is to teach all students to be critical thinkers and engaged citizens. Among a wide range of benefits, educated citizens raise the level of civic values, democratic politics and public culture. Public education, therefore, has a role as a guardian of these principles. However, privatization of public institutions implies the adoption of market principles — this has already begun in higher education. Under the market-driven notion of schooling, management has been stripping education of even minimal ethical principles and poses a growing threat to public life and the promise of democracy.
But there are exceptions. In a small kebab shop, somewhere in the middle of Amman, sits a corpulent Iraqi. His small shop has become a gathering place for his compatriots looking for work, housing, etc. "I do not need money," he says. "What I need is to do something for the others, and eventually to do business." He gives out his business card and tells you: "Please, if you meet one of my compatriots in need, tell them to give me a call on my mobile and I will try to see if I can be of any assistance."
In this shop you will come across people who live on US$100 a month, who have submitted their applications to different organizations in the hope of getting a life somewhere. But the problem is that these international organizations whose main tasks is to assist the people in need do not even reply … One person had sent in his application in 2004 and, up to date, had not received a single answer.
One should not forget the generosity of the Jordanians who are also there to stretch out a helping hand for these people, but what about the others sitting comfortably in front of their TVs somewhere in the West, whose political leaders decided to go to war. What do we do? Nothing much one could perhaps say, and the question is …Why aren’t we? Have we become so selfish that we do not care any more about the others, those whose voice cannot be heard?
So, without these individuals who make a small difference, each on their own level, what would these people do? Will they continue to be the forgotten ones, among so many others around the world?
With these thought-provoking words, Diva’s team wishes a pleasant day.