Brand Jordan Has Lost Its Way

A couple days ago this story on the closing of popular Books@Café in Jordan slapped me with incredible clarity about many things I’ve been struggling with for a while. When I first read it, I thought, give me a break, that was predictable, another year of the same old confusion during Ramadan.

Then I realized this story comes shortly after this remarkable Jordanian blogger, Ajloun, calls it quits, after seemingly never ending tales of corruption revolving around public officials. This is happening in a country facing political, economic and social challenges all taking a heavy toll, with a local media in a perpetual downward spiral, and an extremely frustrated people.

Brand Jordan is bust. Brand Jordan is in the worse shape ever, it seems. And no sooner had I come to that revelation, this appeared. Country brand ranking. I’m not big on rankings, but it is some kind of gauge. So not only is brand Jordan aching from the inside, but it’s also aching out there.

Brand Jordan needs to evolve into something amazing so as to regain the trust of those who love it. Brand Jordan needs its diverse lovers to find new ways of living on common ground. Brand Jordan needs to be able to reignite compassion in everyone.

While reading the wide range of comments on Madian’s Books@Café story I realized every single one was right. Nobody was wrong. Not only was every contribution right, but each was put out there with so much passion.

So if they are all right and the passion is clearly felt, what’s the problem?

The lack of vision is the problem. Brand Jordan has failed to keep the vision alive and the lights are dimming, it fell off the track at some point. Why does that matter? Because people need a vision to be able to achieve their goals. Passion helps us define the spheres we want to be in, but a unified vision helps us see the journey. And when brand Jordan is bust, we can’t see.

This task is for everybody. Coming from diverse origins, faiths, ethnicities, classes, political affiliations, cultures, colors, ages, shapes and sizes, people in Jordan can find their places on the road forward.

Shutting down the Books@Café and the other F&B outlets around the country in a way that allows the system to abuse its own rules is the saddest low point we can get to. It does nothing but drive us to lose faith and cultivate apathy. A restaurant’s license should be honored. A rule should be respected. Common sense should prevail. Public servants should not forget that they are there to serve. Instilling fear in people should not be allowed.

If our vision includes a Jordan with special rules during Ramadan, everyone will respect that. If the vision includes business as usual twelve months a year, everyone will respect that. But when we dishonor our own rules, disrespect our own diverse society, deny its realities, we become a broken people with a broken country brand. And no matter how hard we try, how much we invest in it, how loud we shout, we will not get it right. All that happens is that we pollute the intellectual, spiritual, and physical landscape of our country.

Vision is why we are able to take on change and challenges passionately when everyone else says it’s not possible. Brand Jordan needs our help. Defining, sharing the vision for, and fixing brand Jordan must be our absolute priority. If we know where we want to go, we can better define who we need to be for the journey.

The original version of this piece is here.

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5 Comments

  1. Karima
    Posted September 20, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Want to know why the Jordan Brand is in need of an overhaul, just look at the Books@Cafe debate. This is the most dishonest discourse I have every seen by many self-styled defenders of liberal values.

    The fight for Books@cafe is more about brand loyalty then religious and personal freedoms. Fact is, the most dishonest aspect of this debate is that while the government shuttered a number of alcohol-serving establishments they shuttered others who are not alcohol serving. Better yet, other alcohol serving establishments are still open and they are serving alcohol in ramada.

    Someone is lying.

    the disturbing refusal to even acknowledge the above facts speaks volume to the twisted nature of this camping.

    Someone remarked on one of the blogs that this is a camping by loyal customers of Books@Cafe who had their daily routine interrupted. So they threw a tantrum. But since it would look silly to bitch about having your favorite cafe being shuttered, they turned it into a freedom of religion issue. Except that, and for the 1000th time, you can still walk into dozens of establishments, such as the Sheraton Amman, in Ramadan and drink to your heart’s content.

    So why the deception by Books@Cafe loyalists?

    Was Books@cafe treated unjustly? of course. Did the government shut down all shops selling alcohol. No. Could this be a classic government corruption case where Books@Cafe did not pay off the inspector? yes. Could this be a case of an unfair competitor who belongs to a powerful Jordanian tribe (some of whom are deeply corrupt and above the laws of Jordan)? yes.

    there are many problems with Jordan. you picked the wrong mascot to cheer the troops who want to save Jordan’s soul.

    Worse yet, the dishonesty by which the Books@Cafe camping was waged is part and parcel of this culture of dishonesty, stagnation, and confusion.

  2. Posted September 21, 2008 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Thanks for reading and sharing your view Karima. Paragraph 2 above is the all encompassing mascot that should be addressed to save Jordan’s soul.

    The Books@Cafe subculture and community chose to step up and tell their story. 150 passionate voices matter. Some were more focused and articulate than others. But they spoke up.

    Very few voices unique are heard. When they are, the spectators want to muffle them, and then there’s silence coz there’s nothing better to replace those voices with – and everyone then dabbles around in nothingness. Yet another trait that plagues the progress of this community.

    Contribution and noise can both fill a void – but they are very different in impact.

    One should probably ask his/herself regularly: Do I want to be noisy, or do I want to be a contribution?

  3. Susu
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    So long as the contributions are honest, they are welcome. When they turn dishonest, they are noise. Much of what has been offered in defense of Books@Cafe is disinformation.

    For you to describe your group’s input as contributions and others’ as noise speaks volume to your values and respect for views that differ from yours.

    I have often read that in Jordan there are no reformers or truths. there are special interest groups or Shellah as we call them. you represent one Shella and your version of the “truth” or contributions as you call them is nothing more than your way of articulating the interests of your Shellah.

    This debate IS a sample of Jordan’s problems: Your Jordan, Your Way, Or Bust.

    Some of the most intolerant and indifferent and isolated people in Jordan today are part of your Shellah.

    Lucky for you some of us are still willing to stand up for you on principle alone. If we judge you by your rotten attitudes, you will be a lonely 150. And you ain’t no Spartans.

  4. Susu
    Posted September 21, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    DEAR EDITOR: I forgot to address Nadine in my above post. Can you please add “Dear Nadine,”

    Thanks.

  5. Posted September 22, 2008 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks Susu. Since we’re concerned about disinformation, allow me to clarify some not so accurate info in ur note:
    – I did not at all specify who contributes and who’s noisy. I just say that both exist, and each of us should probably give it some thought when we feel compelled to get involved so that we each figure out how.
    – I also do not refer to any group or any shellah as right or wrong. It’s really not about that – it’s a lot bigger. A lot.

    The post above is not specific to Books, but it is the story that compelled me to write it. Remember there are 60 outlets on the list that the gov shut down despite licensing them (or some at least). And this country is facing a long road of challenges. Again, paragraph 2 above sums it – and that really is the point.

    I think the lucky people are those who stand up for themselves. I’m not really into martyrdom – but it is noble of you that you are willing to stand up for others on principle.

    The Spartans were a long time ago. Maybe we’re better off working on defining who we need to be for today and onwards. Just trying to stick with the times, otherwise I get confused with the whole role play.

    Finally, the debate about why we’re having this debate/not having a debate is quite fascinating to me now…. something more to think about.