Granted, most of their intellectual ability appears to become especially sharp when my decision denies them a prized privilege or possession, but still, these 11 and 5 year olds have made me conscious of the need to be fair at all times. Fairness has also helped me in my job, where I manage quite a disparate and multi-flavoured staff. I have found that I am always able to get away with being quite firm or demanding as long as I am fair.
I am not putting forward this introduction to discuss my parenting style or management qualities, but to underline the importance of the concept of fairness at a much more critical level: national political governance.
In a casual conversation with a friend earlier this week, she put forward a very common Jordanian “fact” or “reality”. She said and I quote: “We in Jordan cannot be governed by a system of government in which the prime minister has the political leadership role because if the premier is from Karak, for example, then what would the people from Salt do?”
She was responding to an article on one of the news websites in which the writer argued for the recalibration of the political authority of the staff of the Royal Court in order to downsize it — both in real terms and in terms of its decision-making authority — in order to give more power to an elected prime minister. Not a new argument, and one we have heard quite often by some elements in the so-called “Hirak Al Shabab”, or youth movements, of the Arab Spring.
My immediate reaction to her statement was that the people from Salt would not have an issue with a Karaki prime minister if the system guaranteed that the Karaki could not use the authority entrusted to him to give advantage to himself and his geographical location or discriminate against others from other areas.
I argued that those from Salt would be quite happy to be governed by a premier from Karak if the system held guarantees of fairness and justice, and guarded against the abuse of power or privilege.
She laughed unbelievingly, and I know her laughter echoes the distrust many Jordanians have in the fairness of an elected official or political party because Jordan’s history so far has been based on the political model where the Hashemites are the guarantors of political fairness.
It is no secret that the Hashemites have been especially successful in that role because they have no vested interest in one political/tribal/ethnic party gaining privileges, and they are not representative of a large base of extended beneficiaries, as in the case of tribes or a certain ethnicities, for example, which tip the scales of benefit.
Historically, this combination guaranteed that the ruling Hashemites were trusted by Jordanians — regardless of their origin or tribal/governorate affiliation — to be the impartial rulers and oftentimes arbiters among the differing forces. That role is not seriously challenged by any political narrative, even in this more outspoken political phase.
The political tools of that legacy of fair leadership are, however, under serious scrutiny at this time.
A participatory political process that allows Jordanians to elect their representatives to Parliament and to government based on a fair, free and transparent process of elections will strengthen the hand of a Hashemite regime that has already established the political rules of fair leadership in the country.