Apart from gossip, there isnt much the human species enjoys more than classification and stratification, and so cultures and countries are largely classified as either indivdualistic or collectivistic. Jordan and the Arab nation in general, being collectivistic, have always valued the good of the group over individual good, have always expected unconditional respect of the highest figure of authority or the oldest person on the dinner table, and have always praised obedience from the young.
The More, The Merrier
Jordan is notorious for having quite an influential tribal system that is considered near sacred; Jordan’s bro code. You should always stick with your family or tribe, right or wrong. Everyone knows blood runs thicker than water. Growing up in a culture like Jordan’s can be rather difficult if you’re trying to find a voice that is completely yours; raw and unfiltered.
Change in Motion
The world, however, seems to be converging and meeting up at the left hand side of the globe, as the Western way has diffused and impacted just about every culture with a satellite dish and internet access, Jordan being no exception. This huge shift to more westernised lifestyles and values may very well be driving the current system into obsoleteness. A new age has been set in motion, with us, the millenials, its product and driver.
Satellite TV was introduced somewhere between the 70s and 80s, with the internet being introduced in the late 90s, arguably being the driving force behind the culture change we are witnessing today. Music started to become more hybridised. With artists like Amr Diab being one of, if not the first, to infuse traditional Arabic beats and sounds with Westerns tunes and instruments.
Gender roles have finally begun to change, with a more equal share of household chores being distributed among the couple, or family. More women are pursuing university education, both at home and abroad, and consequently are representing a larger percentage of the workforce.
Foreign languages, especially English, have flooded in. B’s have been perfected into P’s, and the infamous ‘Bebsi’ has turned into the new and improved ‘Pepsi’.
Individuals born in this transitory epoch found themselves caught in the middle, with concepts like “home” and “identity” becoming harder to define.
What is identity?
Since the very beginning, one’s identity was predetermined in the womb. It was left to chance. The particular place we happened to be born in became our permanent home. This home gave us its culture to wear around our necks and gave us values that were expected to serve as our moral compass. These days we are finding ourselves living outside our home town, away from the streets we played in and the shops we bought popsicles from. We are open to a world of choice, and many of us are having a hard time finding a balance between staying true to who we were born to be and between building our own personalities, carving and molding and polishing the image we present to the world, letting it know who we are as individuals.
Millenials, or individuals born in the 1980s and 90s, may experience a constant tug of war of sorts; a tug of war that takes place in no man’s land, as we find ourselves caught in between two worlds. I cannot imagine a time where the difference between the parental generation and their offspring’s could have been more vast. Our parents have raised us as their parents have raised them, with a presumed image of how their child will turn out to be, only to find a child speaking a language foreign to their own, more fluently than the one used to raise them.
No one has imagined that there might be a language barrier between parent and child! But the fact is that the exposure we as children have gained from the new world around us has had as much of an impact on us as the efforts our parents put into raising us.
Straying away from cultural traditions and values has always been condemned, but is it really that dire of a sin? Are we not solely responsible for the lives we live, should we not live the lives we choose? Is it really wrong to let go of values, beliefs or traditions that clash with the worldview we have adopted? Because are values meant to be inherited, or developed? These are all questions that may bombard us as millenials.
As more and more of us move away to live on our own, whether it be to attend university or work, many would agree that in order to assimilate successfully, one has to compromise.
The more we live an independent life outside Jordan and the Arab nation, the more we become in tune with our individuality. We might even begin to attach to the place we have moved to, and see it more as a home than the place we lived our whole lives.
It may give us the permission to be who we want to be, to believe what we want to believe, to speak out and speak up without fear.
Interests change and develop as we try out different identites to adopt as your own, and realize that identity isn’t something predetermined and set in stone. Instead, it is dynamic and shaped by experience just as a cliff is shaped by the waves beating hard at it. Each wave may have negligible impact, but the cumulative effect is undeniably huge.
As time passes, this may make the question “where do you come from?” trickier to answer. We may never feel completely native in this new land, but we may also feel more and more like a foreigner in the place of our birth, belonging fully to neither. As the political music group, Torabyeh, phrased it; “I, with my ID, am an alien, but in this country I feel choked.”
On a more positive note, I watched a TED talk recently by an Indian, English, American, Japanese man named Pico Iyer who talked about those of us who do not seem to belong to any one box in particular; the millenials, the third culture kids, the inbetweeners. Perhaps, the unlabelable?
His perspective on the issue was a refreshing one. He spoke about how emancipating it can be to not fully belong or come from any one place. There is greater freedom, greater choice, more versatility. You cannot be associated with any single set of stereotypes or cultural checklist. Lots of people won’t get you. They won’t get that your home need not necessarily be the place where you learned to say your first naughty words. As Iyer eloquently put it, home has less and less to do with a piece of soil than a piece of soul, and less and less to do with the place where you were born, and more and more the place where you become yourself.