The last few months have been months of extreme change across the Middle East. From regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt to violent government suppression in Libya, Syria and Yemen, the Arab world has been on fire and revolution has been on everyone’s minds. Just a few weeks ago in Jordan, there was no where you could go where televisions weren’t always set to the news or where you could escape from images of the violence happening in the countries surrounding us.
Of course, that was before Jordan collectively changed the channel to watch Real Madrid and Barcelona.
This headline from the Jordan Times sums it up nicely: “El Clasico boosts businesses, takes youths’ minds off ‘depressing’ regional news.” As one Real Madrid fan put it:
“Finally we found something enjoyable on TV rather than watching demonstrations taken place in different Arab countries.”
Because revolutions are depressing. It’s stressful to have Al-Jazeera blaring at you 24/7, replaying the same clips of wounded people in hospitals or Qaddafi making threats, over and over again! What’s even MORE depressing is when things get shaken up here in Jordan, a man dies during a protest and no one can agree on who is to blame. So let’s just bury our heads in the sand, pretend that nothing is going on and cheer on a bunch of footballers from countries most of us have probably never been to. If “we” win, maybe we’ll feel like we’ve accomplished something again.
Just to be clear here, I am biased against football. I hardly ever watch it and, if it wasn’t the only thing on during the World Cup, I probably never would. Still, this is not a rant against football, the European League or its fans. This is a rant about our willingness, no, our need to be distracted. Instead of facing the reality of our world, we throw ourselves into TV shows, sports, gossip – basically anything but ourselves, our own countries and our own opinions. I’m not exempting myself from this. I just finished watching an episode of Glee to help me forget about all the work I’m supposed to be doing; it’s escapism, another gramme of soma to keep me from feeling too much about anything.
I know that political discord isn’t fun, especially when people are so divided. But to be honest, in the couple days following the March 24 protests, I learned more about my Facebook friends than I have in years of knowing them. I didn’t like a lot of what I saw, but at least what I was seeing was real. If we want to advance as a people, we need to cut the small talk and start saying what we really think, even if it’s not going to be popular.
A few weeks ago, cars were decked out with Jordanian flags – today, there are street vendors peddling European clubs’ logos at traffic stops. It’s not that I think we don’t all deserve a little fun sometimes. I just think there are some things worth being depressed over.