Beyond Vandalism: Citizens and Speed Cameras

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Wed 12 April / Apr 2017. 12:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Thu 13 April / Apr 2017. 12:38 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat


On the surface, breaking speed cameras in four cities would mean that Jordanians are no longer willing to pay any more dues, even if it were for their own violations.


Societally, this kind of behaviour says a lot about the people’s mood and general state.


If anything, it says people have had it with having to pay out money to failing governments.


It says that the people are frustrated with the economic situation as well as the government’s failures to keep up with promises of development.


Generally speaking, the public is more or less hopeless about any good coming their way any time soon.


Aside to all that, these incidents indicate a rising sense of distrust in the functionality, effectiveness, and rule of law. And individually, this says that people are more inclined now to challenge the law and its enforcement.


Four incidents in four different governorates; the speed camera in Ramtha was broken, the one in Madaba took three rounds of live ammunition, and the one Karak was pulled out of its base, whereas the one in Salt was covered with a box.


Overall, this means that the public is slowly developing a tendency to reject the law and challenge it. Jordanians nowadays see nothing wrong with challenging the state’s authority by challenging its traffic measures, for example.


Publicly, the fact that people in four incidents across four different governorates have decided to break the law and prevent its enforcement sends two clear messages.


The first is: we, the excluded and marginalised population, will not pay the government more money.


The second, and more dangerous message in my opinion, goes beyond the incidents themselves to their geography.


This sort of behaviour reflects the natural public sentiment of citizens in governorate, over the state’s receding welfare and public role. As the state addresses its economic failures and challenges, it has left those people out to dry, with nothing to enable their ahead of the upcoming economic storm.


The state’s major shift in domestic economic and social welfare policies has left many Jordanians bitter and disappointed of the state and its institutions altogether.


That said, it’s only natural they feel so.


Citizens of the governorates have received, with exceptions, no proper education or vocational training to build the skills which would give them the competitive edge they need to make a living and smoothen their ride through the underway economic transition.


Why should the government do all that? Well, the government has sponsored the citizens of the governorate and their welfare for decades now, the citizens are used to it.


Out of the blue, the government decided to abandon its own and dispose of their burdens; no heads-up or preparation, and no alternative.


They have, seemingly, become excess baggage. Eventually, this gives rise to the sweeping sense of injustice. More likely too, a sense of disappointment and frustration which is reflective in anger in many instances.


For decades, this is how the state absorbed unemployment in the governorates.


The government was the prime employer of the governorate’s citizens, and at some point, the Treasury could no longer afford it.


As true as that is; the fact that the public sector is overly inflated and crawling with debt, the issue is that the state has failed to create a substitute to fill its shoes.


The public institution left the people to their fate, determined by the governments’ failures, ever incapable of meeting the public’s developmental needs.


As a result, dreams and hopes for a better life now collide directly with a coarse and ruthless reality the government could not change.


Frankly, this is way beyond the superficiality of some trouble makers breaking speed cameras. Deeper still, the indications of this are far more dangerous. It is reflective of the nature of this new relationship between citizens of the governorate and the State, undermining its authority.


Meanwhile, the government has sustained its typical injustices in the enforcement of law and public employment all the same; they continue to bequest public offices among officials and their family members, reinforcing corruption; and driving the public mad.


Naturally, with nepotism unaddressed, corruption at large, and favouritism persistent, the public will certainly refuse and reject public enforcement of the law.


The state’s carelessness and dismissal of such issues has deepened the crisis and amplified the marginalised social segments’ problems, by nourishing an environment which justifies challenging authority.


Addressing the imbalances and problems of the system and the relationship between the public and the state institution requires a solid, decisive official position, and it has to be now, before it is too late.


Day after day, the gap between the people and their government widens.


Mindfully, this is mainly due to the unquantifiability of promised governorate development and the state’s inability to resolve their issues, which have grown dramatically with the influx of Syrian refugees.


The solution is a complex multi-tier approach, and the security approach typical in Jordan is far from sufficient. More so, it not even part of it.


It is not the camera or the speed limit, it is far beyond it to heavy hearts and minds uneased by the government’s discourses and disregard of the governorates.


Understanding this requires of the state a deeper, more thorough, and rational approach, to the incidents to uncover the hidden motives and meanings of citizen behaviours.


To begin with, the solution starts with unifying standards, removing the common duality, addressing nepotism, and the enforcement of justice and equal access to opportunities for all citizens.


This is no longer a luxurious aspiration, this is a political, social, economic necessity.


This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.