The enigmatic leadership of the Hashemites versus the narcissists

(Photo: Jordan News)
One of the first things that caught my eye as a teenager reading Jordanian Arabic-language newspapers, was the main headline sitting boldly on the front page. Time and again it spoke about the “Hashemite leadership” and His Majesty the late King Hussein’s “wise stewardship”. I used to stare at the page for hours on end, feeling extremely frustrated for not having a clue about the meaning of “wise leadership”. until I became obsessed.اضافة اعلان

I started to look for “leadership” everywhere I went. It was the mirage that burnt my heart, and the evasive image of an oasis that intensified my soul’s endless yearning for answers, to quench that thirst. I looked into the horizon and cried for some answers. “Please, Allah, what does leadership mean?”
In my desperation, I asked a couple of people about the implications of leadership, and never got a satisfactory answer. In hindsight, those who couldn’t answer were themselves top dogs in their own domains, celebrated for achievements of the ego and feats of their predatory selves.

Now that I have a better understanding of what leadership entails, I am not at all surprised their answers fell short. Some of them were relatives known for their popularity and expansive following. Little did I know, in those days, that I was knocking on the wrong door.

Like many parading themselves as “leaders” across many fields, from politics to public life, they had nothing to do with the values behind this mysterious word. As I retrace my steps back to the first day I had wondered about the meaning of this elusive word, I now realize those people belonged to the “status” crowd. More accurately, the gloating narcissists often mistaken for the authentic leaders that are, without a doubt, a rare breed.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see the first headline that made me wonder about leadership. That day, His Majesty King Hussein became my metaphorical mentor. I followed his news intently, read every word, and tried not to miss out on any of his televised speeches. Back then, there was no social media, no blogs, and no internet.

I remember wondering about His Majesty’s ability to juggle so many pressing issues, domestically and on the regional and international stages. I still feel the same empathy for His Majesty King Abdullah II, carrying a crushing burden that many seem to undervalue and misunderstand.

Before I write the next paragraph, here is an invitation to the usual fleet of critics to try their hand at steering a nation to the shores of safety, in a stormy region of psychedelic actors, for almost 20 years of exhausting back-to-back trials.

In my young years, it was quite dizzying trying to understand the burden of responsibility and the amount of pressure the Hashemites had to endure to keep Jordan safe. So many things they did, I could not understand. It was all beyond my years of experience and my lateral and conceptual thinking, both still in their infancy.

What added to the confusion was the many conspiracy theories that were circulated through word-of-mouth by individuals I now have zero respect for. As I grew older, I started realizing those who pushed such theories resembled the exact opposite of what leadership was truly about. They had no code of ethics and no integrity, and half-carried their responsibilities, if they carried them at all.

In their personal lives, they were tyrants, yet accused others of tyranny. They lied, cheated, and oppressed everyone around them and stripped them of their dignity, but had the audacity to make big declarations about “pluralism”, “democracy”, and “human rights”.

Those people held top positions in political parties that were equally corrupt, peddling myths and conspiracy theories to build a following among those who shared their ideologies, feeding the media with messages of deep hatred towards their homeland and its trusted patrons. A political party whose eternal mandate was to drive a wedge between citizens and their leadership, so as to fracture us, and to weaken us as a nation.

Among those I made the huge mistake of asking about leadership were columnists writing carefully-decorated articles with agendas picked from any conversation at any intellectual salon, with no consistency or depth of conviction. Seeing them fool generations of readers into thinking they stood for a cause, I came to realize all they exemplified was self-aggrandizement and a relentless search for social flattery and popularity.

This hypocrisy, experienced at a very immediate level, was the kind of duality one needed to hone a better understanding of leadership. This was the difficult lesson; having to accept life’s mesmerizing dichotomy. This constant battle between good and evil, day and night, and light and darkness. A major milestone on the road to deciphering leadership.

A few years following that distant memory, when my adolescent search for leadership started, I saw King Hussein in person at the Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts. That was when I understood the true meaning of legendary charisma. Needless to say, true charisma stands in sharp contrast with today’s celebrity magnetism, which often reeks of shallowness and a silly habit of pouting lips in preparation for a selfie. To say that social media has reduced us to undiscerning shadows, instead of full human beings with full hearts and features, is an understatement.

In his presence, the world disappeared. I was still a teenager, and I stood there tongue-tied and frozen. All I could see was him, shaking hands with his nation, among whom was my little brother — who said, “Marhaba, Ammo” (hello, uncle). He called the King “uncle”, and that became a favorite family parable for many subsequent years.

My life was turned upside down when King Hussein left this world. I collapsed into tears in a minivan on some highway in some Arab country, hearing the news for the first time over the radio.

A short while later, I had my first job as a reporter, and through the newsroom I witnessed the coronation of His Majesty King Abdullah II, the country’s new guardian and Hashemite leader.

What do I say next, but the inevitable? Thank you for being there for us when we most needed you!

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