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People and government

Jan 04,2014 - Last updated at Jan 04,2014

I was caught in the snow and ice storm that had gripped much of eastern US and several Canadian provinces.

The storm was atrocious even by Canadian and US standards. The amount and intensity of the snow and ice that was dumped on these areas was not typical and exceeded all predictions.

Hundreds of thousands of homes lost electricity, not for one or two days but for more than a week, despite the immense efforts of the US and Canadian authorities, at municipal, state or local levels, to restore it.

The outage affected more than 400,000 homes, traffic jams were everywhere, the pileup of hundreds of cars that skidded on ice and snow causing traffic bottlenecks lasted for several days and nights in most of the affected territories.

What stands out in the case of the US and Canadian blizzards, which saw gale-force winds, extreme weather conditions and temperatures that dipped below 20 degrees and brought life to a standstill is the reaction and attitude of the affected people.

Unlike Jordanians, who rushed to lash out at all branches of government for failing to remove the snow from the streets fast enough, free cars stuck in mountains of snow and restore electricity in the shortest possible time, Americans and Canadians, although frustrated by the lack of heating and electricity, took the hardships associated with exceptional weather in stride and refrained from venting their indignation at local or state governments.

Why this difference in attitude and perspective?

Mind you, more would be expected from the US and Canadian authorities, given the fact that these countries habitually receive huge amounts of snow annually and have a variety of equipment to deal with it, making their degree of preparedness much higher, while Jordanian authorities were caught off guard and have neither the experience nor the tools to tackle a snowstorm of the kind that hit the country in December.

Part of the answer could be that Americans and Canadians viewed the storm and its consequences as an act of God or nature that was exceptional and unforeseen.

In other words, these people thought that under the circumstances, authorities could not be held responsible for the outages, car accidents or other inconvenience associated with the storm.

Another explanation may be found in the kind of relationship that bonds Americans and Canadians with their local and state authorities, which is seen in the way their democratically elected representatives did their utmost under very difficult conditions.

The trust, faith and confidence that characterise their relationship could be lacking in the Jordanian case, and this makes people jump to conclusions, ready to place the blame not where it is necessarily due.

This weak link between people and government needs to be worked on to ensure trust and confidence.

The fault may very well lie with both sides. In any case, it must be dealt with and rectified in depth.

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