Equitable solutions

25 Dec, '07

Name any country that does not recognise the sacrifices of its citizens, and I’ll guarantee that its government has no real legitimacy in the eyes of their own constituents.

Sure they rule, but that is most probably due to the use of oppression to perpetuate their authority. Their tenuous hold on power promotes the culture of fear. Theirs is the law of force, rather than the force of law. That government will not last too long, but even if it did, it would do so on a bed of unrest and strife rather than stability.

This is not the situation which we have signed up for when 98.4% of us voted for the new charter, whose central tenets are human rights and modern institutions of governance. How different we are today – a mere 6 years hence – of those days of hope. What we are now left with is confusion and mistrust which feeds the continuous skirmishes we suffer from at almost any occasion.

There seems to be no end in sight. Each side is steadfast in their refusal to listen. Theirs is the view of “not giving in”, as if this is a battle in which an exclusive winner is declared. They fail to realise that the only losing side in this equation are the normal people who have grown tired of this predictably contentious state of affairs.

The resolution of this condition couldn’t be simpler – to me at least. All must recognise those who fell in the defence of this country and its people’s aspirations by at least anointing a single convenient and mutually agreeable date at which their memory is commemorated. That would be a celebration of national pride and will go a long way at inculcating the missing feeling of true patriotism.

The country’s National Day would lend itself completely to this cause. Isn’t it the day that nations all over the world lay wreaths at their martyrs’ graves and at symbolic locations? This act draws the whole nation together, further cementing their sense of belonging to their land. It is by no coincidence that some countries also observe a minute of silence. One in which remembrance is a natural result of contemplation.

What’s so different with us that we cannot fathom a route to that goal? The disparity in positions suggests that there is something intrinsic to this impasse. Could that difference be a disagreement on the definition of the word martyr?

The dictionary’s definition is rather bland, it does not taken into account the cultural aspects of this word. But although the difference in interpretation is wide – one’s martyr is another’s terrorist – the common denominator is rather static: it is the sacrifice of one’s life for one’s belief.

Taken in this context, it is easy to understand the somberly lavish commemorations in laying wreaths at the foot of the Unidentified Soldier to remember the dead in a bygone wars and other calamities. They are all in the past, though.

Our situation is different. Ours is the commemoration of lives lost during a current reign. Having the rulers to agree to this is akin to their acknowledgment of their own culpability in the demise of those we are paying tribute to. This, I feel, is the crux of the problem. It is why laws like the General Amnesty for Crimes Affecting National Security have been promulgated and tremendous efforts exercised to brush these issues under perennial carpets.

As the various conflicts at every martyrs commemoration activity since 2001 attest, this is not a wise resolution. Much needed closure is missing.

A new way of thinking is required to resolve this issue. Another set of sacrifices is needed by the disparate parties to achieve the status of equitable equilibrium. All need to honour the memory of those who laid their lives to provide the foundation for this country. Their memories should be made into a recognised beacon guiding current and forthcoming generations not to take things for granted.

Thirteen civil societies intimately and correctly recognise this condition and its dire need for closure. They proposed a program through which truth and reconciliation is pursued. We know that this works from experience gained from countries which have trodden this path before us. Their enacting such commissions took great courage that paved that difficult road with further necessary sacrifices. The end result; however, was their ability – finally – to turn over a brand new page. It allowed them to go forth into their futures with an assurance that they made peace with their past. From those hard lessons they gained tremendous strength that proved to be a bedrock of their stability.

Isn’t it high time that we consigned tired and empty platitudes to the rubbish heap and boldly trod the courageous road to an equitable future?

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Comments (25)

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  1. riot says:

    in that case, to be fair, we should build a statue for every indian that was burnt alive in the restaurant. or was their death an insignificant part of this country’s history? the fact is we shia dedicate our entire lives to celebrate grief and death. i guess thats what makes us unique 🙄

  2. ammaro.com says:

    a lot of people felt overjoyed when the charter was placed, feeling something would finally change, feeling a spark of hope show up after what seemed like a bleak, dark history. promises were made, faith was handed out by the dozen, optimism, trust, anticipation.

    and as you mentioned, fast forward to years later, and most of that has been eradicated. a few people are happier, but the general population isn’t, no better off than they were before the promises were made, some even worse off. and the people are not happy; some discontent, some angry, some furious, and they form a bubbling pot ready to burst. Already we have seen the steam blow through the edges, and unless the heat is turned down, this could all end in disaster.

  3. Astro says:

    Mahmood,

    The phrase “broken record” comes to mind. What Bahrain has is as good as it gets. To put it another way, “you can’t get to where you want to be from here”….the past is the past and people need to live with the messy reality of politics warts and all.

    In political science there is a great theory called “exit, voice, and loyalty” which says that leaders can demand loyalty by giving their followers a voice (a say) in how the community is run. Alternatively, the members can exit (leave) and move to another system where they feel more valued. That in itself is enough of a discipline to guarantee vestigal loyalty in the absence of voice.

    It strikes me that people in Bahrain are too rooted to contemplate anything other than receiving a greater “voice”. But the indigent populace can be diluted through inward migrants who receive an equal voice – yes, I know it can happen – so perhaps the alternative strategy is to pursue “exit”. It always amazes me why in a region with so much demand for labour, people prefer to riot and protest rather than get in their cards and drive to Doha or the UAE or Kuwait to look for work and a better life.

    Probably the small island mentality at work here.

    Sorry to be so unsympathetic, but your message just sounds so “90s” … the debate has moved on.

  4. Eyad says:

    It always amazes me why in a region with so much demand for labour, people prefer to riot and protest rather than get in their cards and drive to Doha or the UAE or Kuwait to look for work and a better life.

    these people are those who believe that Bahrain is home and in your home, freedom and equality is your right, these people are not only protesting to get a higher pay but to fight for a better life for them and others.

    another fact that you need to look at, the number of people that leave the country is every growing, and it is scary; smart young men and women who have a very good education and huge potential to make something out of them self and also add something to the place they live in, now many of them are leaving to other GCC countries, UK, US, Aus, and the list goes on, I’m not quite sure this is what the King wants.

    on the other Hand, and even larger number of young people with limited education are also rioting because they cant find decent jobs in their HOME, how is it that you expect these people to have faith in another country ?

  5. underthedatetree says:

    The issues being debated on this thread are very complex. For Bahrain to move forward I believe we need changes to start at the very top and trickle down to the foot soldiers of every governmental office. Sadly freedom of speach and freedom of the press are a long way off. This makes studying Bahrain, it’s government and society very difficult.

  6. Anwar Y Abdulrahman says:

    In my opinion, the problem is more than that..some religious scholars (sunni & shia)should be kept aside and cut from interferring into politics and/or economic issues. Their tremendous power, influence and authority over average people mind is driving breakout of the society. As is said, religion is for God, country is for all. Unfortunately, this won’t happen till we have some brave “cruel” leader to separate religion from politics. It has never happened before in any other Arab country and I strongly believe it will never happen.
    On the other side, the gov’t should also fulfill its promises in transparency and accountability for all, and not selectively. So far, things look a bit better than few years ago in terms of freedom, transparency and accountability, but there are quite many gaps that need to be filled by the authority, and in some cases setbacks from what has been promised have started to accumulate without solution in sight.

  7. Eyad says:

    some religious scholars (sunni & shia)should be kept aside and cut from interferring into politics and/or economic issues. Their

    All religious SCHOLARS should be kept aside and cut from interfering with the whole system, but that will never happen, there are many high profile figures (as well as government) that are using these stupid scholars as their voice, take for example the MP’s.

    until there is a major change in the system (system not government) the country will keep going down, and will soon be finished.

  8. moodz says:

    Are we really just blinded to the facts or do we just like to call things by anything but their name? It’s not an issue of Scholars, it’s not an issue of Mushaim3 Al Khawaja or whoever, it’s just way too many issues that are just left unattended.

    What we need to understand that if Ali didn’t pass away on the 17th of December he would’ve just fell any other day, as long as issues like illegal naturalization, albander report, corruption, land stealing and reclaiming, the compensation of the martyrs and wounded of the 90s. If any of those issues will not get the attention it needs from the government, more alis will fall soon.

    The people want change, they just can’t see it happening.

  9. Astro says:

    Ok, two points here, just to clarify.

    1. What people want and what they can make do with aren’t necessarily the same. So the most able vote with their feet, the most influential rise to the top of a shrinking pond, and the unemployable (those with “limited education”, clearly of the moral & etihical as well as technical sort) resort to rioting.

    Sorry folks, someone needs to tell them that the solution to illiterate rioters is tear gas and bullets in most places. Just ask the ANC how they “solved” the problem of the unemployable Soweto kids who were useful foot soldiers of the revolution, but who then turned to crime.

    Anyway, on a more constructive note. I doubt that the “badly educated” Bahraini youth are any less well endowed than the thousands of Asians, Arabs, and Africans that work damn hard far from their own homes in the retail emporia and factories of the GCC. Wake up kids, you can’t make a living in your own villages anymore. The world is now a village, so if that job is in Muscat or Kuwait then that is where you need to go.

    2. Like everywhere else in the Gulf, and indeed the Arab World more generally, this Island is a family firm. Everyone else is a tenant. Whether the rule is enlightened and pluralistic – as it is now – or despotic and absolutis – as it regrettably was – doesn’t change the fact that the rest of us are merely tenants and hired help. Whether or not people’s ancestors were here from the time of Adam is irrelevant. They never had title (sovereignty) over this Island; that was passed from ruler to ruler until the present day.

    Against that backdrop, there are no absolute entitlements for the tenants, only privileges and indulgences (makramat) so there’s no point asking for more unless people are questioning the existing order – which is not something the majority of people would tolerate. The status quo working well enough for enough people to keep things as they are.

  10. Sadek says:

    I must compliment the writers on this string – some very intelligent, mature and rational (and contrasting) comments. Wish this debate could be the norm when people discuss this topic.

  11. Lee Ann says:

    For 20 years I have listened to Bahrainis generally speak well of the ruling family…while they are in large groups and everyone is laughing and praising the king and all his family etc…and yet when they are in pairs or a few more they will become very critical….but..get this..they barely spit out this critisizm in anything above a whisper. I swear to that…always whispering…fear from your govt that is bad enough it causes you to whisper when saying even the smallest point of critisizm is not a good sign..the only ones that have ever talked above a whisper are the rioters etc…and while violence is never the answer when trying to foster change…until more Bahrainis learn to critisize above a whisper…nothing will ever change.

  12. Silver says:

    Whether we like it or not, the change can only come if Sunnis in this country start show their own dis-satisfaction and believe me it’s not that far of. Most of them are feeling it as much as shias are. Inflation in food prices, real estate and then seeing how other GCC countries are treating their people. According to today’s Alwasatnews, now even the air we breath is killing us!!!
    Just wait for it, the train is never late (the Sunnis gonna blow as well) and i will be the first to welcome it.

  13. Hamad Algoheri says:

    People some thing is not normal on the way we think . Im just wondering are we a socialism or capitalism nation ???? what the government should do for people to be happy ?!!!! every thing ???? so we should change to a new system similar to Eastern Korea .

    The government role depend on the political ideology the nation follow and people have to work with governments to build the one they all agree on but I think the main problems are not on the government role or ourselves there is a bigger problem we all cant see .

    The major problem is on the whole system of our life’s let me give this scientific example two lions were jailed on a room for 5 years they scientist provide them with every thing they need food , drink and other basic requirements after 5 years the left the 2 lions out – Free them again but unfortunately none of them could survive why ???? because during the five years they become weak on running and their intelligent became slower and weaker . what I want to say that inside every one of us a great person but we didn’t develop the skills needed to make a living . we have very weak education system that never accept us to think creatively and critical thinking was always threat in place of opportunity .

    Our parents run under the same system poor education , poor training , unhealthy business environment and the cycle after the other pay the same price of poorness .

    The major solution is to change the way we grow up our kids we should give them good education that guarantee them to have a successful life . education that focus on how to make them successful on life not on exam . we should focus on active movement of body always like sports and other activities that move their body so they will always be proactive to change and improve their life in place of lazy generations that hardly move .

    Either they will stay on Bahrain which is the first and right options or will be send to outside we need powerful human resources that know how to make a living or they might not do it .

  14. Astro says:

    I like what Hamad Algoheri has to say. My view is that the family culture in Bahrain now has become overly indulgent, producing facile unmotivated children. This is true of all levels of society. A return to a more spartan education would not go amiss here, especially for those that have to throw their spears further than children born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Reform starts at home.

    As for the more dire and alarmist predictions coming out from the other speakers, we are not in Russia pre-1917 revolution or in 1940s China. We are small, overcrowded city state of little strategic or economic importance. The minute the lid comes off and there is popular unrest we will end up changing our well-meaning, if somewhat underperforming, leadership with a harder taskmaster. Whether the new boss comes from the West or East coast of the Gulf doesn’t really matter. In either case, the Island’s political voice will be drowned by absorption into a larger polity.

    Don’t believe me? Ask how well represented most small towns in the bigger countries are in terms of economic development. Not much, I can assure you.

    As for the economic distortions. Civil society needs to organise itself more to promote economic improvement, education, and support rather than playing toytown politics in the national assembly and the newspapers. But that requires real political and economic skill, when alas all the people have are poorly trained demagogues and second rate journos.

    Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country…

    🙂

  15. glideslope says:

    everyday problem that I have seen here in my nine years training Bahraini individuals in aircraft maintenance.

    1. Poor english skills.
    2. General overall malaise.
    3. Mobile phone addiction.
    4. I need a jazzaa.

    They ask me why they bring more foriegn mechanics here and pay them more and give them benefits; I tell them they need A/C to fly not sit on the ground. It amazes me people in this country even wonder why there are so many foriegn workers here, most important aspect they are reliable. Go to any small buisness say Ammar store in sitra you will see what I am talking about; large buisness any bahraini indiviual with a basic mechanical training could be working there but you see none the money guy is an indian, yet you have many finance graduates on the dool sitting at home.
    All you here in Bahrain is college graduates; what about trades technical skills, plumbers,electricians,A/C mechanics,carpenters. I went to Yateem A/C a few years back 25 foriegners making all of the ducts from scratch a semi-skilled sheet-metal job and not one Bahraini bending tin, this is a big shame. Any person who has studied basic sociology knows that a large number of unemployed youth especially angry or disenfranchised will eventually boil over and lead to forms of anarchy some of which you can witness as we speak. The sad fact of the matter is this is capatilist driven economy, nothing else.

    Silent observer

  16. Sadek says:

    The last three contributions are so valid. There is a malaise in the system: on the surface, the concept of a continous holiday, minimal work and let somebody “take care of me” has become so embedded in our system that it has become scary.But more deply throw in sectoral tensions, a dysfunctional parliament, eductational system, corruption of many forms and you have an incredible recipe of stasis.

  17. I says:

    It really is a shame to think how inactive the youth of today has become.

    In the 1960’s and 70’s all the maintenance at BAPCO was done by Bahrainis. No Indians or Filipinos at all. The carpentry, plumbing and electrics. All maintained by Bahrainis.

    Now look at it. Where has the work ethic gone ? If it was good enough for the fathers and grandfathers, why not the youth of today ?

  18. J says:

    because the indian worker is a poor single man who can live on a piece of bread and an onion for 10 years in bahrain..sends most of the money back home and return after those 10 years as a maharaja!

    Asians are cheep labor and can work in inhumane conditions and they accept it..IT IS basically serfdom in the modern world.

    it is good for them to come for a few years..eat shit..make a fortune..and go back..

    unfortunalty the BAHRAINI YOUTH (and the old) cant send their money anywhere to become mahrajas (not to mention he rising inflation here) and obvioulsy wont accept been treated like shit.

    it is also stupid shortsighted MERCHANTS who keep feeding the demand for this slave industry.. some only hire bahrainis to get more quota to bring in more “slaves” from he east.

    SAD!

  19. Bahraini says:

    The issue here is that “the country did not recognize the sacrifices of its citizens.” What sacrifices are you talking about?! The crowd that wanted to “recognize the sacrifices of its citizens” are sadly not even citizens. Its hard to label such people as citizens, when they intentionally go out on a particular day-national day.
    They have no sense of citizenship, they weren’t even recognizing the sacrifices they claim to be doing. They went out on the streets intentionally to RIOT; burning, throwing bricks, stealing weapons. What are they trying to get at?!
    Those days were to be celebrated for eid, but were spent more like we were in Iraq or Palestine. If those people are born to be such hooligans then why don’t they just move. We want a united country, of peace. People fear the safety of their children.
    But sadly the country has dealt lightly with such matters. If this were the States or the UK, they would not have allowed such nonsense. This is not a demonstration, its an act of violence and the country must put these people in line. There is a difference between demonstration and what was done a few days ago.

  20. The Joker says:

    How is branding bahrain going, guys?

  21. Sadek says:

    J seems to have a common Arab problem, blame somebody else for one’s problems. In this case the Indians, forgetting that they are the ones that build our roads, clean our streets, collect our rubbish, and just about do anything that we are so averse to doing. This crap of them going back like Maharajas is contemptuous to say the least. As for his comment on the Merchants, am I sensing in J a budding Marxian, who likes to blame the capitalist, but putting his head in the sand in not realising that to run a business the need for productivity, or lack of it, unlike the government, is a necessity.

  22. J says:

    Sadek!

    sorry you have perceived and “sensed” all of those unholy virtues and vices within me from that simple reply!

    I have most respect for the foreign worker here in bahrain whether they are indian or indonesian..

    fact is that they are hard working people striving to make a living for their families back home.

    however i wanted to criticize the bad conditions and low payment they have here in bahrain which is a fact. they are inhumane conditions. this gives them an advantage over bahrainis.

    bahrainis work in all of the fields that foreign workers are brought for and the fact is that they do want to work if they get the chance and the proper conditions.

    why is there less bahraini construction workers than indians.. because the contractors dont want bahraninis!

    i am not blaming the indians for wanting to make a living.. if you see the poverty they come from you will understand how they can accept such humiliating work here in bahrain.. they dont go back as maharajas yes i was exaggerating..but they can support their families is what i’m saying.. bahrainis cant!

    in fact i remember one of them who’s desperation brought them here in bahrain to support their family and to save enough money to go back home and then get in to university there! you can not but bow down in respect for such people.

    however still the blame i am putting is on the system and the fact is that lower class bahrainis are at a disadvantage because of it. anyone who claims that bahrainis are lazy and dont want to work probably has a good cushy job and doesn’t do enough work himself and think the rest are like him.. if they would come out from their air conditioned offices and go around bahrain a bit maybe theyll see the fisherman, the farmer, the constructor, the garbage collector… look closely.. their very dark skin i not always indian..it bahraini skin darkened by bahrains hot sun..

    in fact i remember a bahranini who worked for decades as a garbage collector.. i would sometimes look through the window at 5am and see him bending over picking each piece of snotty tissue or chewing gum he can find.. unfortunately i dont see him anymore.. not because he is lazy..not because he doesn’t like to work.. but because at age 70 the sun has weakened his eyes and now he is practically blind.. now crippled in his house with no pension his children take on his legacy of hard work until the end snd supprot him and this country in whatever possible way they can.

    May God help them and all the poor people around the world for a batter life.

  23. Capt. Arab says:

    Our main problem, or specifically with all Arabs is the patience factor. Nobody likes to wait, and unfortunately a large majority of Bahrain have this understanding that Bahrain has to/will transform at the speed of light.
    That will not happen, mainly because we have not changed our thinking process. Ask anybody what democracy is to them, and it should paint the bigger picture. Think about how long it took other governments to transform to a transparent stage, with all cards on the table? The last 7 years definately signal improvement, change, etc… But like the lady said… If we still whispher our discontent, nobody will hear us. Change requires people to be forward thinkers, ready to adapt to change, ready to experiement and learn from those hurdles and pot holes. That’s goes for the pople and the Government. Unfortunately, most Bahraini’s just want, want, want… Only a few are prepared to give. They mumble and talk about foreign workers taking jobs, but Have we really tried hard enough? Or have we stopped at the first hurdle and made our decison? Something, Roosevelt said which I remember from my school days: “Ask not what your country can do for you, But what you can do for your country”… Not everything works out for me the way I want it to, but I don’t give up at the first fall, and eventually I make the best out of what is available on hand. It may be the next generation that sees real radical change, where a citizen is considered a customer of the Government ministry he has dealings with, with SLA’s (service level agreements), courtesy and above all that “priceless” majestic feeling of belonging to a country called Bahrain. We should all work together, educate our young, have patience and learn from our mistakes, and never be afraid to admit our short-falls and flops. Only then will change ultimately happen and flourish to the true meaning of the word. Just blocking the proposed Martyrs Day just causes contention and want-not situations every year, on the other hand violence, rioting and damaging public property where the true innocent are jailed is not fair. As a Bahraini I have my local Councillor, MP, Parliamnet, and other Political Associations to raise my concerns… Causing choas serves nobody, not in the short or long run.. It just causes additional delay, and out of the 10 steps we took forward, trust me… We have just taken 6 steps back.

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