Red taped social responsibility

As a human being, when you see a rock on the road that might impede your neighbour or fellow human being and you could move it to the side, I am sure that the majority of people will just move it spontaneously. If they can’t, they’ll try to warn people about it and maybe try to get the municipality to come and remove it.

If you see a bird stuck in a net, you would untangle it and set it free.

If you saw a thirsty dog, I am sure that a lot of people will stop and try to find it water.

If you saw a person lying on the ground dying, or in pain, you would at least try to call an ambulance to help.

You would do all of the above on the spur of the moment. There is no need to think about what you are going to do, for the most part you would just get on with the job of helping, then deal with any other surrounding circumstances (call the BSPCA to collect the dog, investigate why that net was there in the first place, find the cause of why that rock was there and try to ensure that doesn’t happen again, etc.).

But what if your own society is suffering, sick and dying? Would you not try to get to the cause of that ailment and try – as an individual and then group – to do something about it?

All of the above falls under the social responsibility of the individual and group. None of the above should require a permit to perform good and ameliorate pain. For in those actions you elevate the individual and society.

My personal belief is that I would not seek a permit to do good for my society or for humanity on a larger scale. I would just go ahead and do it – and I have – and encourage every person to do the same. For if we hesitate, the situation might very well turn to the worse very quickly.

So why does a workshop on Truth and Reconciliation face official sanction and red tape? I would have thought that something as important and much needed as this which is a good step toward national reconciliation would be welcomed with open arms, and all resources made available to it to ensure its success.

But the ministry whose mandate is purportedly to elevate the individual and society thinks otherwise.


  1. can we talk

    aside from the motivations behind the red tape, your examples are not really parallel.
    1) there are no rules and procedures in place to follow when attempting to remove a rock from the road, give a dog a drink, free a stuck bird or help a person in pain. there are however, like it or not, laws and procedures when intending to organize a gathering of any sort.

    2) there are also procedures to follow when foreigners are going to be imported to participate in an activity.

    I am not saying that these rules and procedures are not sometimes bureaucratic and controlling, but if that is the case the way forward is to change the rules, not to flaut them. social responsibility implies being a responsible citizen, and responsible citizens are law-abiding, or when the laws are discriminatory or oppressive, work responsibly to change them.

    the letter, at this point, did not say that they couldn’t hold the event, only reminded them that there were procedures in place that should be followed. I wonder why they didn’t??

    3) social responsibility is not always clear as it is in the examples you mentioned. sometimes the lines blur and you will get into a grey area.
    I know who is accountable when a permit has been issued, but, tell me, if such an event were to be held without a permit, and tempers flared (and they are likely to because this is a sensitive subject, especially if you have people with conflicting opinions attending, and they will if the event is publicized) and if God forbid people get hurt at the event, who in your opinion should be held accountable? or do we just write them off as collateral damage

    (the reason i ask this last question particularly in this instance is that in this case especially, the subject matter is headlined reconciliation but is actually largely about accountability)

  2. Post

    Fair points, CWT. The parallelism of my examples might not be the best offered, but they all share a basic premise of doing good to one’s environment.

    The issue would have been much better had the government taken it upon itself to immediately institute a Truth & Reconciliation Commission themselves, as has happened in various countries around the world when one regime replaced another. Them not taking this important step only delays reconciliation, and as we have witnessed at various times since, tempers do flair as aggrieved people have had no closure. The society just continues to split and suffer.

    I do not know the content of these workshop, nor do I know who the attendees would be; that is unimportant to the basic issue which is a law which stifles basic freedoms. Do you, for instance, have to have a permit in order to conduct such a workshop in other “accountable” countries in the world? I don’t think so; organisers might have to give notice to the authorities that they will hold such a gathering or workshop but would not be required to physically get the approval and blessings of the government to do so.

    As to laws being flouted, I am not encouraging that for a moment and I readily agree that they should be changed. But social good AND social responsibility should take precedence especially if such laws are contentious and unconstitutional. How can a law stand in the face of doing good to a country and society?

    If the supposition one harbours is about “inappropriate motives” (is this what you meant by accountability?) then we cannot see into people’s hearts and should rather give the benefit of the doubt. If indeed an event turns ugly and goes against norms, then the organisers – regardless of them being registered or gained an official permit to conduct such activity – should be dealt with within the law.

  3. can we talk

    what i mean by accountability in the case of the subject matter, is that part of the closure the aggrieved people need is that those responsible for the treatment they received admit they were responsible and apologize. i.e. admit that they are accountable for the acts they committed.

    in the case of an event such as this turning ugly, if the event had a permit, security would be there and would interfere and we would see pictures plastered all over the newspapers holding security forces accountable.

    in fact, i am struggling to understand why they didn’t apply, because they can’t lose either way. if they applied, they would get turned down and use that fact for PR purposes citing oppression. i don’t see them reseiving a permit because if they did, there would be a lot of stuff brought up to the surface and Pandora’s box would be hard to close.

    if they don’t apply at all, they will be stopped from doing it anyway or they will allowed to do it and then security will show up anyway and you will have people get hurt, which they would use for PR as well, but they would take the chance of being stopped from doing it last minute and get arrested in a big hooha perhaps even in public.
    unless………. they want to apply for a permit in the eleventh hour and have the foreigners get turned away, using it as an even bigger PR exercise on an international scale.
    i know i sound confused, it is because i am..

    as far as the regulations are concerned, i agree, i don’t know what happens in civilized countries and maybe some research would be useful, but i see it as more socially responsible to change archaic oppressive rules than to break them. think what the country would be like if we all picked and chose which rules we like and followed those and ignored the ones we don’t like.

  4. Sos

    think what the country would be like if we all picked and chose which rules we like and followed those and ignored the ones we don’t like

    Doesn’t this already happen? Traffic laws, labor laws & the list goes on!

    Same thing regarding religion (any religion), man is known for selecting what suits him the best and forgetting the rest! :ninja:

    These things happen the world over.

  5. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Bahrain: Red-Taped Social Responsibility

  6. can we talk

    Doesn’t this already happen? Traffic laws, labor laws & the list goes on!

    actually, no. some laws are not strictly applied, but as responsible citizens we shouldn’t break laws. that is one of the things that i think is missing in government school curriculum, actually, as part of citizenship.
    if everyone chose whether or not to stop when approaching a red traffic light or a zebra crossing, would you still drive? your comment implies there is no need for laws and that following them should be optional. that is so far out of the field that i am not going to take that on.

    Same thing regarding religion (any religion), man is known for selecting what suits him the best and forgetting the rest!

    religion is different. it is (or should be) a personal relationship between a person and their God. it is nobody’s business how strictly you or i decide to follow religion, as long as we don’t hurt others.

  7. mr

    Apparently if you are a US Forces personnel, or any foreign tourist for that matter, you are welcomed to check in and and out of the country at total will and ease, but if you are a human rights activist you have to be cleared by our Ministry of Interior first. If you happen to be say a fun seeking Kuwaiti, you can go to any comfort suite in town no questions asked, but if you wished to veer toward elite suite for a conference you will be shown the red card on arrival. Politics and human rights are goods to be declared here.

    The Undersecretary who was tasked with signing that letter, was in the papers of late threatening any group, committee, charity, and the like to register with the Ministry or else. They couldn’t allow lawless freedom of asscociation, heavens forbid.

    It is sad that this kind of policing is outsourced to a ministry headed by a minister who once was, so I heard, first in her high school graduation batch, with a graduate degree from Concordia and a Ph.D in Education from Toronto. Civic education not included I guess.

  8. Steven_L

    That’s the great thing about democracy Mahmood. Every few years you swap regimes and the new old investigates all the grotty dealings of the old one.

  9. BB

    This is Orwell’s Ministry of Love….newspeak for the ministry in charge of law and order.

    Just another part of the government’s neutralisation strategy, what happend to the annual constitutional conference after the organisor’s abided by the restrictions set out regarding permissions and participants?

  10. Pingback: Truth & Reconciliation : Mahmood’s Den

Comments are closed.