As one Bahrainni commentator once put it, the political situation in Bahrain can be summed up nicely now as , "Everyone can say whatever they want, and the government can do whatever it wants."
Of course, this is a generalization, but it seems to generally ring true. We still don't have complete freedom of speech, as no one can criticize the higher echelons of government. The government can't of course always do what it wants, as witnessed recently by the sacking of the interior minister (it took a few prominent shia clerics to be injured for that to occur). Overall, however, the statement above holds. Political issues such as naturalization, discrimination in employment, embezzlement and fraud in government, and unemployment, all if which used to be a big no no to discuss, are freely and openly debated in the press, conferences and seminars nowadays. On the other hand, fraud and embezzlement in the government continues, so does the issue of naturalization, ministers still yield huge and unchecked authority, and we have an inept parliament; so the government can continue to do what it likes (mostly).
Does anyone see in this certain similarities with past history? Here's a clue: Gorbachev, Soviet Union, 1980s. Answer: In the 1980s, under the leadership of Mikhael Gorbachev, the Soviet Union decided to undertake a series of reforms called Glasnost, which means openness, and Perestroika, which means restructuring. Basically Glasnost dealt with the process of opening up the press and the media and allowing free speach and freedom of expression. Perestroika, on the other hand, dealth with actual reform in the government, the economy, and the way things are run.
Now, if the will and true intent to reform is available, Glasnost is much easier to achieve than Perestroika. All it needs is for the laws diminishing or banning free speech and press to be removed, and the people will do the rest (the talking). Perestroika, on the other hand, is much harder to achieve. There will be certain groups who have huge interests in the way things are being run as they are, and they will do their most to resist any reform. Furthermore, restucturing a whole political system, an economy, and ministries is much harder than allowing people to say what they want.
That's what happened in the Soviet Union. Glasnost was achieved relatively quickly. Perestroika, on the other hand, stalled, and not much progress was made on that frontier. This however, makes for an explosive cocktail. Now you had the situation where corruption and ineptitude was still rife in government, but everyone can know about it and speak about it loud. It was if suddenly people awakened to a whole new reality, and what's more they can criticize it. No one needs to be told where this led the Soviet Union to.
Are we seeing elements of this in Bahrain? We do have the combination of (relatively) free speech, but it seems like slow systemic reform. Now people can start freely complaining about all the problems in society, and these problems can be detailed out much more than before. this seems to increase peoples anger anxiety over them, as now they know the true extent of the problem more than before. However, to solve (perestroika) these problems requires a long time horizon, and a very concerted effort, much more than just allowing people to say what they want. The current level of systemic reform is at snail pace at best. I know it's harder, and patience is needed, but we need to pick up the pace.I have no doubts that reform has begun already, but the pace has to be accelarated, or else we'll fall into the problem of Glasnost and Perestroika. What we need is a massive gesture, a massive step that shows once and forall that progress is going to happen, and fast. One massive to step to silence all the skeptics, including myself.