It seems my last post has pissed off quite a few people. Anyway, to keep to the trend, let me continue with another controversial post that's probably going to piss off even more people:) As you can tell, I like building a solid fan base that agree with what I say.
Another question I was asking myself the other day is do we have social mobility in Bahrain? By this I mean something like being able to rise from absolute poverty to becoming a (materialistically) successful person. i.e. I'm talking pureley here in terms of moving up the social ladder money wise. In other words, something similar to what the Americans like to call the "American Dream." At first, a couple of examples of people who were able to do this came up to mind (e.g. Haji Hassan Al Aali). However, all in all, I think, we probably do not have that much of social mobility, and, if anything, the social structure seems to be predefined.
Again, I'm talking relatively here. As usual, the above phenomena exist to one degree or another in every country in the world, but in Bahrain it seems to be skewed more to an extreme. For example, it is well known the stereotype of how in England you've got the upper posh class in one extreme, and the lower "working class" at the other extreme, and where it seems a lot of societal conduct are defined around these phenomena, even the accent of a person. What is striking is that in Bahrain (and probably the gulf in general) societal structure seems to be based mainly on familial-relations to this day. In many countries this also used to be the case, but is becoming less relevant nowadays (e.g. in Scotland, certain surnames or clans have a lot of historical significance, and may still have some influence today, but society is not mainly defined around them). In Bahrain, your family still seems to define the social position, material well-being, and even job you'll end with.
What do I mean by this? I mean that if I were to hear a certain person's family name, I'd most probably be able to tell you in what sector his job is, how rich he is, and what social influence he has. If you hear certain tribal or originally beduin surnames, then a person could identify almost surely that he'd work in a high ranking government position, most probably something like the BDF or the ministry of interior or foreign office. If you hear certain surnames that are from certain clans from the "houla", then most probably he is a big shot businessman, who owns one or more of the big companies in Bahrain, or maybe a big shot banker. For example, I was looking through the newspaper the other day, and I came across the new political party formed by businessmen. Four out of the people on the board of directors were first cousins, and from a certain group of families. The same occurs if you look at the big player in "gurfat al tejara", or the trading committee. In similar vein, if you here certain other surnames, you'd think he's most probably an upper middle class professional. Others, most probably a small bussiness man. Still others, and they're most probably poor working in certain job sectors, etc....
Now this on its own is not much of a phenomena. The more important question to ask is is it that common to find social mobility. Is it often that you find peop who were once upon a time extremely poor, and not are at the top echelons of society? Maybe I'm wrong (and I hope someone can illuminate me on this), but this does not happen often at all. There about ten well-known big players in Bahrain, who own any big project worth noting, and who continue to make sure that any other big project that enters is continued to be owned by them. For anyone else, it is almost impossible to enter into that high category, and the only way to do so is if you decide to play ball with them.
For example, I come from what can be considered middle-upper middle class professional family. My grandfather was in a white collar profession, my father after him as well, and probably I'll end up with that as well. I'm not complaining and I'm happy. However, if I ever dreamed that I wanted to be an influential and big player on the Bahraini scenes, what would be my chances? There is a chance (there always is), but, to use a term I've learned this year university, asymptotically it approaches zero (sounds fancy doesn't it?). In other words, it is basically zelch. Even if I get the highest grades at school and even if I stack one degree after another, and even if I amazingly excel at the profession that I choose, I might end up with a good job in that scenario, but it is extremely improbable to enter the most elite group. Basically, if you do want to enter, you have to be one of them, and to be one of them, you have to be born in them.
My whole point is that it seems a person's position in society seems to predefined in some sort of convoluted way from the day he was born. Of course, there is a certain space within which you can manuevre and make life choices. E.g. I could've chosen if I want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, etc. However, a person's choice is confined to a cerain area or zone, and it is very hard, if not impossible, to jump out of that zone into another zone (and most specifically into the upper echelons of society.)
Why is this the case? Maybe the blame should be put squarely, as usual, on the government? I don't think that's the main reason. To be honest, I don't know what the main reasons are. My guess is that there are two big factors: social perception, and guys at the top making sure not only that they stay at the top, but that no one else enters that creme de la creme category. As to social perception, I think that in a way people themselves help this cycle to continue. It seems that everyone, from the start, has a rough idea where his position is in society, and what other's positions in society is, and sets his goals, conduct, and even his behaviour towards others according to this social position (again, this is a generalization, and of course does not apply in every case). If I was born in the top echelons, I'd set my sights on the top jobs, and I can also identify the others that are in that top echelon, and also identify the others that most probably won't be, and act accordingly. If I'm from an uppermiddle class professional family, I'd do the same, and probably shoot for getting, at the most, a nice middle-managerial position in a company, and be extemely satisfied if i reach that, since I know that that the chances are basically zero that I'd be able to move even further.
As to the top echelons looking after each other and squeezing any one out who dares to enter, I don't think many people need to be told about that. Stories are rife about people who had big plans and tried to bring in large scale projects in Bahrain, but then the cruel reality hit them. If you are (un)lucky enough to come up with an idea or an huge investment that could rake in millions, you almost definitely will expect a friendly call from someone sayin, "nice idea, now here's what you'll do. You'll sell me this project of yours at a below-market, or better yet, dirt cheap price. If you don't do this, I'll mobilize every ministry, high ranking official, or institution in society against you. This, of course, I can do since they're all my friends and I'm one of them." If he's feeling unusually generous that day, then he'll just say, "fine, keep your project. Just give me 50% of the return." As the late Marlon Brando would say, he'll make you an offer you can't refuse.
I don't know why, but nowadays I'm getting into giving metaphors and imagery to describe a situation, so here is my (extremely drawn out and silly) analogy. The king of the see is a hamour. Basically, now matter how hard you try, you can never become a hamour. You are born a hamour, and hamours are a secretive bunch that clan together and look after each other, and they make sure no other kind of fish is able to take over or even share, their high position. What is any other lowly fish to do? Well, you have two choices. You can either be one of those small fishes who stick to the scales and bodies of the hamour, cleans it, and gets its living from it. In other words, you can be one of those unoffending fishes who puts its hands up and says, "look, I know your better than me, and I don't mean any harm. I just want to live under your protection. I'll help you do lower ranking jobs that you need help with, and in return all i need from you is not to attack me, and maybe save a few of the crumbs of your booty for me to live off." The second choice is to be one of those fishes that just minds its own business in the sea. It looks for its own food, and does not really want to be associated with the hamour. Once in a while, however, the hamour becomes extremely hungry, and might have to feed off you. You accept that risk, and you live your life. The third choice is to be a paranea. You'd be a small fish, and always will be that. You know you will never be one of the kings of the sea. However, you are also vicious, and if attacked, you are able to defend your own, and show the big guys that you can stand for your own. If a lot of peranas combine as well, they can be a formidable force, and no hamour can dare touch them.