Who, or maybe more appropriately, what are we? Most of us would reply we are arabs.
What does it mean nowadays to be an Arab, however? Is it simply to come from certain areas of the middle East? Is it simply to speak Arabic as one's primary language? Is there anything about one's mentality that defines one as Arabic?
We are not the only ones grappling with such issues. People, countries, and civilizations all over the world are continuously redefining what they are and examining what they have become. It is slowly dawning on us that this is an age marked by true globalization, and by that I mean where most cultures and coutnries are melted into one bigger new culture (i.e. standardization). Instantaneous information, the internet, and the global reach of media and goods has speeded up the spread of thoughts and cultures across borders.
Inevitably, when such phenomenon occurs some cultures die and others survive. More strikingly, however is how one culture comes to dominate all others. It becomes the one that is spread farthest, and the one that penetrates and is adopted most by other countires. Naturally, the dominant military and economic force in the world turns out to be the one that possesses such a culture.
Time for some soul searching. How many of us watch primarily American or Western entertainment on TV? How many of us wear mainly western clothes (jeans, tshirts and shirts) most of the time we go out? How many of us consider western foods (including fast foods) to be a main constitute of our diet?
In fact, how many of us consider English to be their mother tongue, and not Arabic? By that I mean how many of us use Arabic as their preferred method of speaking? How many of us can speak Arabic without dropping in a few English words, or not having to think of an English word and then try to convert it to Arabic? How many of us can claim that their written classical Arabic is better than their English? If not us, can we say the same about our siblings, wives, relatives, and families? How many of us thinks his thoughts, outlook, and way of life, more closely resembles that of western urban areas than that of your average 3abood on the street?
Of course, we are not the best reflection of Bahraini society. Most of us are from an above average education and income background. We are the frontier of those who absorbed what other cultures had to offer. It is, however, a trend you find strongly in Bahrain. In fact, one can get the best jobs on offer in Bahrain without speaking a single word of Arabic. There is no way, however, that nowadays you'd get very far without knowing English. There are tons of people in Bahrain, including Bahrainis, who have extremely good jobs and can speak Arabic no better than their drivers.
This is not something unexpected, nor is it something new. It is a product of global and societal changes. The main reason that American culture has seeped through is not mainly because America has aggressively pushed it down people's throats, but because the culture is so irresistible. Look at their glossy and attractive movies, TV shows, and music. Look at the way they conduct business so efficiently. Look at how strong their higher education system is. It slowly seems to other cultures that the American ways are just so damn convenient, especially when other cultures as well start using them. Inevitably, we start adapting our cultures to them, while at the same time fooling ourselves that we are adapting their culture to ours.
I am not saying this process is good or bad. Although I do have my own views, I'm going to witthhold judgement. I am simply to trying to describe what is occuring.
This is very similar to how Arabic, and mainly Islamic culture got seeped through the world. It was not primarily because of violence (although wars were conducted). In fact, in the beginning of the Muslim age most Arabs did not want their subjects and others to convert to Islam, as they saw that as an increase in the number of the people who ruled a place and a threat to their dominance on political matters. People themselves, however, saw the benefits Islam brings along. For one, it was an encompassing humanist religion that made other religions with their unnecessary complexities and odd customs and dieties seem less attractive. They also saw that being a muslim brought along much economic success and prosperity. Hence, Islam spread all over the world, reaching Indonesia. This resulted in Islam introducing its own customs and norms in these countries, while whiping out others that were already there.
Similarly, this is occuring today (but obviously not mainly on a religious frontier). People are realizing that the Western dress code, business methods, and culture is so damn attractive and brings along many benefits as well. Hence, people start adopting it. The only difference is that nowadays information and travel occurs so frequently and easily that what took two hundred years before to occur now can occur in two generations.
This is even reflected in our thoughts, sports we play and societal structures. We all like football or car racing, which were invented in the Western world. Nowadays, all we talk about are democray and human rights, which are essentially products of western thought. You hear on the news " a world reknowned institute praised Bahrain for this and this and this". You can bet your house that this institute is somewhere in the Western world. Similarly, our universities pride themselves on being acknowledged by others in the US or the UK.
Even those who profess to be completely against the West and its ideas are at the end of the day a reaction to the West. They depend on their survival on Western ideas. Islamism in its present form took off in the late seventies, mainly as a reaction against the perceived onslaught of Western civilization. It is mainly a reactionary movement, whose primary objective is to say "NO NO NO" to anything western. They probably are fighting a losing battle.
The best example of the changes another culture can bring to place is Singapore. In a country that hosts diverse ethnic groups of Malay, Hindu, and Chinese, the melting pot resulted in something that is distinctly Western-derived. Their main language of communication is Singlish, which is a bastardized form of English. Their attire, business models, and city life most closely resembles that of Western cities.
A Bahraini minister once said that he will make it his goal to turn Bahrain into the "Singapore of the Gulf." Economicwise, he failed miserabley. Maybe his words might come true in other ways he did not expect.