Everyone is talking about it in the Middle East: Change Change Change. Reform Reform Reform. And you know what, there is no doubt in my mind that it will come.
Change, and that monumental change, is looming large on the area. The internal and external factors are in place, and most importantly, the public mood is turning towards it. The privilige (or burden) of such an event will fall on our generation's shoulder, and this is an oppurtunity that does not occur very often.
No one knows exactly when the change will occur, but when it will occur, it will be with a bang. This is the nature of such regimes. Factos that lead to change keep building up over a period until the situation becomes extremely charged up, and then all it needs is one spark that ignites the whole process. We've seen it happen before (e.g. Iran in 1979, the Soviet Union in the eighties), and it will most probably happen again.
The middle East over the past several hundred years has been characterized by continuous flux but no significant political product in the end. Oppurtunities for real change sparsely come by. The last time the oppurtunity came along was in our fathers' generations in the fifties and sixties, and to be completely honest, they did not make the best of it. Now it has come to us.
Rarely does an oppurtunity of such monumental proportions and huge consequences arise for a country. What we have looming on the horizon could potentially be as groundbreaking as the War of Independence and the drafting of the constitution in America, or the Ghandi revolution in India. In a way I guess, we are lucky that we are going to be part of such a huge change. On the other hand, the route cand be painful and hugely unpredictable. The current situation in the Middle East is crumbling at an accelarating speed and is not sustainable in the long run. Drastic change from the roots is looming and this could spell a major fork in the road.
And the most important thing is no one can stop it. The events have gathered such a momentum that no single entity can reverse it. They might be able to greatly influence where it turns to, but going back to the status quo is not possible. I'm not sure yet if leaders across the region have realized it yet, but if they believe they can somehom terminate the looming process, then they are sincerely misguided.
We have been landed with the chance of shaping the history for the region for many years to come, and it is a huge responsibility that we can only try to grasp its mantle.
One imposing question does come up however. What is it that we want? What direction do we want the change. What is the final goal that we have in our site?
Everyone has been shouting about wanting change and reform. Vague slogans and demands of democracy and human rights have been thrown around. We are all gunning for change, but what is that we want?
It is all very nice talking about pretty ideals that we'd like to see in a Utopia, but ideals usually can crash head on with the practicalities of reality. Just ask about our fathers how their ideals of Nationalism and Arabism got cruelly shattered over the past 40 years.
Hence, I think it is a truly important question that we address what we want develop in the future. To start with, I'm going to try and analyze the situation for our beloved country Bahrain.
What is it that people want to eventually reach in Bahrain. It seems to me there are realistically the following choices:
1. Status quo, and by that I mean a near or absolute monarchy, where all of the important decisions are taken by the royal family.
2. The current stated aim of most political parties, which is an executive controlled by the rulers and a judicial (truly) adopted and representative of the people. i.e. some sort of constitutional monarchy
3. Parliamentary monarchy- and by this I mean a system similar to that in England, where the royal family play a largely symbolic and traditional role, with the people electing the executive and the legislative.
4. Pure democracy or republic- where the monarchy no longer plays a role and all power is handed to the electorate.
5. Parliamentary theocracy- something similar to that which exists in Iran, where there is a parliament but most of the power is in the hands of a ruling religious elite.
6. Pure theocracy- something similar to what existed in Afghanistan, with the religious elite having absolute power and decision making.
7. Get the hassle over and bring us a colonizing force.
Those are the options, I think, which are conceivable at the moment in the future. One of them will eventually take place. Each one of these, however, will have vastly differing consequences, and hence I think it's crucial that we each develop at least a general idea of which we prefer to see arise. Just calling for change and then just saying خلها على الله regarding which one eventually emerges is a potentially dangerous attitude that has led the region to catastrophic consequences in the past. Look at where Nasserism or the revolution in Iran has led us, which were largely motivated by the quest for change but no coherent idea of what this change is going along with it. The problem is this attitude still persists today in many callers for change, where their slogans are extremely vague stating democracy human rights and other ideals without giving a clear outline about their aims and ideas for the future. Hence, let us analyze each of the above on its own.
First to the status quo. I don't think many people are happy about it in the country. A while ago I've posted an article about how Bahrain seems to be in a Glasnost and Perestroika stage, where people can say (generally) whatever they want and the government can do whatever it wants. i.e. Relative freedom of speech but not much action and reform to go with it. I still hold that opinion. Yes there have been recent setbacks to freedom of speech, and yes there are concerns about the new laws regarding registering sites online. I truly believe however that the explosion of blogs and forums (see previous posts) has reached the stage of being irreversible and whoever is behind this law is trying to clutch on to the last straws. Speech and opinions, thanks to the new media age, have reached the point of never being able to be silenced, and I truly do not think that that is the main obstacle at the moment. People, given the current means at hand, will always find a way of publishing their views. The problem is, however, as I pointed out in the linked post above, is that you when combine relatively free expression (due mainly to the internet and satellite tv) with almost non-existent reform and change, people get restless, and they start voicing their opinions even louder, thus accelarating the speed of change. We are witnessing this all over the Middle East, where it is largely agreed upon that one of the main catalysts for the calls for change is the prevalence of satellite TVs and the internet. For these reasons, I don't think the status quo is sustainable or desirable in the future.
How about option 2, that of having an executive picked and dominated by the rulers and a legislative branch that sets laws that is picked by the people? I have also posted a post before about my opinion on this. Basically, this option would entail cohabitation, which means that there are two sides with different interests that will try to outsmart to each other. Each side is trying to cater to its own interests and goals, with government trying to keep as much power as possible and the legilative trying to usurp more power and to guarantee that they are elected once again. This I think will not only be vastly inefficient, creating constant bickering and tit-fpr-tat strategy, but could also build up to lead to a massive final showdown between each side. It does have its merits, however. I'll come back to it later on.
To be continued (maybe tomorrow, a week, a month, who knows, it depends on me and my baby and the free time we have).
Haven't posted in a while, won't post in a while either. It's been a hectic few weeks, and it'll continue to be so for two months or so.
In all this chaos, however, I've found a new-old lover to keep me company. We've been spending endless days and nights together. We study together, we have fun together, we even eat together. And she's not even mine.
Today we started off with a short meeting, as we both had other matters to attend to. This was followed however by a six-hour non-stop session, which ended with both of us completely exhausted. Now, as I type this up, we are once again spending the night keeping each other company.
We have become really close. From rigorous intellectual academic analysis to chats about soccer, we've had it all. Tensions can run high sometimes, as she, like most other women, can sometimes be moody, freeze unexpectedly, and refuse to respond to any rational actions on my part.
Yup, me and my friend's computer have now become inseparable. I know, you might say it's sad, but I'm not letting any of your evil whispers come between me and my baby. As someone once said:
قالوا ترى مالك امل في قربها لو يوم ابعد وجنّب دربها .. هذا هو المقسوم قلت اتركوني واسكتوا .. خلو العتب واللوم قدني غرقت في بحرها .. ولاعاد يفيد العوم
قالوا ترى في حبها ويل .. وأسى .. و هموم قلت ان قتلني حبها .. حسبي تقول مرحوم قالوا انسى ذكرها .. منتب بها ملزوم قلت ابشروا ياعاذلين .. بنسى لذيذ النوم
Anyway, it's mostly been some heavy sessions on Matlab. If you've never heard of this amazing product, I recommend you get it. It could enhance your relationship endlessly. It could be hard to get to grip with in the beginning, but once you have mastered it, the possibilities never end.
One advantage of spending so much time on a computer is that you quickly get bored with one thing and you drift away in the world of the internet. One amazing discovery for me was the forums, particularly, the bahraini forums.
AND THERE ARE TRUCKLOADS OF THEM.
I'm sure some of us bloggers have wondered why blogs have not mushroomed around the island, as they have did for example in Iran. Sure, there is a steady flow of blogs being produced, but it is not exactly a phenomenon swooping the island at the moment. The most telling evidence of this is that the blogs seem to be almost exclusively in English, with Arabic blogs being sporadic and infrequently updated. Maybe it is because it is mainly us western educated and (relatively) wealthy individuals have the most access to the internet? Maybe it is indeed because most blogs are in English and that does not appeal to a wider audience? Maybe people are yet to hear about blogs?
The main reason, I think, is the amazing outburst of forums all around the place.
And the forums are indeed a phenomenon in every word of the sense. If you check out these forums, it seems even your local beggar at the mosque accesses them. The memberships for these forums are ridiculous, with the smallest ones around 1000 members and registering at least a similar number of hits a day. The country indeed seems to be literally online, and the number of users just keeps growing.
Why is it that forums seem to have taken off much more than blogs? Well the main the reason it seems that most of these forums are extremely encompassing, having sections that deal from sports to Politics. They obviously also allow any member to publish a post. Hence, the number of topics and activities is substantially increased, making the average day much more entertaining than that that occurs on a blog. In fact, in one of my sad days, I even checked logging on the same forum after every hour, and it is amazing how fast the topics keep shifting. Literally every minute there is something new happening. This is not to mention that you as a poster are obviously exposed to a much wider audience in an established forum rather than creating a base from scratch for your own blog.
This is not to say, however, that blogs won't catch up. The number one advantage for a blog is that it offers you a personal platform, your own kingdom, to post your views, and see what others think of them. Every blogs is different and unique to another, and to certain extent that is lacking in forums. Obviously forums are catching on to this, and they allow their users to display unique tags and style when posting nowadays. They do tend however, to post the same topics over and over again with repititions across the forums. Thus, I think blogs still have a role to play to those that like diversity. It's the difference I guess between those who like to shop in one gigantic sprawling mall that encompasses everything (e.g. Seef) or prefer walking down a street that encompasses many unique and different shops (e.g. Oxford Street or King's Road).
Anyway, for those you are yet to fully indulge into the entertaining art of Bahraini forums, here is a list of the most popular:
My picks of the moment are muharraqawi (massive debate raging on about why the football team is not doing so well and whether it's the administration's fault), kooora, bahrainforums, and bahrainonline.
Anyway, although it's not the greatest times for eltheeb (the wolf) at the moment, we all know that الذيب يمرض لكن مايموت. And when he wakes up from his hibernation, he's going to be pretty damn hungry, and he's going to be looking for some chicken. Blue chicken in particular is his favourite dish, so beware. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
I myself will be in hibernation for a period, with posts being intermittent at best, so I wish you all a pleasant period in the mean time. In the end, I leave you with this link:
Bahrain has successfuly hosted the formula 1 for the second time. Congratulations Bahrain, and Congratulations to Alonso for coming in pole position.
On the other hand, our national team just lost to Japan 1-0. Hard luck Bahrain.
I then look at the Formula 1 track we have and at the football "pitches" (more like pits) we have, and all I can think is, "Surely this is a really big horrible joke."
Surely I'm not the only one who's noticed this? We fork out around $200 million bucks to build an out of space motorsport track, and we don't even have ONE decent natural grass pitch?
We've been playing on horrible artificial pitch for the last 3 years, while our neighbours are building these ambitious projects. Surely, surely, we can afford to build a decent 20,000 seater stadium that actually has some grass on it? Surely we could have used the millions that were spent on the events like the Gulf opening ceremoney and the mahrajanat to build a respectable stadium? I'm not talking about a state of the art thing here, just a decent stadium with grass on the pitch!
Go all around Bahrain (which won't take you long), and you'll see people using every single space available to play football. Barefoot, in an asphalt carpark , with sandals as makeshift goalposts, kicking a ragged object barely resembling a football. That's the beauty of football. You don't need a $120 million hi-tech car that fails every other race. You don't a team of engineers, tirechangers, and technicians to take part. Anyone can become a football star, as is shown by our players time and again who've come from humble backgrounds to be recognized all around Asia. You don't need to have a wadlod of cash, have the right connections, and come from the right family as you do just to drive even in a formula 3 race.
And that is why people all around the world love football. You don't need to be a millionaire to play. Everyone, as long as he's got feet and something to kick (doesn't even need to a ball) can take part. That's why you find genuine passion and admiration for football in Bahrain that has lasted more than a seventy years, not a fleeting interest just because a fad has just dropped in the country.
What is this warped logic that we're too stingy to spend even $10 million to build a mediocre football stadium when people in Bahrain know who even Luis Garcia is, while we're happy to fork out 20 times that when most people don't even know who Raikonnen is? How is it that our number 1 sport gets so neglected, while a sport where we don't even have one driver in becomes the stated goal of the country? How is it that a sport that caters mainly to a tiny elite of the rich that can dish out $200 bucks for a ticket is given priority to a sport that is loved and eagerly followed by all segments of society? There are men and women, old and young, poor and rich that discuss football. I even saw a 70 year old granny chucking sunseeds in her mouth while cursing the players on TV? How many times have you had a conversation with a granny regarding the new hydraulic engine on the Ferrari car. How many times have you sat and discussed in details Button's future with BAR with a taxi driver? How many people, outside of the small segment of society that closely follows formula 1, know who the heck Button even is?
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the formula 1, but when football is pushed aside simply to satisfy the whims and grandiose plans of a few tope people then rational arguments go out of the window. Next thing I know one of our influential Hamours will have a keen interest in curling, and we will build the best ever state-of-the-art $1 billion curling stadium. Look at when the Bahraini football national team play in Bahrain. Even though they have African stadards for facilities the WHOLE of Bahrain jampacks the national stadium. You can't find an empty seat. And this is when we play teams like Iran. On the other hand, you bring the most prestigious motorsport event in the world to Bahrain, and thousands of tickets have to be given away to students for free just to avoid the embarassment of a half empty formula 1.
Notice here I'm talking about the fomula 1, and not drag racing or other events. I can see someone now going, "but Bahrainis are crazy about cars. They love to drag race!" Yes, that's it. They love to drag race and to be interested in cars. You don't need to build a $200 million track race that is completely unprofitable for drag races. It is pretty ironic that drag racing events on the circuit are jampacked while the formula 1 itself struggles with half capacity.
But what about the exposure Bahrain got? What about the publicity. I'll give you a sure fire way to gain publicity way more than the formula 1 ever brought. Take a tenth of the 200 million that was spent, and spend it on building decent pitches and training facilities for the football National team, which has shown, although it has zilch for financial and infrastructure support, that it can compete with the best of asia, showing beyond doubt that it is in the top five teams in the continent against teams that have infinitely more resources. Help them get to the world cup, which they have shown that they can strive to do even through the immense difficulties they face. And then, when Bahrain's name is in the world cup, for all the world to see, being the smallest nation in size and population ever to qualify for the world cup, the world would have real respect for Bahrain. People would think that they got there by their own feet and hardwork, not by forking out millions of oil dollars to bribe the FIA and to bring down expatriates from the subcontinent to build a track for us.
Anyway, my incoherent rant is over. Good luck to our football national team and to our formula 1 in the future.