THE BLOG

Bahrain: The Bigger Picture

26/04/2013 17:48 BST | Updated 26/06/2013 10:12 BST
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Uprisings are complicated. Though this is an overly generic and vague opening, it is a notion that makes me question how many of us actually care to fully grasp these complexities? Are we too self-involved that we look for individuals that endorse our views rather than engage in constructive debates? Are these complexities too distracting so it's convenient to disregard their relevance? Do we simplify problems to a manageable size where the solution becomes clear and attractive?

When ideals are envisioned in a vacuum, we lose sight of surrounding factors that may not be the central argument, but are equally relevant to reach a resolution.

The thing is, we all have ideals that we abide by, whether you're a vegetarian or a freedom fighter. We are stubborn about our ideals and we promise ourselves never to compromise, lest we fear the universe's smite of judgment. Anyone that stands in our way, we push aside and bury them to ensure there is only one dominant voice, one narrative that will shape our better tomorrow.

However, it is this stubbornness (or determination, depending on who's talking) that skews our vision. And with this, comes the disenfranchisement of many opinions. During the past two years in Bahrain, I became that disenfranchised opinion.

I came to realize that my opinion wasn't trendy enough for popular appeal. People were far more concerned with the over-simplified common narrative that echoed throughout the Arab Spring region: Government vs. Opposition, King vs. People, Majority vs. Minority. In fact, it was this binary narrative that polarized communities and forced people to pick a side. If you failed to fall into one, you were difficult to categorize and were conveniently discarded from the narrative: trendy = valid.

But the most vocal figures or political societies who have shaped the trend are not necessarily the most legitimate, nor are they the most representative. And when these dominant voices lead the pressure for change, they casually drown out the voices that never agreed to it (irrespective if you feel this is for the better tomorrow).

In reality, Bahrain has an extremely complex political and societal fabric that needs to be understood. The vast spectrum of opinions consequently led to the formation of 21 political societies, all whose voices need to be considered to ensure change by consensus. In fact, fostering this environment of constructive criticism has enabled the Government to modernize and adapt to the ever-changing needs of a developing nation.

But, it is the mode of expression that has been a problem - not the right. Bahrain just hosted their ninth Grand Prix, an empirical event to Bahrain's economy generating almost $1.6billion since its inception, and supporting 3,000 jobs across retail, business and hospitality sectors. Despite the obvious benefits that address many of the social grievances voiced, others chose to naively campaign against hosting the race to prove their point of discontent (the same discontent the race intends to resolve).

This very violent campaign sought to scare away the race and its participants, issuing warnings of terrorism in attempts to cripple the economy and destabilize security. Efforts to exasperate their plight while under the international spotlight resulted in several car bombs across the country, inspiring the politicized youth to echo this violence in schools. Students at Al-Jabriya School began to riot on school grounds, hurling stones, fire extinguishers and metal rods over their school walls onto bystanders and oncoming cars causing injury to three policemen.

These actions are continuously glorified by critics, mislabeling rioters as pro-democracy protestors; an injustice to the community whose lives and livelihood are held hostage, and an injustice to legitimate opposition members who express their criticism constructively and peacefully. To naively cluster all protestors as peaceful and non-violent is a severe misunderstanding of the current environment. Moreover, it is this volatile environment that has made it difficult to progress towards true social unity, a crucial ingredient to reach any sort of resolution - another reason why supporting the race was necessary now more than ever.

I believe that if you choose to speak on behalf of any plight, it is your responsibility to adopt the role of an active observer to ensure a well-informed opinion. Though it may not always be what you want to hear, it is only with this open mind can your goal ever be achieved and sustained: the bigger picture does exist.