Pieces of the Berlin Wall are still sold and cherished, in glass frames, in memory of what happened in 1989. The breaking of the wall was not just a procedure for geographical unification, but was also of extremely symbolic and sentimental value. It brought families together, and told people that peace is possible and the war is over. At least at the time.
The Sentimental State
Why does the State involve itself in the building of national monuments, erecting sculptures, flying flags and using official emblems on currency notes? These are practices that have a strong notional value. They give people a sense of patriotism and belongingness. Which is why in the time of protest, dissidents burn flag, effigies of leaders and tear up the constitution.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has had the Pearl Roundabout, razed to the ground. The graceful monument, was comprised of six dhow sails, that represented the six countries of the GCC, and atop of it was perched a large round pearl, symbolizing Bahrain’s history of pearling traditions, and to some people, their time of prosperity before being colonized. What it has come to signify more than this in recent times, is freedom and democracy for the thousands in Bahrain who are protesting the rule of the King. The Pearl Roundabout, or Pearl Square as the western media was calling it, was the focal point for all the protests in the country. It now no longer exists.
The site is a mess of debris. This video shows the structure crumbling to dust. You can view it between 0:20 and 0:39 seconds.
The picture below shows what it looks like now.
Timing is everything
Word out on the streets is that the Roundabout was a traffic nightmare, and plans to break it down were not new. Word in the grapevine is that the Government didn’t want the Pearl to stand as a tall reminder of the protests that have questioned its sovereignty and rocked its boat. Whoever is the public relations person of the Government needs to be sacked for coming up with such a feeble cover. And whoever advises the King on strategic affairs should take a swim for his life, for suggesting this as the way to deal with protests/ traffic/ general nuisance.
Timing is everything. Understandably, protests cause traffic jams, and there is a logistical need to ease out bottle necks. Understandably, at this time emotions are running high and people had been camping out in the shade and shelter of the Pearl, forming a reverent attachment to the monument.
Shooting yourself in the foot
Protests in Bahrain are (were? Read on.) different from the ones in its neighbours, because there has been a large peace movement going on simultaneously as well. #UniteBH is a viral on Twitter and Youtube that has become a buzz word, flash card, poster and more for the ones who don’t want to protest or at least don’t want to protest in this way. People are heading into the studio, and cutting tracks for peace. Peace marches are also being held.
What the King had on his side, was the large expatriate community’s support. According to 2007 statistics, there are 527,433 Bahrainis, and 511,864 foreigners in Bahrain out of which, 1 lakh of them are Keralites. Expatriates had no complaints against the King, because their standard of living on the island is more than they can dream of, back home (I was to blog on this in another post, but found it too hard (or too controversial) to finish).
The Pearl Roundabout was important to them as well. They have made hundreds of projects in school, pasting its picture on the blank side of their notebooks. They have sent photos with the Pearl posing in the background, to their relatives.
No one expected this show of might and autocracy from the Government. Now the locals are angrier, and the expatriates are disillusioned. People are going to be lovingly picking up bits of stone and mud, and flinging it back at security forces- the Streisand Effect. While the Government may not have lost control of the situation yet- they have their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns to their advantage- they have certainly lost the solidarity of several thousands who were on their side. #UniteBH will happen, but its matrix will change drastically with the death of the Pearl.
So now there is no square, circle or roundabout. Where did you revolution happen again?