Saturday, 19 March 2011

Rubble Rousing

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 picture below shows what it looks like now.
And this is not much different from this picture below =/.

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?

7 comments:

Rahul said...

That was very well written I must say! Infact when I had seen the pics of the rubble of the Pearl, that exact Ivory pic had come to mind!

For those of you interested, after reading that, read this too -
http://www.suhailalgosaibi.com/2011/03/13/reflections-on-the-bahrain-crisis-and-recommendations-for-moving-forward/

Shreya said...

Well worded.. You've really touched upon the right areas of the issue without sounding too controversial...
serious food for thought...

kicking.and.screaming said...

Thanks Rahul and Shreya :)
That picture of the tusks was an eerie resemblance..

abhimanyu at his best said...

well written, timing as u have pointed out is very essential. The Pearl was something along the lines of one of the wonders of the country and very significant.

I would compare it to, India loosing the Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar.

kicking.and.screaming said...

Hi, abhimanyu at his best,

I cant agree with you, the 2 incidents are very different from each other, and I think the comparison is unfair and unnecessary. That was situation of defenselessness, and people were massacred there. No such situation has happened in Bahrain, though people have unfortunately died on both sides of the protest. This was about the demolition of a monument.

And this post does not take a side on the protest because I dont believe I can or should judge the rightness of what is happening in Bahrain. The post is about how it was not a wise diplomatic move on the part of the Government, and how it could jeopardize the peace process.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any opinion in the pursuit of the truth.

sumana sri said...

Hello
I like the fact your article seems dispassionate on the surface but at the same time brings out the underlying passion within you.

"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"

That is true, as Governments always come up with lame excuses to justify what they are doing and the sad part is that they justify what they do and fail to admit what they have done.

sumana sri said...

Hello
I like the fact your article seems dispassionate on the surface but at the same time brings out the underlying passion within you.

"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"

That is true, as Governments always come up with lame excuses to justify what they are doing and the sad part is that they justify what they do and fail to admit what they have done.