Not so long ago I wrote about a billboard displaying the faces of the Royal Three (King, Prime Minister and Crown Prince). In response, Bugs asked:
I have a question don’t you guys get disgusted every time you see these clowns every where you go ?
I shall withold my opinion on whether they are "clowns", however I do get tired of seeing their mugs and hearing their names everywhere. I would guess that many of us who have lived here for a while have become numbed to it all and don't really think twice about it now. But when you stop to notice, you realize that its everywhere, everywhere.
Let's see. We've already talked about the billboards that line the streets every year for a few weeks before and after National Day. I also mentioned in passing how the portraits of the Three hang in all government buildings and many private buildings all year round. But there's more. The local media is filled with their pictures and stories about them -- far more than actually constitutes news. The front page of most of the local papers will have at least one story (usually more) about them. It might read something like this:
Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa hailed the success of the country's economic policies and paid tribute to His Majesty King Hamad bin Salman Al Khalifa for introducing the successful reforms package. The Prime Minister highlighted the undisputed facts that Bahrain is the most economically and technologically advanced country in the universe and has a human rights record second to none. This was confirmed by the high ranking achieved by the country on some list compiled by an independent international organization that wouldn't be able to find Bahrain on a map,... blah blah
If you flip to the sports pages in the back you get more of the same. Typically, something like this:
The broadcast media is the same but worse since it is entirely under the control of the government. So this is what a typical news bulletin on the radio starts off with:
His Excellency Shaikh Wudeva bin Whoever Al Khalifa, undersecretary of the Directorate of Notmuch, sent a cable of good wishes to His Excellency Shaikh Joe bin Bloggs Al Khalifa congratulating him on learning how to tie his shoelaces. Shaikh Joe sent a cable of good wishes back to Shaikh Wudeva thanking him for the cable of good wishes, etc etc.
But recall that Shaikhs Wudeva and Joe probably have their offices right next to each other yet they still insist on sending a "cable of good wishes". To be honest I'm not even sure what they mean by this so-called "cable". Couldn't they just use e-mail now instead? Hmm... maybe it would sound a bit wierd.. "an e-mail of good wishes".
TV is quite similar to radio, but they actually show video of the Shaikh with his accompanying entourage as they visit different places and are greeted by everyone.
But wait! That's not all. Each of our 20 dinar banknotes features a portrait of the King. It used to be a picture of the Bab al-Bahrain, but they replaced it with our monarch after it was found that conterfeit copies of that note were in circulation.
And how about this. Go and get your phone directory and open up the blue section just before the white pages. You will find that there are eight whole pages that list the names and phone numbers of the members of the royal family. No not just the members who have a public office, but anyone who is part of the royal family. The section is aptly titled "Royal Family Names".
And how about some more billboards? If you've been driving through the Seef area this past week then you've surely seen all the billboards thanking the PM for supporting the Chamber of Commerce and the construction of its new headquarters. I counted 18 (yes, eighteen) of such billboards situated around the new site. Most of them have been attributed to the Chamber of Commerce, but it seems that some of the individual members wanted to make sure that they get recognized also, so they got separate ones done in their own name
So what the hell is going on? Obviously, the royal family can't take all of the blame for this, because it doesn't have direct control over all of the instances I've listed above. I would guess that those billboards that are sponsored by businesses are probably a means of getting cheap advertising. And then there is also the bum-lick factor which both businesses and government institutions would want to make use of to further their organizations or personal careers. Even if some of them don't feel they need to suck up, they probably feel pressured to join in so that they aren't the odd ones out. And on the side of the family itself, it seems as though they quite happily approve of, or encourage, such public displays of support. As the country inevitably moves towards democracy, the only way that the royal family can secure its position in the future is if it has public support to stay on. But I very much doubt that those billboards and the like do anything to increase their popularity.
So we have this environment set up that is highly conducive to public displays of bum-licking. Okay, Bahrain is by no means an exception as many of our neighbours, and other developing countries around the world suffer from this same problem (much worse in some places). And I can't really expect things in Bahrain to have changed overnight as soon as the reforms were introduced. So why am I wasting my (and your) time with this issue? Well unless people begin to express disapproval of public bum-licking the situation will never change. So this is my part.
This entry was posted
on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 at 1/12/2005 01:42:00 p.m.. Permalink
To anyone who knows any better, all of this looks like the personality cults that made the Banana Republics of Latin America so infamous. I personally refer to our little corner of the world as being full of 'Date States" (How does Majlis Al Balah sound? Or maybe it needs to incorporate Dawla?)
The point is that Investment Banks are tired of that song and dance, and they want to see the kind of stability that an equitable and just society can bring. Bahraini businesses will of course fall over themselves in support the Royal Family as they are the guarantor and lord protectors of their investments through their control of oil (what's left of it), finance, international relations, etc.
You've also got to remember that a lot of this happens around the same time that the Royal Family faces contoversy or confrontation, like the protests over Adel Flaifel a couple of weeks ago....
It's dissapointing to see such comments and such a silly article.. have you nothing better to do then complain about what billboards you have to look at.. and just 2 weeks ago 100's of thousands people were wiped off this earth in minutes and across 2 continents...
first off chanad if indeed king hamad is your monarch how come u got his name wrong king hamad bin SALMAN?? doh! Im sorry but I really find it hard to belive you wouldnt know his name if your bombarded by his picture everywhere u look
second In any country that has a royal family such as say the united kingdom you are bound to see the king queen and the whole fmily plastered on the money bill boards news ... etc. so if u dont like it move to no-monarchy country such as the usa and lets see what kind of life ud be living as an arab muslim there..
third of all I dont know wich bahraini homes youve visited but ive seen quite a few who proudly display picture of the qeyada... its called patriotism
this article is exactly whats wrong with the arab world today... no solidarity no feeling of unity or even compassion for your brothers and sisters... no appreaction of how much wealth is dished out to us compared to the rest of the world... the constant bitching and moaning for no apparent reason
I bet if one of u jokers tried to run this country for a day you would nt be able to because the same bs you spout does nothing but fuel hatred and discrimination between eachother
for once id like to see constructive criticism and a person who truly wishes to make a diffrence in his country through positive action
Posted byis this the only thing u could find wrong in your lives?
Dear friend, Thanks for your comments, but I'm afraid I fail to see your point.Okay, I agree that many other monarchies have their faces printed on their notes... point taken, but that doesn't make it necessarily right. Furthermore, most of the world's "acceptable" monrachies do not have billboards of the monarchs plastered everywhere, nor do they have to listen about who they sent "cables of good wishes" to who, etc. And I certainly am not going to run away from Bahrain when there is an opportunity to make a change through civilized dialogue.
I don't see where in my post there was a lack of "unity", "solidarity", or "compassion". I don't see why we should be appreciating the wealth that is "dished out" to us. Maybe the residents of Karbabad village can tell us where all that "wealth" is. Moreover, whatever is being dished out rightly belongs to the Bahraini people. The national treasury is not the ownership of the King, the PM, or any individual, so no one should feel the need to be grateful for getting mere scraps of what should already belong to them.
I understand that I wouldn't do a very good job of running this country, which is the reason why I am not trying to run it. The people who are running the country have a huge responsibility, and accepting criticism is the very least of what is expected of them.
I do however have a responsibility to point out what I see as being wrong. If the people don't air their grievances, then we can't expect the rulers to do anything about the problems. If we sit by and ignore all of our problems then we will be left behind.
Okay, I will sort of concede that this post contained more criticism than being constructive. But if you read to the very end of it, you will have noticed that I wasn't trying to accuse any of the aforementioned people. Rather, I wanted show that the reason that public bumlicking has gone on for so long is because no one ever expresses public disapproval of it.
Anyhows, thanks for your comment, and please let me know if you still really think I'm being unreasonable.
I find it funny that the most rabid comments on this topic and topic are from 1) an ISLAMIC FEMINIST who enjoys 50+BD massages from her Ivory Castle and 2) and a rose colored glasses wearing exile residing in Sweden who likes to pop off about the Royal family/Bahraini politics but he himself won't return to take part in the democratic process.
Some of their venom you can pass off to youth and the "I want it all and I want it now" mentality that permeates the under 30 crowd. News flash. Change takes time and Bahrain has changed and is changing and will continue to change. If you don't like the direction get INVOLVED in a manner that is more than lip service and blog posting.
Funny thing about the previous comment...his/her point is decry dissenting criticism of Bahrian...but doesn't have the courage to stick a name to it. Typical of the "over 30" crowd... the "shut up, and put up!" kind.
What's wrong a feminism? What's wrong with Swedes taking pot shots?
Obviously Bahariam has changed, and obviously it still has light years to go as well. Perhaps the U.S. should invade and "liberate" them too. And Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, etc.
Not that's very a progressive stance but I think funny as hell in the irony of it all.
Conservatives invading other conservative countries. They just have more in common with their made up enemies than they dare to think about.
Oh God, Whoever wrote that solidarity comment must be joking! Something about wasting time complaining about the billboards and not worrying about the tsunami victims? Well maybe people should stop spending their money on billboards and contribute it to the victims! Solidarity? ... Torture the crap out of your people and want solidarity...