hanger #1: Parliament MPs

شماعة:

literally: a hanger.

used as a metaphor, referring to someone who is blamed for misfortunes, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes. false pretext, scapegoat, fall guy.

We in this part of the world face a lot of problems. This is not controversial, but it is extremely worrying. Even more worrying however, is how many refuse to deal with these fundamental problems. Not only that, they in fact refuse to recognize them. Instead, they set up scapegoats that have very little to do with the real issues and decide they are to blame. The deeper causes are ignored; they are barely even mentioned. Meanwhile we are distracted by demonizing, ridiculing and making fun of scapegoats that bare little to the crux of our mess, in the course distracting attention from what we should be focused on. This is an attempt to deconstruct this phenomenon.

For the first post I choose one of the more obvious cases of this scapegoating: MPs in Parliament.

No one needs to be told that parliament MPs have become the new fall guy in Bahrain, particularly in nido circles. They have been demonized and turned into the bogey man. Businessmen, journalists, newspapers and blogs have made a career of criticizing, ridiculing, mocking and blaming all our problems on them.

It is also true that our two most recent parliaments have been pretty much useless. This is an understatement. They have in fact been harmful to society. They have occupied themselves with tangential and ridiculous issues like gender segregation in universities, a witch-hunt of the spring of culture, and securing themselves fat pension plans. They are little more than a burden on the economy, costing millions of dinars. They barely amount to anything more than a vehicle for sectarian and political strife, holding punch-ups and swearing contests over tragic and serious issues like that of the massacre in Falluja.

But are they really one of the fundamental problems facing Bahrain? Are they the root cause of the mess we find ourselves in? Will our problems be that much solved if they are suddenly replaced? If they started behaving themselves and started discussing more important and serious issues?

To answer this question we need to look at the corollary of this viewpoint. This argument is premised on the idea that if somehow the current parliament is replaced by better MPs, then the problem, if not completely erased, will be greatly solved. For if the current MPs are the problem, then replacing them with better MPs will solve the problem! Let’s fill parliament with lawyers, economicsts, accountants and hey presto! Problem solved! Makes sense no? If the problem is current MPs, then simply take out the problem and replace it with something better. That should solve it. This is the logical deduction you reach from this line of argument.

It is also complete rubbish.

Stocking parliament chocful of nice, liberal professionals, economists, accountants and lawyers won’t cause the massive earthquake you are hoping for. Even if, for the sake of the argument, Wa’ad wins every single seat in parliament, not much will change in terms of what it can achieve. I won’t go into the arguments of why this parliament is uselessin detail, you can find a good summary of them here (look at section No. 2). The ridiculous voting constituencies, the shura parliament, the outrageous time-lag rules for passing any sort of laws, the absence of proper financial supervision, and the inability to question or criticize any of the top echelons of government make a mockery of even calling this deformity a parliament. Everyone knows this. Ibrahim Sharif, before he decided to participate in this shenanigan, described it best:

هو شكل فقط من غير مضمون، الإصلاحات التي قدمت يمكن تسميتها «قشرة هوليوود»..كما في أفلام الكاوبوي حينما ترى بيوتا، لكنها فعليا ليست سوى حائط كارتوني من الديكور لا شيء خلفها، والنظام أعطانا الحائط الكارتوني..انتخابات والمرأة تصوت ودوائر انتخابية وحملات وقوانين ودستور، لكن عندما تنظر خلف هذا الحائط تجد خواء وحسب..!

This Hollywood parliament is nothing but that: a big extravagant expensive Hollywood production. So how can you expect anything but Hollywood fireworks? How can you expect anything but posturing on Big Brother and Nancy Arjam, Spring of Sex, and sectarianism? They cannot criticize any influential person in the government, they cannot even have a good look at the government budget let alone set it, and they definitely cannot pass any useful laws. What much extra will we gain if we had “better, more enlightened” people in parliament? Sure, they’ll be able to raise more important issues, but then what? What more than hot air? Can they pass anything? Can they change anything? The only positive thing that can come out of such a utopian parliament is a massive clash with the government, deadlock, and finally being dissolved, a la 1975. The best thing that can come out of this parliament is its death.

This, remember, is IF all of those elected are “qualified” and suitable. This is assuming they can get through the voting irregularities and warped constituency setups. And this is assuming that the people vote them in.

What astonishes me the most is how can so many people vote for this thing. More than 50% in the first spectacle (although that figure is highly dubious), and an excess of 70% in the latest shenanigan. Isn’t it obvious? Isn’t it obvious that this is just one big hullabiloo? Isn’t it obvious that this is a mockery of the concept of democracy? Isn’t it obvious that this parliament is a joke, a prank, and not a funny one at that? Starting from voting-manipulation right down to its actual set up? You get what you vote for: one big over-hyped scam.

It’s high time we recognized what this thing is: a diversion. One big massive diversion. A scam, a scapegoat, a fall guy, a hanger. So much ink, time, money, and energy that could have been implemented in much more useful ventures has been wasted analyzing and sensationalizing this farce. Look how many articles, blog pieces, seminars and talks were wasted on this thing? How many times has parliament and its members’ antics taken up the first pages of newspapers? Compare this with how many times the problems of our health services , water, electricity and education infrastructure has taken centre stage? How about serious criticism of the higher echelons of government?

But MPs are after all an easy scapegoat. They are easy to criticize. They are one of the few things that you can criticize and mock in our country. Many of them even look scary. They are there. They are in the spotlight. Why don’t we just throw our problems and blame on them? Here are people who have actually performed badly, they are always occupying the news, and it is so easy and tempting to just place all our rage on them. Ater all, we often need something clear, someone definite that we can point to as the cause of all our problems. Someone to point to and put all the blame on. Someone that has to be the fall guy for the problems. Someone to demonize. And what easier target than MPs?

We waste our time sensationalizing and analyzing the antics of our esteemed MPs, and in the meantime we ignore more important issues. We get engrossed in squabbling over a red herring, an institution so feeble and so inconsequential that we lose sight of more pressing issues. And guess who’s laughing all the way to the bank? Guess what has escaped from the spotlight of criticism that deservedly should’ve been focused on it? Guess what has in fact been projected as a positive force, some sort of regularing authority that can keep a lid on the antics and extremes of parliament? While in fact it is the architecht and cause of this shenanigan and much more serious problems in the country?

Don’t get me wrong here. I am not defending the actions of the members of parliament. Neither am I saying that they should be immune from criticism. My point is that the members of this ineffectual parliament are the least of our worries. For example, the structure and setup of parliament itself is much more of a problem than the MPs themselves (and even this can pale into comparison with some of the other messes we face). Instead, this fetishization of MPs has been used as a distraction and a diversion from more important and pressing issues, and people have fallen for it. We have become preoccupied with their every single move while the real problems have remained and in fact have become even more entrenched. This energy would’ve been much better used if placed on the more important problems that face us. Water and electricity shortages, unemployment, sectarianism, corruption, lack of democracy and accountability, lack of sustainable industry, mediocre education and research facilities have existed way before this parliament and its MPs came into being. They are not the real cause of these problems and neither are they the solution. They in fact distract us from them.

It is high time we stopped fighting over what M.P. flan ben faltan said in parliament, ate for lunch, or listens to for enjoyment. They are a symptom of the problem, not the major cause.

To be continued……..

Clip choices of the day:

مسلسل درب الزلق – ابيها

مطعم باكه ( باجه

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15 Responses to “hanger #1: Parliament MPs”

  1. Dr Ali Fakhro Says:

    د. علي محمد فخرو ـ الخميس 9مارس 2006 ـ القدس العربي

    في بلد عربي كنت أزوره يٌطرح سؤال سياسي جوهري:
    إذا كانالحاكم مستأثراً بكل السلطات وقادراً علي إتخاذ أي قرار يريده فلماذا لا تنفٍذالأجهزة المعنية الخاضعة لإدارته الوعود التي يعد المواطنين بها؟ الجواب المنطقي هوأن تلك الوعود لاتعدو أن تكون جزءاً من لعبة مسرحية وتبادل أدوار. فالحاكم بوعودهيكسب رضي الناس والأجهزة التنفيذية لخدمة الحاكم تقبل أن تنصب اللعنات عليهالامتصاص غضب الناس. لكن المحصلة النهائية هي بقاء النظام السياسي ومن ورائه من قويأطول مدة واستمرار الأمل الكاذب عند الناس في مجيء الفرج مستقبلا علي يد الحاكمالمخرج للمسرحية.
    ذكرني ذلك بمسرحية موت حاكم دموي مستبد في أحد بلدان العرب منذبضع سنين وإعتلاء ابنه كرسي الحكم. كانت الوعود للحاكم الجديد حديث صحف أوروباالتقدمية كلها وكانت آمال جماهير ذلك البلد كبيرة. ما إن مرت ثلاث سنوات حتي بدأتنفس الصحف تتحدث عن التراجعات وكسر الوعود الأساسية. وقد تكرر المشهد ذاته فيالعديد من الأمكنة والأزمنة: أنظمة قديمة تذهب وأنظمة جديدة تبزغ ووعود لاحصر لهايسمعها الجمهور فيصفقٍ طويلاً ويهتف ليكتشف بعد فترة أن المحصلة النهائية هي الخمرالمر المذاق ذاته مسكوب في قنينة جديدة، لكن الطعم والرائحة والمكونات لم تتغير قط. إذ كيف تتغير والعنب هو نفس العنب والزارع هو نفس الزُارع.
    ليس ما نذكره بجديدفالقاصي والداني في أرض العرب يتحدث عن هذه الظاهرة المتكررة المتفاقمة باستمرار. ما يهمنا هو أساليب التعامل المفجعة مع هذه الظاهرة من قبل المواطنين ووسائلالإعلام ومؤسسات المجتمع المدني. مايلاحظ هو:
    1 ـ قدرة هؤلاء الفائقة علي إعطاءالحاكم الكذاب فرصة ثانية وثالثة ورابعة لممارسة كذبه، وتصديقه في كل مرة، بحيث تمرالأيام والسنون دون أن تصل المسرحية الي نهايتها. هذه القدرة التي لدي الجهاتالثلاث علي النسيان المتكرر تعبر عن غياب للحزم الأخلاقي عند مكوٍنات مجتمعاتناالتي من المفترض ان تراقب وترصد وتفضح ثم تعارض في مراحل مبكرة وقبل أن يستفحلالأمر.
    2 ـ تعامل هؤلاء بشكل فج صبياني من حماس غير متزن الي تصفيق ومدح غيرمبرر وكأن تلك الوعود هي منح من السماء وليس كجزء من حقوق العباد الإنسانيةالثابتة. وهم بهذا الحماس والعواطف المتدفقة يخلقون جواً من القداسة لصاحب الوعودورهبة من قدراته المتخيلة تترسخ في أذهان الناس وتمنعهم من الاكتشاف المبكر لأكاذيباللعبة والخروج من المسرح وترك اللاعبين يكذبون علي بعضهم البعض.
    3 ـ الإصرارعلي لوم البطانة الفاسدة التي تحيط بالحاكم كمصدر لكسر الوعود بدلا من لوم الحاكمنفسه. وينسي الجميع أن الحاكم يتحمل المسؤولية السياسية الكاملة لإختيار أفرادبطانته ويتحمل المسؤولية الأخلاقية لتصرفاتهم. والواقع أن وضع اللوم علي بطانةالحكم وتبرئة الحاكم أصبح تفكيراً أساسياً راسخاً في الواقع السياسي العربي وأصبحيمثل معضلة تشل تعامل المجتمعات العربية مع من يخونون الأمانة.
    منذ وضع الكاتبالإيطالي مكيافيلي كتابه الأمير وبين قواعد الكذب الضرورية في الحياة السياسيةوالعالم كله يدور في حلقة الكذب الجهنمية. لكن، بينما تستطيع مكونات المجتمعاتالديمقراطية المتقدمة أن تكشف ألاعيب الكذب بصورة مبكرة، كما فعلت مثلاً مع أكاذيببوش وبلير، فان مجتمعاتنا تسمح وتتسامح لفترات طويلة. في بلاد العالم يستطيع الحكامأن يكذبوا كل الوقت علي جزء من شعوبهم وأن يكذبوا بعض الوقت علي كل شعوبهم، أماعندنا فان الحاكم استطاع أن يكذب علي كل الناس كل الوقت وينجح في ذلك. في تراثناالإسلامي أنه مازال المرء يكذب ثم يكذب حتي يكتب عند الله كذابا، فمتي يا تري سنعيأنه مازال الحاكم يكذب ثم يكذب حتي يكتب عند الشعب كذابا؟ عند ذاك سيصبح تاريخ حكامالعرب كذبا في كذب.

  2. Odd Says:

    “They in fact distract us from them”

    It’s been a long time since a lightbulb appeared on my head in a “HOLY DOOOLY – WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?” sort of way – this statement definitely did the job!

    Spot on though, but again, analysing and criticizing the problem is relatively easy compared to fixing and implementing the solution. Isn’t it?

    Maybe one day, when the blogger community grows and grows, they’ll hit the street and tell both sides of the equation to piss off, adding a third element in? 😉

  3. butterfly Says:

    I hope that my comments were not the source of inspiration for this post
    خلاص
    I changed my mind, no more white ballons with messages addressed to MPs 🙂

  4. Gardens of Sand Says:

    The MPs are not the cause of all problems and neither are they the main problem but they are part of what is wrong in Bahrain. They and the joke of a framework that they work in take more from the country than give back. Everyone knows they are unable to instigate and carry out real change or improvement. But they don’t have to make the situation worse with their attempts to further limit people’s freedom and fuel the fire of sectarian rife.

    So yes they are a hanger, but one with thorns that tears cuts into you.

  5. nido Says:

    Odd,

    Thanks! This will be a multi-part series. We’ll get to the solution part hopefully eventually! (I hope we do… hmmmm)

    I eagerly look forward to the day when the blogging community reaches that stage! May it be sooner than later! Ameen!

    Butterfly,

    hahahaa… I worried you might reach that conclusion. Honestly, I’ve been thinking of this topic for quite a bit now, but it just might be that your comment subconsciously made me pick the MPs to start with……hmmmm..…Anyway, I still think that balloon idea should be used in Bahrain. I wonder what should be written on it?

    Gardens of Sand,

    No beef with you there. Like I said before my main problem with all of this is the time, energy and attention wasted on such a tangential thing. In fact, that, in my opinion is the biggest drawback of our parliament. It has distracted and diverted attention from so much more important issues and ended up muddying and blurring the situation even more.

    The other thing is that I doubt even if the parliament makeup was different that much would change. Our parliament is set up with the idea of divide and rule in mind. It is set up to encourage divisions and in-fighting, including along sectarian lines. It is set up to look like a ridiculous spectacle. The overriding idea running through ever single aspect of it, from the voting constituencies down to the structure of parliament, is to ensure that any sort of opposition hardly ever get half or more, and that they face squabbles and fights from within the system all the way through. Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that wa3ad and wefaq somehow won a majority. Then what? They’d have to deal with haggling and fighting with government loyalists, sunni islamists.. etc. This is not to mention Al Shura councils and government ministers. Inertia and internal fighting is written all over this thing.

  6. BB Says:

    The reasoning here is pretty straightforward, 1+1 = 2. Adding all the factors together (unfair distribution construction of constituencies, limited legislative power, imposed constitution) does not equal democracy not even by a long shot. However the hunky dorey image of placing a paper in a ballot box does wonders for showing the world how politically progressive we are… even Mugabe is screened putting his little piece of paper in his elections every year.

    Its gone beyond logical reasoning here; everyone knows whats going on. T The problem is that the main political players out there at the moment change their views as often as they change their underwear makes any political analysis of Bahrain one based on the contextual behavioural and psychological actions of a few men. I still rack my brains on this, what the hell made Nuaimi (hope he gets well soon) run for elections? Why is Ali Salman gambling on Alwefaq’s experiment in Parliament? Why is our collective consciousness completely short-term and reactive?

  7. Mariam Says:

    okay so who’s gonna create the self hating nidoer group on facebook?

  8. nido Says:

    BB:

    Yeah it really is mind-boggling!

    The guys who boycotted and then decided to join always give the same reasons:

    1. It’s better to have a formal podium and spotlight from which to air your viewpoints.

    2. We could embarass the government and create deadlock if necessary, even reaching the extreme of dissolving or boycotting parliament.

    I don’t buy either. I think it’s more likely they’ll embarass themselves than the government.

    The tangible benefit I can see (and this applies for wa3ad than wefaq) is they were able to gain a lot of spotlight and become very well known because of the elections, while before that they were known in certain cirlces but many people did not particularly know them. Now they’ve become kind of household names everywhere.

    Anyway, let’s hope Al Nuaimi gets well very soon.

    Mariam:

    Hear Hear! Any volunteers?

  9. Isa Says:

    Hey Nido….I am back again, but this time to acutally say WOW!!!! nice post and i really like what has been written. True these MP have become nothing but a Hanger as you said, while the real issue is still at large. Well cant you see a problem here though. I believe that these so called MP are just a puppet show that takes our eyes away from the big picture. But what can people do…The freedom of speech that we hear so much about or the critisism (mind the spelling) that should be there, it is not allowed. Remember the whole Bandar issue???? What happened to that? What happened to the documents, and all the information that pointed fingures at the those counterparties. I mean seriously what happened but the people stopped talking about how contervertial the elections were…Now no one is talking about the issue at large.

    Anyway thanks alot of the post very inturesting….

    One last question If you cant blame the MPs? Then who do we blame? What can you do? Start a revolution????

    Anyway cheers mate,

    Take Care

    Isa

  10. Anonymous Says:

    The MPs aren’t a distraction, in fact they’re the opposite: they’re a reminder of what the alternative is to having the country run by its much hated Nido elite.

  11. Stuck in Riyadh Airport Says:

    The democrary evolving in Bahrain is still in its age of innocence. They have a long way to go before we can actually see change. The Parliament, still in its infancy, does not understand the complete role it has in the country. They do not understand what issues to fight for and those to kill.

    Like every country (even the DEMOCRATIC US), democracy or a parliament takes time to work. The US did not definately have bliss when they were formed. Lets give it time. I voted this time. Was it worth it????? That is too soon to tell.

    Anonymous: And what is wrong by a country run by Nidoers??????? Nidoers are extremely less resistant to change (as they have to adapt) and therefore would be perfect candidates for metamorphis in the parliament.

  12. BB Says:

    Wake me up when Prime Minister’s Question Time is on BTV.

  13. nido Says:

    Isa,

    Welcome back and thanks for the comment! I do believe there is a lot that people can do. Opposition over the last six decades and more in Bahrain has truly gotten things moving. The government at the moment is in a state of panic. It feels pressure, and this forces it to change. It might look daunting the tasks people face on an individual level, but collectively the power that is unleashed is tremendous. The most important thing is to make sure this power is focused and directed towards the important and progressive causes.

    What to do? People need to discuss that… and urgently! It’s important to identify and outline the major problems first, or else it would be nearly impossible to assess coherently what needs to be done. I’ll give my two cents on the issue soon, but there are four or more hangers to get through first in the series!

    Anonymous:

    Yes, after all people of Bahrain are dumb and don’t know what’s good for them, and they will never learn from their mistakes. They need wiser western educated, oriented and backed people who in many instances don’t particularly care about them…they need them to govern them and at the same time waste and abuse the limited resources of the country, or else they’d end up screwing themselves over. In the meantime, they’ll construct a fake and fraudulent parliament that is set up to enhance and perpetuate divisions, so that later they can say, “Look! I told you these people can’t govern themselves and would end up fighting!” After all, things were all fine and dandy before this parliament was set up.

    Stuck In Riyadh:

    Yes the parliament is still in its infancy, but may it never live to see adulthood in its present form. Without opposition, without resistance, there is no impetus or motive for change. Was this parliament was granted because they wanted to? Because they out of their own will would’ve introduced it? Not because decades upon decades of resistance? And this is no excuse for the pathetic thing we have. We are supposed to learn from other’s experiences, not go one step backward. Everyone knows it’s a joke of a parliament, so why is it introduced in its present form? Yes the British and French had to go through centuries of change and reform. I don’t have centuries to wait. I have others’ experiences to learn from and imminent massive problems to deal with, and those teach me that what we have at the moment has nothing to do with democracy and progress but everything to with deception, diversion and regress.

    The people of Bahrain deserve better than this, and time is not a luxury we have to waste on this farce.

    BB:

    You’ll have a long loooooooooong nap then!

  14. LuLu Says:

    Absolutely mind-boggling as usual 🙂

    Personally I see them as a symptom of our deficiency.. Acknowledging the skewed electoral circuits and the questionable results in certain districts, the fact is those MPs were moslty elected by us. We can’t just shun them as a bunch of Marsian aliens who came to destroy our society and steal all our Nido. The fact is our society is immature and it cannot blamed for being so, after 30 years of absolutely no outlet for political participation, debate, or association. Of course religious and sectarian identities is all we know now (most of us at least), because those were the only identities we were safe to practice without fear of the CID for many years. I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic, though. Maybe we do need practice and some trial and error before we get there.

  15. nido Says:

    Hi Lulu,

    I agree that practice and error is needed, but I don’t agree that Bahraini society is that immature. Bahrain has been fighting for political representation for at least fifty years (and more depending on how define political representation). People are aware enough to deserve more than the shambles we have. Yes, there will be mistakes, and yes there will be trials and errors. It happens in every country. This is not an excuse however to provide the country with a gimp parliament and political system that is not worth a worn out n3ala in sough el mega9ee9. Let us have a fully functioning political system, and let us make our own mistakes and learn along the way. People are not sheep that need to be guided. We can make our own decisions on our own country better than any enlightened despot or fancy shmancy foreign consultants that are brought in to “reform” the country without any of us being consulted.

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