Bahrain: Flaunting your wealth – and accounting for it

What are bloggers talking about in Bahrain this week? Financial accountability, the reasons for blogging, a childhood addiction to books, how to encourage creativity – and looking after appearances.

Show us the money!
We start this week with Mahmood, who gives his opinion on a new law requiring government officials, parliament deputies, and Shura and municipal councillors to declare their personal finances:

I didn’t see the draft law yet, but like everyone else concerned with accountability in Bahrain, I am anxious to see its contents; particularly the exceptions – if present – and what the actual penalties are and if they are sufficient for deterring corrupt officials from continuing to abuse their positions. Will this law, for instance, only limit the declarations of wealth to be “correct and acceptable” from the time it is issued, or will it have any provision to force officials to show how they got their current wealth? What is to happen to that wealth should it be considered ill-begotten? All this remains to be seen. I am not very enthusiastic as what has been reported as fines and sentences in the papers is a pittance when compared to the wealth amassed by various officials in this country. […] It is important; therefore, to understand how the law defines corruption, as when it was last attempted, the result was quite varied and officials suggested that concept is quite elastic; thus, rendering the definition and the law toothless.

Ease the pain
Panadol Extra is a new blogger who explains what got him interested in blogging:

أسباب أخرى أدت بي إلى التدوين هي حاجتي لمكان أعبر فيه عن آرائي ومشاعري … وأعرض فيه ما احب أو ما يخطر على بالي من مواضيع في جميع المجالات
Amongst the reasons that have led me to blogging is my need for a place to express my opinions and feelings…and reveal what I like or what comes to my mind regarding subjects in all areas…

Eyad tells us that he is an obsessive person, who has had a number of addictions over the years. In the first of a series which will describe each in turn, he describes his early addiction to reading:

My first addiction was long before High school, it started with reading, I was three or four years old when my parents started feeding me with books, I didn’t read about politics and rocket science when I was 4 but I had tons and tons of the baby books, then when I started to read properly my father begun to surprise me with new books every month, until the day came and discovered my aunts stash of every issue of “Majalat Majed”, Majed Magazine , at the time I didn’t start going to formal school, I use to go to Al-Bahrain Day time Nursery, and had a goal set of reading all the magazines before I go to school, I wasn’t that ambitious as a kid for the record, I was just a stubborn child who wants to proof to his youngest aunt who was 5 years older than me, that I can read as many magazines as she did in 2 years, hahah I think it was the best challenge I ever had.

I had daily access to the wooden shack in the back yard where the dusty boxes of Majalt Majed were stored, in the beginning it took me a whole day to read the magazine, and my day was from 1 am until the sun sets, in a few weeks I was eating those pages like an African wood worm, and I decided to read the weekly magazine every Wednesday so she doesn’t get an edge on me, it was a very informative year, Majalat Majed back in the day was amazing, it had topics ranging from coloring, short stories, series stories, history, 101 politics to Islam and general information, and for a kid, it looked like a game, the more I did it, the better I got.

Look – and touch
Shaima Al Watani writes about creative thinking, and the shortcomings of teaching theories with no practical work included. She refers to a story about an Egyptian graduate who despite his knowledge of physics could not assemble a simple electrical circuit:

وليست هذه المشكلة مقتصرة على التعليم في مصر فقط، بل أن الخلل يمتد إلي جميع مدارسنا العربية من المحيط إلى الخليج، لأن القائمين على مسيرة التعليم يعتقدون أن عملية التعليم عملية نظرية بحتة، وأن الجانب العملي لا يتعدى الدور الهامشي وبناء على ذلك يترك للطالب واجتهاده.

وللأسف فإن نقطة فضول الطفل وشغفه للمس مسألة مهملة وغير مستغلة في عالمنا العربي أبداً، رغم أن جميع الدراسات التي أجريت لحياة العلماء والعباقرة تؤكد أن ابداعهم لم يكن ليظهر لولا فضول اللمس وتحريك الأصابع، فالعالم داروين على سبيل المثال كان يقضي الوقت الطويل متنقلاً بين المروج ليصطاد الحشرات ويتابع الطيور ولولا الطبيعة الحرة التي قامت بتغذية خياله لما ظهر لنا كتابه ”أصل الأنواع”.

This problem is not confined to Egypt alone; indeed the shortcomings are prevalent in all Arab schools from the Mediterranean to the Gulf. This is because those responsible for education think that education is just about theories. The practical element is limited to a marginal role, and is accordingly left to the student and his or her own efforts.

Unfortunately a child’s curiosity and his or her passion for exploring is a disregarded matter, and is not utilised at all in the Arab world. This is despite the fact that all the studies that have been conducted on the lives of educated and creative people confirm that creativity only shows itself when there is the curiosity to touch and to use the fingers. The scholar Darwin is an example, he spent a long time travelling over the waves to catch insects and follow birds, and if it weren’t for the free nature that nurtured his imagination then ‘The Origin of Species’ wouldn’t have appeared.

All for appearance
I'll Have One of Those has something to say about materialistic thinking:

Today, I have chosen to write on the phenomenon that is the superficiality of the Arab. Those who may or may not have the means to practice what I call art of “showing off”. Why does the average gulf Arab feel the need to prove him/herself via materialism? I don't think I will ever be able to understand this. This feature is one thing Arabs have in common with rich African Americans; the need to flaunt your wealth for all to see, using yourself and any form of everyday item as a billboard or testament to your wealth. […] The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine.

She said, “I just have to have this bag!”…and I said, “but that costs $3000″
“Yeah, I don't care, it was in vogue, and there's a picture of Lindsay Lohan carrying it in Hello”

At this point, all I could think was “How very sad you are darling, very sad indeed”….But if it weren't for people like her, designers would starve just like any other artist….

Farah Mattar is certainly taking care of her appearance:

I went to the salon the other day to get a long overdue color and haircut session. My hair had become sadly mop-like. Not the kind of mop leaning against your kitchen wall, but the kind that was tossed out with yesterday’s dinner, and had been chewed on diligently by cats. While my misshapen head was busy with the work-gym-home routine, I had forgotten about a woman’s need to maintain her hair, and the wonders that it does for the soul. It’s true. It really brings you back to life.

To read Farah's hilarious impressions of the other customers in the salon, see here.

More from Bahrain next week…

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