The Role of a Lively Society in Public Affairs

One of the major features and characteristics of lively and advanced communities is the extent of their participation in public affairs. By ‘public affairs’ we refer to those matters which go beyond individual interests. This includes any public concern shared by the people, whether it is a political matter or any other matter of public interest.

Some states do not wish to see their peoples involved in public affairs. These are mostly authoritarian states, whose dominance begins with keeping their communities away from political affairs, and then extend their hegemony to other fields, such as social, cultural, sporting and charitable activities. Under these conditions, collective popular action cannot materialize, which in turn leads to the fragmentation of the popular will and to its failure to agree on any single subject, irrespective of how positive it is, even in sports.

That is why we see in these countries that civil society dies or find it hard to even take shape. Authoritarian regimes do not allow the formation of the institutions needed both by the community and the state, as long as it involves popular participation in decision-making, at any level.

In these dictatorial states, parliamentary institutions, if any, become little more than empty structures among other weak institutions, with popular control virtually non-existent, except such control which the authoritarian regime creates to protect itself.

Thankfully, and contrary to what is prevalent in the region, the Bahraini society is a truly lively society. It has not been stifled by the political authority, which allowed and encouraged the creation of civil society institutions and allowed the popular will to be expressed politically through parliamentary elections, and service-wise through municipal elections.

For this and other reasons, we believe that the Bahraini society is by far livelier than neighbouring peoples, in terms of participating in public affairs.

The political system for its part recognizes the value and importance of people’s participation in public affairs, in respect of the help it could provide in fulfilling aspirations and the role it could play in public accountability and in assisting the state in carrying out its duties. Popular participation plays a fundamental part in launching and directing public energies towards construction. The political system is also aware of the importance of all this in achieving political stability and security, and enhancing the legitimacy of the political system.

However, there is a problem in managing such a lively community which may often become a source of disturbance and confusion to the authorities themselves. But I suppose that this problem is ’purely administrative’. You cannot manage a lively and educated society, with a long-established legacy in civil and public service, using the same tools used to manage a people who do not enjoy these attributes.

The state has banked on the lively Bahraini community’s role in construction and development, and opened the way for launching its energies in regulatory channels; it should thus bank again on the community’s ability to reach adulthood. This society will inevitably reach political and social maturity, because it has an accumulated awareness that, enhanced by its experience, would allow it to reach that stage and to rectify some of its behaviours that transgress against the law.

Hence, it is necessary to help the Bahraini society to achieve this level of maturity, through more guidance and through involving it further in public activity; and not by restricting or restraining it, as such an approach could be detrimental to the state and the society.