In the Arabian Gulf, the generation born in the 1940s and 1950s grew up with what remained of the culture and morals in that era. Some of this generation were destined to travel, returning to the sight of gas burning near the oil wells when their planes landed at night, hoping for a brilliant future for their beloved part of the Arab world. This generation also lived through a very materialistic time and, like me, they must have experienced a sense of spiritual and emotional alienation, especially when faced with the many buildings made of cement, glass, stone, marble, bricks and shiny tiles built along asphalt roads illuminated by bright neon advertisements, with plastic trees, traffic lights, and the sound of speeding 4-wheel drives and luxury cars.
Even if we accept these changes as one of the costs of living in this modern age, there are also major campaigns using advanced technology that increase the present generation’s sense of spiritual emptiness, systematically diminishing the essence of a culture built on great values to bare bones.
Despite the claims of some detractors, the documentation and preservation of a return to values and the unbroken spirit that has been passed down through the generations are not merely sentimental attempts to glorify a beautiful era. Instead, they represent awareness and the genuine desire to confirm the value of the creativity that shapes a people’s identity. They are attempts to compensate for the loss of national identity and the spreading spiritual alienation that afflicts the generations as a result of the increasingly sophisticated technology that promotes isolation and other ills associated with this age.
If this generation is knowledgeable about the foundation and components of national culture, this will protect our culture and prevent its essence from being reduced to a distraction and a waste of time. The glorification of the culture of cement, glass and stone means that the new hollow culture will prevail. In this new culture, financial investment is the essence of contemporary life, and materialism is referred to as civilisation and progress. It promotes superficial thinking and leads to an intellectual void in the arts, literature and morals; fake media and influential hype exclude intellectuals and innovators. The outcome of this situation will be disastrous; it is imperative that we respond consciously and responsibly to these trends.
The culture of glass and stone has overtaken the world. One of the manifestations of this era, it serves as evidence of peoples’ development and progress. Are we experiencing the result of urbanisation and a new far-reaching civilisation that affects every part of the world? Or is there someone planning, leading and using cunning methods to limit thinking and deplete the generations’ cultural treasures?
The Kingdom of Bahrain is in the process of implementing the National Action Charter and reform project put forward by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (may Allah protect him) under the new leadership and vision of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister (may Allah protect him), which are based on the rich experience and wise leadership of his late uncle (may his soul rest in peace). This new vision ought to prioritize formulating a plan to create a national strategy for culture at the highest level, as well as creating a national council for culture comprised of intellectuals and artists who are put responsible for devising plans to implement the strategy. This council will also monitor the implementation in order to avoid having a single perspective dominate the country's cultural affairs, a trend that began in the mid-1980s.
No one can deny that which has been achieved in terms of culture in general, but we are focused on Bahrain’s future, which is related to the origins and components of ancient Bahraini culture and the dignity of its creators, and on the people’s intellectual, artistic and literary future. The richness of Bahraini culture stems from the interaction of the multi-cultural environments for which Bahrain is known; this has made the nation a beacon of knowledge that plays an important role in shaping an honourable future.
Bahrain is celebrating its glorious National Day in 2020. We ask Allah to open the doors to enlightenment in our dear homeland, to preserve our brave and courageous King, and to grant the Crown Prince, His Royal Highness the Prime Minister, success and a loyal retinue that will serve the people of Bahrain who deserve all that is good.
May Allah grant us success.
Ali Abdullah Khalifa