By Dennis Fraters
In December, I was the fourth time in Morocco. For the first time to work in an intercultural exchange project. The other three times I was just traveling, of course to enjoy the fabulous food and the good weather, but also to understand the Moroccan culture. As a child, there were 8 kids with a Moroccan background in my class and they came every year back from holidays with a lot of stories about Morocco. And also in the last 10 years, the Dutch media wrote a lot about the Dutch inhabitants with a Moroccan background and their ´Moroccan culture´. I was very curious and motivated to understand this country and his population. During these travels, I spoke with a lot of people. I spoke with colleagues and old-participants of our projects, but also with taxi drivers, random people in the train, in restaurants and tea houses. With people in small villages in the Atlas mountain and with people in bigger cities like Casablanca, Rabat and Tanger.
And how more I listened, spoke and discussed, how more different opinions I´ve heard. Everyone had his own story, own opinion and own truth. I realised that I wouldn´t found that fast one truth about the Moroccan and the Moroccan culture. And was it possible to find the truth about the Moroccan culture? Was the culture in the small villages the same as in the big cities? And is the culture of the Moroccans in Morocco the same as the Moroccans in the diaspora? En am I able, as a Dutch non-religious white man, to understand another culture and to draw conclusions about it? -But the last question is another theme.
I thought about the times that people asked me, a Dutchman in Berlin, how the Dutch people are. Or the times that people from the Netherlands asked me, how the Berliner are and what the Berlin culture is. I answered these questions a lot, but always based on my experiences and background. These anwers were my opinion and my truth. But other persons, would answer these question in another way.
I also thought about the speech of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She, the famous Nigerian authoress spoke at the Tedx about ´The danger of a single story´. She spoke about how the literature and the media influenced her image about the western world, but also how the media and literature influenced the image of the Western world about Africa and the danger of this single story for the image and opinion about the other: The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story´.
The whole speech of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
To show the other stories and other experiences is probably the role of the intercultural work, but also of the regular education. To give an alternative for the often one-sided story of the media and yes, also the politicians. But how to do this? How much stories has to be told to get a better image of a place or person. In science, we would call this the representivity of the random sample. But does this also count for the understanding of another culture or the other? To speak with Adichie´s words: ´I´ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or person without engaging with all the stories of that place and that person´.
To listen to all the stories of all the people is an utopia, we have to gratify with as much as possible stories. The role of the intercultural worker is to facilitate as much as possible stories and to get the youngsters in contact with as much as possible different opinions and experiences. But maybe more important is to be conscious and to create consciousness by the youngsters, that this isn´t the whole truth. At least, isn´t the single story, but it´s still an ´incomplete story´.