Rodaan Al Galidi on Next Generation Please!

When did you last use a stereotype? What was it?

Two hours ago. Someone asked me why I didn’t have much contact with other Iraqis in the Netherlands. I said they were all exaggerators and complainers who enjoyed being victims and were busy with things that did not interest me – such as freedom, fatherland, etc. Later I realised I was absolutely wrong because I do have a couple of Iraqi friends who I enjoy seeing very much.

Can stereotypes serve a function?

Yes, just like a lawnmower that first makes the grass look uglier for a day or two before it starts to look better than ever. Stereotypes make society look better. They may be harsh but they shed light on those dark bad corners of society. Stereotypes are the lawnmowers of society.

Who is your European icon and why?

I have two European icons. One’s Berlusconi because he falls for beautiful women even though he’s a politician and should therefore be with an ugly one. I find him the greatest European of the 21st Century. He’s a macho, a Casanova, a Zorro, a Don Juan. He’s everything that Europe has made of its men. In an interview I read that a Russian woman said that he does match his age because he enjoys his life so much. He is my bodily icon. My spiritual icon is Voltaire when it comes to thought, philosophy and literature. Voltaire lit Europe’s lantern and it’s still burning. He cleaned the thoughts of Europe of all sorts of garbage. Just think: one man against all what is bad with the continent. I read his work again and again and think: wow, Europe’s great.

You are a communications/PR advisor and are free to remake the EU’s image. What would you do first?

I see Europe as a big cage wherein everyone is strapped down with a belt. They all look at the cage and think: it’s no use to free myself of this belt because then I’ll just be free in a big cage. That’s my image of Europe when I’m negative.

If I was a PR advisor, I would make sure people saw how amazing it is that all the streets, squares and neighbourhoods have no tanks, cannons or soldiers with automatic weapons. Life is allowed to flow by itself. Without military control. You can’t appreciate this unless you are from another country where the street bites, stabs, explodes and swallows. This is Europe’s best image. And I would want to bring this image across via the media. I would ignore the grumpy, hurrying, aggressive, hopeless, and drained faces, and focus on an image of trees that grow free, along with grass, ponds, canals, alleys and parks. I would make no images of lost cats, rats or dogs. Neither of a dead mule surrounded by flies that no one has bothered to take off the street and you have to pinch your nose to pass. When I first arrived in Europe I did not dare to make photos outside of the asylum centre to send back to my family because everything here looks so posh and beautiful. If I sent such pictures, my family wouldn’t believe how painful and heavy it actually is to stay in an asylum centre. That is the power of Europe.