Think Piece: Improvisation and the Syrian Refugee Crisis
The current Syrian refugee crisis—the civil war and the displaced peoples that resulted from it, but also the crisis with respect to how Western countries have responded to it—affirms a renewed need to learn to deal with social dissonance. In this piece, Paul Watkins discusses the ways in which social and musical improvisation (particularly when immersed in the ethics of “cocreation”) can teach us about the merits of creative risk-taking in relation to the current Syrian refugee crisis, a form of social dissonance. Learning to improvise imbues citizens with the important notion that creative risk-taking makes for more exciting and, while unpredictable to a degree, egalitarian societies. It teaches us that borders, whether they are musically or socially formed, do more harm than good, and that change through forms of inventive improvisatory practices and understanding allows us to envision forms of social justice and community that would otherwise be impossible. Watkins posits that we can fight the insular mechanics of an improvisation of fear with an improvisation of hope that challenges the anxiety that refugees destroy borders and culture, as if these things are pure, static, given, unchanging, and authentic.