Someone sent me an interesting interview with Ashraf Ghandi, the President of Afghanistan. When asked about his Peacemaking Plan, he said:
“I have been working on this for two decades. There are lessons. Peacemaking is not jazz.
It’s not improvisation.”
First interesting thing? The President of Afghanistan is talking about jazz! And relating it to politics. I wonder if he knew that Dizzy Gillespie ran for President in 1964. (I wonder if you knew that!) He goes on to say:
“In order to do jazz, you need 10,000 hours of preparation.”
He got that right! But he failed to connect the fact that his two decades of work is that preparation and once things get formally set in motion, once the melody and chord changes and rhythms of the Peacemaking Plan are set down like a jazz composition, it is the jazz sensibility that will make it actually work. For the jazz improviser is intelligently responding to the needs of that moment, in conversation with fellow jazz musicians. A plan is a plan, but to make it come to life requires that level of intelligence, of awareness, of conversation to the ever-shifting changes of what’s actually happening. All improvisation must sing back to that theme, but also extend it, vary it, re-phrase it according to the ever-new moment. And drawing from those hours of preparation. Without that preparation, improvisation is just mindless reactive babbling. But without that improvised spontaneity, the plan is just a document vulnerable to mindless stiff adherence. Jazz improvisation balances the formal and informal, the prepared speech and the live conversation, the known and the unknown, the set form and the variety within form.
So President Ghandi, I respectfully disagree: Peacemaking is jazz and all politicians would do well to be trained in its ways. Not that they have to practice long hours at an instrument, but get a taste of how jazz works and how it can apply outside the musical world. If you ever want to set up a workshop with your Cabinet, I’m your man.
And President Biden, I offer you the same.