The Collegian
Monday, August 03, 2020

The Global Citizen: The Evolution of Ideas

This past weekend, I was at the 7th UR African Film Weekend hosted in the Ukrop Auditorium of the Robins School of Business. Despite my attendance being prompted largely by the promise of extra credit from a professor, I am happy I went.

Among the many features, I was most captivated by one that chronicled the evolution of music from Africa to America by a singer tracing the lines of the infamous slave trade triangle.

The singer told the story of how traditional African music was brought to America by the slaves and, once there, the music was suppressed by those around them. Eventually it re-emerged in the form of spirituals sung to vocalize the sorrow that characterized slave life in America.

This music was the precursor to the blues and evolved further into current-day jazz music. The journey was completed when the singer returned to Africa and fused his own style of music with jazz elements in an attempt to find the next step in the evolution of this music.

This film impressed upon me the vast potential for innovation that results when information and ideas pass freely between different cultures. The evolution of jazz is just one small example of how new and powerful ideas are created when cultures bring fresh perspectives to each other and new bodies of work are born.

Nowadays it's easier than ever to disseminate ideas and information uninhibited by geographical constraints ,thanks to inventions such as the Internet that connect people instantaneously. Yet there are still large pockets of the world that choose not to participate in the free exchange of ideas and opt rather to stifle it.

China is one of the most famous examples because of its broad Internet censorship implemented by the ruling Communist party, some say. In September America's new ambassador to China, Gary Locke, warned the Chinese government that "if China's businesses ... aren't able to fully participate in the international marketplace of ideas, then China as a country and as an economy will fail to realize its full potential."*

Words of wisdom...but are they falling on deaf ears?

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* Jacobs, Andrew. "New U.S. Envoy Urges China to Relax Business Restrictions." The New York Times, Sept. 20, 2011.

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