Ep. 12 Peace agency and the centrality of relationship: A conversation with Bridget Moix
Dr. Bridget Moix
In this conversation we encounter themes within Dr. Bridget Moix's book, Choosing Peace: Agency and Action in the Midst of War, to explore the notion of peace agency and how our best work is bounded in relationship. Weaving together the teachings of James Waller and Elise Boulding, we explore our innate capacity for peace and relationship, and the importance of families, friendships, and communities in rooting our advocacy and care to place. The episode concludes with a joyful exploration of hope, choice, and imagination led by the laughter and music of the Bluegrass Ambassadors and members of a Ugandan community.
Keywords: peace agency, relationship, Elise Boulding, James Waller, locally-led peacebuilding, hope, imagination, Peace Direct, Quaker, bluegrass
Bridget Moix is an advocate, educator, and activist who believes in the power of local people to build lasting peace. She has worked for 20 years on international peace and conflict issues, with a focus on US foreign policy and holds a doctorate degree in conflict resolution. For nine years she lobbied on US foreign policy and peace issues with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and she worked for two years inside government as an Atrocity Prevention Fellow with USAID. She has worked with the Quaker United Nations Office, Oxfam America, American Friends Service Committee, and the World Policy Institute. Bridget directed the Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City, a Quaker center of hospitality and international understanding, and worked in Capetown, South Africa, with the Quaker Peace Centre. Bridget holds a PhD from George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where she focused her dissertation on understanding the motivations of local peacebuilders and how the international community can better support them. Her book, “Choosing Peace: Agency and Action in the Midst of War“, is an adaptation of that study. Bridget has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and Quaker studies at a variety of institutions, including Haverford College, Columbia University, George Washington University, and Eastern Mennonite University. Bridget Moix currently leads the US office of Peace Direct, an international organization that works with local people to stop violent conflict and build lasting peace.
SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODE FOR 30% OFF HER BOOK: RLIAPR19 - Proceeds from the sale of the book go to Peace Direct.
Boulding, E. (1988). Building a global civic culture: Education for an interdependent world. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Boulding, E. (1989). One small plot of heaven: Reflections on family life by a Quaker sociologist. Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications.
Moix, B. (2019). Choosing peace: Agency and action in the midst of war. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODE FOR 30% OFF HER BOOK: RLIAPR19 - Proceeds from the sale of the book go to Peace Direct.
Stephenson, C. M. (2012). Elise Boulding and peace education: theory, practice, and Quaker faith. Journal of Peace Education, 9(2), 115-126. doi: 10.1080/17400201.2012.700196
Waller, J. (2002). Becoming evil: How ordinary people commit genocide and mass killing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Saba and Gulalai Ismail's organization, called Aware Girls is mentioned in this podcast. Their website can be found at https://www.awaregirls.org/ They have developed a Youth Peace Network where young people use peer-to-peer engagement to reduce radicalization and promote social cohesion in communities
Peace Direct: https://www.peacedirect.org/us/
Friends Committee on National Legislation: www.fcnl.org
1) How do our local relationships impact our ethical action and advocacy? In what ways does our distanced work differ from our local work?
2) How does a Quaker heritage bring unique insights and practices to peacebuilding work? How is the practice of action research and appreciative inquiry an intentional, humane approach to scholarly engagement?
3) What are the dangers of projectization in the peacebuilding field? What forms of projectization can we recognize in the fields of the arts and education?
4) Are Empathy, Altruism, and Compassion individual qualities or qualities that are always lived out in the in-between of relationship? How are these qualities cultivated in relationship? In what conditions do these relational elements flourish?
5) What is the interplay of hope, choice, and imagination within peace agency?
Shorner-Johnson: 00:00 So I think that that question came out of that deep internal curiosity and self doubt about why some people find that courage to do work for peace and do creative, inspiring peacebuilding at risk to themselves often when others don't.
Shorner-Johnson: 00:21 You are listening to the music and peacebuilding podcast, a professional development network at music peace-building dot com, exploring intersections of peacebuilding, sacredness, community, creativity and imagination through research and story.
Shorner-Johnson: 00:37 Bridget Moix is an advocate, educator and activist who believes in the power of local people to build lasting peace. She has worked for 20 years on international peace and conflict issues with a focus on us foreign policy and she holds a doctorate degree in conflict resolution. For nine years. She lobbied on us foreign policy and peace issues with the friends committee on national legislation where she developed and led the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict program. She has worked with the Quaker United Nations office, Oxfam America, American friends service committee, and the world policy Institute. Bridget directed the Casa de Los Amigos in Mexico City, a Quaker center of hospitality and international understanding and worked in Cape town, South Africa. With the Quaker peace center.
Shorner-Johnson: 01:26 Bridget Moix currently leads the U S office of peace, direct an international organization that works with local people to stop violent conflict and build lasting peace. In this episode we speak with Bridget Moix about her book agency and action in the midst of war to talk about the role of her Quaker heritage, the notion of peace agency and the centrality of relationship in all our work. We then close with a special treat offered by the Henhouse Prowlers and their nonprofit musical diplomacy work as the bluegrass ambassadors.
Shorner-Johnson: 02:02 Could you take us on a journey of some of the moments that have really formed your journey?
Shorner-Johnson: 02:08 sure. That's a lovely question. Well, uh, it's been a long journey. It's, uh, feels like I've been doing this work for quite some time as you said, but it really started, um, I guess I would point to when I was in college and I was doing an internship in Philadelphia, actually not far from you there and stumbled my way into, thanks to a very good mentor and advisor that I had at the time, an internship with the American friends service committee. So prior to that time, I had never heard of Quakers. I grew up, uh, raised Catholic in Ohio, in Dayton, Ohio. Pretty mainstream, uh, childhood and youth going through high school and into college and, but I always had an inkling that I wanted to do something related to peace and I couldn't necessarily put my finger on why or where that came from.
Shorner-Johnson: 03:07 So when I was in college and found myself in an internship opportunity with the American friends service committee, I remember the moment when I went for the interview and I had been looking around at things related to my major, which was sociology and writing and hadn't really found anything that grabbed me. But walking into the offices of the American friends service committee, which are actually attached, they're in Philadelphia to a large historic Quaker meeting house and walking in and reading about Quakers and this organization that gave people a channel to dedicate their lives and their work to building peace, promoting social justice, living their faith in action resonated immediately.
Shorner-Johnson: 04:22 I had a feeling of coming home. People often talk about that sense of coming home to a faith community. So I had that experience there as I, um, stumbled as a very young person into an internship with AFSC. So that was a really important moment. Uh, it was, it was just, uh, a seed that was planted at the time. But then after college I wound up with another Quaker organization, the Friends Committee on national legislation. And that was a policy experience FC andL is a Quaker lobby in the public interest in Washington, D C and I knew nothing about Congress. I knew nothing about policymaking, but somehow they hired me to do this internship that where I was working on us foreign policy and particularly on issues of war and peace. At the time.
Shorner-Johnson: 05:15 Bridget Moix went on to speak of how the internship led her to think about policy and peacebuilding. This internship was vital in her formation on issues of war and peace and policy and the driving issues of conflict and the vision of Quaker heritage. As peacebuilding became a more established field, Moix began to wonder of the disconnect between distance policy in the centers of political power and the marginalization of community perspectives and voices. Bridget spoke of a moment in Kenya when she knew she had the responsibility to make an impact in the United States. When we about locally-led peacebuilding, what are our callings work with our local roots.
Shorner-Johnson: 06:01 Another really important moment in my own journey with peacebuilding and understanding my role in it came when I was part of a consultation of Quaker organizations who had been looking at peacebuilding and trying to understand what the role of organizations, faith based organizations and Quaker organizations was and how friends and other peacebuilders around the world were actually doing the work of peacebuilding at the community level. And it was around 2002 or 2004, I can't remember the exact year that we had a Quaker consultation on peace in Kenya and Kenyan friends, Kenyan Quakers hosted that at the time. They were doing a lot of really important community level peace building work as they continue to do. And so we gathered there international organizations as well as local Kenyan groups and other Quaker organizations from around uh, the great lakes region of Africa as well to learn about each other's work.
Shorner-Johnson: 07:09 And during the consultation there was a moment over tea with some of our colleagues. Where I describe it actually as the opener of the book, I think as a moment of Truth for me and truth with a capital T because it Kenyan friend, a Kenyan Quaker who was working in the midst of rural Western Kenya where there is often conflict and violence looked at me over tea and he kind of looked me straight in the eye and said, you know, it's really good that you're here and that others from the international community want to be here and learn about our work and share with us. And then he said, and I really hope you'll go back to your own country and your own government and help fix some of the things there because everything that happens in the U S and many things that happen in Washington affect us in our work here.
Shorner-Johnson: 08:10 And that was really important to me because I had often gotten frustrated with having to work in the policy world and thought that peacebuilding should be always at a community level. But I realized that my place in the world, in my own local context, being someone who was living in Washington DC and working around policy circles was really right where I could make the best impact. Um, as an American citizen, the responsibilities we carry for the role of our own government in the world and also the conflict and issues in our own communities here is really important. And that, that became a new starting point for me in thinking about my own contributions and the role that I could play in building a more peaceful role, peaceful world. So that also fed a lot into my own journey and my own thinking about how we, how we think about locally led peacebuilding for each of us. Um, and what, what privileges we have and what challenges we have and the best roles that we can play.
Speaker 3: 09:28 [[music]]
Shorner-Johnson: 09:28 And there was a quote that you said that you needed to return to school and step back from lobbying because you felt like the beliefs you had about peace could no longer be true. "I needed to reevaluate to learn from others who had more faith than me. More skill and fortitude, more courage and compassion." And I was just curious about this moment of crisis that you were talking about in your book.
Moix: 09:49 Yeah. Well, you know, I think that um, the Syrian war has affected a lot of people and it's a bit like Rwanda for people my age maybe. And it really came out of, I was somewhat absent from the lobbying and the work that when the Syrian, what was a nonviolent movement began to unravel into a civil war and then became an internationalized war that continues today with just devastating impacts. And I was somewhat absent from it because I was actually pregnant. And then having my first, my second child, uh, as it, this was all unraveling. So I had a little bit of distance. And I think that was helpful for me because I just started to realize something in the field of peacebuilding was not working. Um, we were not able to effectively accompany nonviolent movements like the one in Syria. We weren't speaking out in the policy realms about the role of the U S government, other internationalized, uh, interventions in Syria that were making things worse.
Shorner-Johnson: 11:02 Uh, we kind of had our heads down, it felt like, and there there were, I don't want to suggest that there weren't people doing really important vital work in the peacebuilding field around Syria, but that I really, it just really gave me pause of how much the whole world community and the peace building community as well failed Syria. And so that was, that was kind of that moment of crisis. And I thought, here, I've been, you know, trying to shift policy. We had been doing a lot of work where we saw the U S government and the UN lifting up a nonviolent prevention of deadly conflict as a priority. We had thought this was such important progress. We're making, you know, state new and policy, new funding, new bureaucracies being created and here's this massive international situation that should have been different. So that was kind of the crisis.
Shorner-Johnson: 12:06 And I, I think that it was an internal crisis for me about the peacebuilding field in a way. And I also saw, I felt like I saw the peacebuilding community sort of headed in the direction of the development industry. What people have talked about is the development industry where there were larger and larger organizations in the global North getting big funding from governments. And we were getting tied up in this system. And what I had learned about, learned about what peacebuilding is and accompanying communities, I didn't see that reflected very much. I didn't see risk taking reflected. I didn't see a willingness to really try to live into this space where peace and justice meet. Um, I saw a sense of neutrality overtaking, um, and so, so I really thought the peacebuilding field, if we don't get it, if we don't shift, if we don't change some things in 30 years, we're going to end up where the development industry is. And we're still a young field so we actually can still shift. I am afraid the development industry is so wrapped up in itself. It's hard to figure out how you, how you move things and really change the system. But peacebuilding is still new. It's still young. We're still growing, so we have a real opportunity. So I wanted to, out of my own crisis of faith and belief in what I had been doing, I wanted to
Speaker 4: 13:37 figure out how can we help move that peacebuilding system in the right direction.
Speaker 5: 13:43 [music]
Speaker 4: 13:49 so I wouldn't normally ask you a question about research methodology right off the bat, but I was really captivated about how you wrote about appreciative inquiry in your book and I can't help but also imagine how that methodology seems to resonate with maybe the Quaker ideals of inner light, presence and deep listening. And I was just curious if you recognized that intersection with that Quaker heritage in that research design.
Moix: 14:13 Yeah, that's a great question. I did, you know, I'm, um, so in writing this, this book, and it was originally my dissertation, I kept trying to take my Quakerism out of it and my advisory committee kept telling me to put it back in, which I thought was funny. Um, it made me as the typical Quaker of hiding our light under our bushel. But, um, absolutely I think that that perspective comes from my Quakerism and I actually wrote a paper during my PhD studies, uh, trying to look at what are the practices of Quakerism that help make Quakers good peacebuilders. Because we have this 350 year plus history of doing peacemaking work and peacebuilding work. And we definitely don't get it right. We definitely are not the only ones doing it. We haven't sort of cracked the code in any particular way, but we've kept doing it for that long and there've been some contributions that I think are really important.
Moix: 15:15 So what is it about Quaker practice? And being and what we do in Quakerism that maybe contributes to that? And listening, I think absolutely for me at least is one of those key key practices for Quakers. And Quakers. The Quaker tradition I come from is grounded in silent worship with the sense that you're listening for the spirit to move collectively, corporately, um, the group towards greater insight to truth. So if you think about that as a way to approach research, it kind of shifts what you're doing. You're, you're thinking, wow, this is a, it's a group process. I'm not an independent researcher who somehow got the truth or even is going to discover the truth by myself and I need to maybe enter this, um, with a sense of what already, what already, it is, in the space that I'm going to study what already exists beyond me and what might we discover together.
Shorner-Johnson: 16:24 So if we move to your central research question, which was, um, "how and why do some people choose to actively work for peace in the midst of violence when many others around them do not?" This, this research question seems to draw us to your findings around peace agency. So could you talk about what drew you to this question?
Moix: 16:47 Yeah, well it was really a lot of self doubt. I think one of the things I discovered through my PhD process, and I, I don't know if this is true for others, but I imagine maybe it is, is that academically we often enter into research with a question that we think is about the world around us. And it may be very much about that, but through the research and during it, at least this happened for me, we discover that question is a lot about us. It's actually something we're trying to understand about ourselves in the world. So I think I had really, because I had worked for so long in a relatively safe environment, Washington D C, around the UN. Um, I mean, I was at the UN when, at Quaker UN office when 9/11 hit. So, you know, I've, I haven't been completely, um, protected from violent conflict, but generally my life is really safe compared to the people and situations and the proposals for peace that I was advocating for a lot.
Moix: 17:56 And so you have, I really started to wonder, wow, would I do the same if I were in these situations? I had started to work with peace direct. I was, um, first on their board and then, um, was beginning to work with them and I had incredible respect and admiration. I still do for the peacebuilders, the local peacebuilders that peace direct was working with and anyone who's met people on the front lines who are doing peacebuilding work and often risking their lives to do so, uh, you know, recognizes this is really courageous work. And so I really was asking myself a lot, I think, wow, would I really do it? I say I work for peace. I call myself a peace advocate. How much would I risk? You know, I have kids, I have two kids now. Um, what would I do in that kind of situation? So I think that that question came out of that deep internal curiosity and self doubt about why some people in those really horrendous, difficult situations find that courage to do work for peace. And do, you know, creative, inspiring, peacebuilding work at risk to themselves often when others don't. And also when others get swept up in the balance.
Shorner-Johnson: 19:26 As someone who has worked on genocide and atrocity prevention, Bridget Moix spoke of the influence of James Waller. In his book, Becoming Evil Waller applies a social psychology lens to genocide, recognizing that we all have tendencies toward ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and desires for social dominance. We all have the innate potential to participate in genocide. And we also have the innate potential toward cooperation, caring, and nonviolent relations. He writes, "we must persist in our pursuit of a greater us. Central to this pursuit, are educational and societal programs that broaden our boundaries and experiences of the Other." In her book, Bridget Moix speaks of peace agency as wedded to the work of relationship, hope and imagination.
Shorner-Johnson: 20:26 So could you talk about what you learned about this interplay of hope, choice and imagination within agency?
Moix: 20:33 Yes. So that's a great question. I'll start with choice because that was really fundamental to the book and it was the a-ha moment that I had and I entered the study with this question about why do some people choose peace while others choose violence? Thinking that there was agency, really strong agency in that choice thinking that it was individuals consciously making a decision that they had to do one thing or another. And what happened in the book was that, in the study and in the process learning process for me was that as I interviewed these peacebuilders and I kept trying to understand this element of choice and individual agency, they kept responding to me describing relationships and actually describing being compelled to work for peace as if they had no choice. They, they were driven to do it because of connections they had with other people because of relationships with the communities because of um, some sense within them that there was no other option for them.
Moix: 21:53 They had to do it. So that flipped my study on that on its head because I thought I was going to discover something about individual choice and agency and it turned around and said it, it's not about individuals, it's about relationships. And so that's why I sort of came up with this idea of relational responsibility as the main driver for peace agency, that we are drawn to work for peace in the world. Those of us who are, because of the relationships and connections that we have with other people. And that I think is really tied to hope because I've never found a peacebuilder working in really, really difficult violent situations who somehow isn't also hopeful. And isn't actually driven by hope and using hope and standing on hope in order to do the work. And I had a Quaker mentor, actually Joe Volk, who taught me a lot about Quaker peacebuilding and about policymaking and lobbying.
Moix: 23:08 And he, he always says that hope isn't something you have or don't have. It's a practice. You actually have to practice it. And I think that we practice hope in relationship with other people. Um, that hope actually comes from others around us and then it's sort of this virtuous cycle, um, that we can start and it can, that can spread beyond us. So, um, so that's I think, hope and choice or um, sort of maybe invertly connected in, you know, uh, connected in a different way, but there is a connection there. And then imagination I think is the other side of hope in the sense of, in terms of working for a more peaceful world, being able to imagine a different reality, I think is what allows a lot of people to get through very, very difficult situations of war and violence and to work for towards that different reality. So Elise Boulding is a Quaker, um, uh, uh, figure in history and also a real pioneer in the peace studies world. And Elise Boulding ran workshops for years that actually walked people through a process of imagining a different world and then figuring out how would we get there. So, and I think that that's a very hopeful process and it usually shows you - you're not going to get there by yourself. You're going to get there in community with other people and with a lot of people working together.
Speaker 5: 24:48 [music]
Shorner-Johnson: 24:54 Bridget Moix writes "the Boldings explain what happens, no matter how rarely it happens, even if it exists just once in time and space represents a wider possibility of reality. Choosing peace represents not just a reality in some situations, but also a hidden possibility in every situation." In her book building a civic culture, Elise Boulding shared a seven stage process of imaging, and imagination that dreams utopias 30 years into the future. Images memories of the past imagines a future history of events that lead to utopian dreams and then returns to an action plan to live into dreams and future histories.
Shorner-Johnson: 25:56 That Finding of relationship really was the glue. In the end of your study, you found that everything was bounded in relationship and this is one of the key markers of maybe what makes locally led peace-building so successful or morally driven or that it's all tangled up in that web of relationship. Um, what surprised you about your findings when you really came to this aha moment about relationship?
Moix: 26:25 Well, I think it challenged my sort of Western global North thinking, very American thinking. You know, that we are individuals and we can pull our bootstraps up and do these things in the world. Uh, it really made me reflect on what it means, to do peace work myself and to be, try to be within the peacebuilding world and how much I depend on other people and how much my relationships are vital to that. And I think it also, um, really made me think about the problems, the source of the problems with the way the international peacebuilding field had been developing, is still developing in some ways. Although now we have a trend toward local peacebuilding, which is really encouraging. Um, because what a professionalized sector was, was doing to peacebuilding was, it was actually removing relationship from the equation. So I had grown up learning about Quaker peacebuilding, which often involved, you know, if there was somebody from say the global North going to a conflict country to do peacebuilding work, they would go for years and they would spend the first part of that work just listening and figuring out what the communities needed and how they might serve them.
Moix: 27:57 And they would build relationships and they would get deeply embedded with those communities. Mennonites, uh, have a long tradition of doing this in their peacebuilding work. I think all the historic peace churches, um, do. Uh, so that, and that was really relationship grounded work for peace. And what I was seeing happening through the development of the, of the more professionalized peacebuilding sector was that it was actually telling people, you know, we're going to do a project, we're going to get funding for a year and we're going to go to a country and we're going to do a project. And we figured it out already, what needs to be done and we'll go and we'll find some groups to work with there and we'll do a project for peace. And then after the funding runs out, well maybe we'll go do another project for peace somewhere else. So it was really taking the relationship element out and replacing it with projectization of peacebuilding. And that is a big root of the problem that we have to fix I think.
Shorner-Johnson: 29:08 And I think you, you cite Elise Bolding's work on, on, on kind of family centered peacebuilding to note just how different that is from locally-led peacebuilding to international NGOs and the fact that many of the people who you interviewed talked so poignantly about the importance of their family in driving their decisions. Can you talk about that?
Moix: 29:32 Yeah, absolutely. Um, I mean it just came up again and again and the more I listened to these stories of people talking about, you know, two young women in Pakistan and Gulalai Ismail who started an incredible organization called Aware girls would - they credit their father a lot for his, what he taught them. You know, he made them study the human rights declaration when all their friends got to go out and play after school. So, um, and their love for him and respect for him drives their work a lot. Um, when people were talking about their own children and makes the, um, combatants for peace, um, representative that I spoke to from Israel and he was talking about his, the birth of his first child and that it reshaped his whole outlook on the world and on what was happening in his community, in his country and made him say, I can't leave this to my child.
Moix: 30:31 So people repeatedly spoke about the influence of family members as, um, really drive and family relationships, really driving them toward peace. And also a Burundian colleague who lost his cousin of the same age in the violence. And that was the moment that he said, I can't participate in this violence anymore. I have to work for a different way. So it was always, uh, people kept referring back to families. And if I think about my own experience, the first thing that happened to me, um, when I, after I had my first child and was thinking about my peacework and pace and trying to be some sort of peacebuilder in the world, the first thing that popped to my head was that most important piece work I can do is raise another human being to be a good human being in the world. There's nothing more important.
Moix: 31:29 Uh, there's not a greater responsibility I've been given and there's not a greater impact I can have on the world. Um, so that, so I, I've really came back around to wondering why in the peacebuilding more professional field. Are we not incorporating a lot of focus and attention on family relationships? And there are some programs that do, there are a number of programs, particularly around the radicalization of youth and the roles that, um, mothers can play in preventing radicalization of their youth. Fathers can play. So there are, there's more now starting I think in the, in the international professionalized field. But, um, but I think there's, we haven't really integrated that fully enough and Elise Boulding was such a remarkable person. I spent some time in her archives during the course of my, uh, study my PhD and it just amazed me that she had, she was doing all this work in the world.
Moix: 32:35 Um, building the peace studies field, connecting people all around the world with one another who were doing peace work before there was any internet or even easy phone, international phone lines. And then in the files she also had all her, um, notes and different things that she used for teaching first day school, which is like Sunday school, um, at her Quaker meeting, you know, and pictures of her with the kids. And she wrote about the kid, about family and children and the important stuff, children in P for peace and in peace and their power. You know, we're now finally catching up and talking about youths and the important role that youth play in peacebuilding. But, um, not many of us have gotten down to the role of children too, so, so I think there's a lot that is there that we, we should be digging into more and I think it would make our peacework a lot more fun too. I think it would be more fun if we thought about the role of families and not just, you know, different actors in the international system or in the uh, the community. Uh, but we actually looked at the role of families
Speaker 5: 33:44 [inaudible]
Shorner-Johnson: 33:47 in her text, the family as a way into the future. Elise Boulding writes that family is the co-creative space of futures for good. She writes, "we love one another beyond reason and beyond design at the far side of hurt and anger because there is an order of loving in creation of which we are apart. Family life is an act of continuous creation, creation of persons, of social reality."
Shorner-Johnson: 34:22 This next question is maybe the philosopher in me. I love concepts that are very complex. And as I think about the word agency, you know, it's very common in our Western world that we think of agency is like a form of liberation and individuation - As I become my own self and I have my own choices. However, as I get into your book, I really come into contact with the idea that agency really is this balancing of the freedom of choice and maybe then the boundedness of relationship and that we don't often think of agency needing the boundedness of relationship. Did that resonate with you as well?
Moix: 35:02 Yeah, I love that. I love that. I think you've just taken it to a deeper, a deeper understanding of it. I, I think that absolutely. Um, if you think about, if we were just pure agents, individual agents in the world, wow, what, what a dangerous world and what a lonely world that would be. Um, and probably a lot of conflicts and unresolved problems, not a lot of peacebuilding. So yeah, definitely. I think that the boundedness of relationship has to be, it has to balance out that agency side of things. So I feel like we need a new term maybe, um, bounded agency or something. I dunno, you can, that can be your next book. Cause I think, I think there's definitely something there that helps also bring together the, the Western perspective and the maybe more sort of global North, global, South, Western, Eastern, however you want to describe it. That helps bring those together in a helpful way too.
Shorner-Johnson: 36:11 yeah, because you talk very, very much toward the end of your book about taking some of the lessons of peacebuilding and applying them now to the conflicts in the global North. And I wonder sometimes if we have a tremendous amount of agency in the global North, we can, I can send out any tweet I want at any moment, but yet there's something that's missing there, which is the responsibility that's wedded in that boundedness.
Moix: 36:35 Yeah. And if you, if you think about the US and all the division and conflict that we're experiencing very rawly right now, um, which is rooted in a lot of unresolved, deeply entrenched conflict and injustice, um, and the legacies of violence. We don't have good processes that bring community together to deal with those problems. We may be good at, um, finding sort of how you, I isolate individuals and deal with, you know, specific, um, issues or individuals or take agency as individuals. But we don't have good processes that would challenge us. I think. So I'm thinking particularly about, um, truth and reconciliation processes, which globally, uh, in different parts of the world have. We have so much to learn from them. I mean, they've transformed societies, haven't resolved everything certainly that have been really important processes that are usually a combination of community process and individual accountability or forgiveness or so there is that bounded nature.
Moix: 37:49 Um, that is part of those processes. And there's a few of those processes starting around the US now there's one in Maine with the, uh, Wabanaki people and related to the, um, taking of children into schools, um, that people were part of in Maine. And Quakers were part of actually that actually, um, and have been part of the reconciliation process. And then there's, um, I think there's another one in California among a few different tribes that they're trying to do with native peoples, but there's also I think a huge need around, um, around race issues. There's uncovering of mass graves in Tulsa. Um, you know, how does anyone deal with that depth of, uh, human suffering and, and, you know, deep injustice as an individual. You know, we can't, we, it's, I don't think it's possible.
Speaker 4: 38:46 So let's move to, to maybe a conversation that will speak directly to our audience of teachers and talking about teaching. And definitely toward the end of the book, you transitioned to talking about your role as a parent and you talk about the role of teachers in shaping children's voices and then how you wrestle with, um, these kinds of roles. Can you speak to the power of the role of the parent and the teacher because we don't often think of them as being peacebuilders.
Moix: 39:16 Oh yeah. Well, absolutely. I mean, definitely, I, you know, I go back to that first insight after my first son was born where I realized this was the greatest responsibility for peacebuilding that I'd been given. Um, I don't always live up to that for sure, but I think, um, and I, I've, I've discovered we have to do a lot of training and practice as teachers and as parents, um, related to peacebuilding and managing our roles and the responsibility that we carry. So, um, I discover we need to continually learn ourselves too, um, and I know that teachers now, you know, I've taught some, I've been an adjunct, but what I've seen in terms of, um, young people today, the amount of pressure that they're under, the amount of, um, mental illness that we're seeing, uh, the isolation and loneliness that they feel in a lot of cases and the, you know, weight of global problems on their shoulders.
Moix: 40:17 I think teachers and parents and others who influence and mentor young people have a huge role to play in helping them understand that there is hope, that there is a different world that can be constructed, that people are building it all the time, that they can be part of that, um, to encourage them to find their path and their contribution to the world that they want to make and to pursue that. Um, I think, you know, the, um, work that young people are doing themselves with each other is, and the leadership they're showing is also a lesson to us adults and us teachers and parents who are trying to help raise children and young people. Um, I was at a conference just this past weekend. I was asked to speak by a young woman who's gotten involved with peace direct. Her name is Sun and she's been, uh, she's a student at George Mason University and she's organized a whole conference for high school students on peacebuilding.
Shorner-Johnson: 41:25 So it's a peer to peer led conference about peacebuilding and helping young people think about how to apply it in their daily lives. Some of them might want to have a career in it or study it more, but others might want to be engineers and what, what can they do to build peace? So I think all of us who are involved in helping young people find their way forward in this world have a big responsibility and a big opportunity to show them that contributing to a more peaceful and just world is something they can do. Whatever path they choose.
Speaker 7: 42:15 [music]
Shorner-Johnson: 42:23 one of the things that I felt like out of your book has a lot of transfer to teaching, um, was when you wrote about maybe the dangers of some of our frameworks of individual psychology. And you were talking kind of about empathy, compassion and altruism. And I sense many times, when we're talking about social emotional learning and teaching that we continue to think of empathy, compassion, and altruism as being individual qualities or individual skills that I can cultivate as a teacher. And then I can say, Oh, that student is now empathetic or that student now has altruistic capabilities. And your challenge to that seems to be that altruism may never actually be an individual capacity. It may be something that's always bounded in relationship. And how does that change the way in which we approach those qualities? Of altruism, empathy and compassion?
Moix: 43:21 Yeah, that's a great question. And I am thinking of my older son now who in his response, he, he's taught me a lot and he challenges me a lot. And his response to his school program in elementary school, you know, they have a whole section of the day that is focused on, um, qualities, teaching these qualities. Empathy is one of them. And he would always come back from it, just like, you know, what are they, how is this going to teach me empathy? You know, they give me a lesson or they tell me some scenario and then I'm supposed to, that's supposed to cultivate empathy in me. And yet, you know, I would watch him and realize that the times he was most empathetic and that I saw him practicing compassion most were when it was a natural part of his life and the relationships he had.
Moix: 44:14 And sometimes that's his friends in school. Sometimes it was his soccer team, but that it was the relationships he had that helped him learn how to be empathetic. It wasn't kind of a lesson about what empathy is or should be. Um, and learning from others. So, I don't know. I don't, uh, you know, I'm not a teacher who tries to teach compassion and altruism and empathy. I think it's really good we do. That that's actually part of curriculum. And that's actually part of what educators say is their, part of their job. But, um, but I wonder what the right way to do that is that cultivates the relationship along with it. And it doesn't just end up being kind of a, a lesson about definitions of words and, um, scenarios of how you can be more empathetic. You know, kids don't want to be told what to do or what to be, they want to give and be given an example of it. And you know, I know that in peace organizations, I mean we often joke about how much conflict and you know, turmoil there might be an organizations that, and we're not dealing with it well. So are the schools demonstrating these qualities in what they're doing as well? I don't know. I, I don't know. I don't know if I have a good answer for that question.
Speaker 4: 45:38 I would start with, there's a lot of ways in which we're trying to encourage our children to be okay with grief, the deep sense of grief that I'm feeling as a parent who cares about the next generation and my, my angst about climate change and maybe mass migration and all these things that my children are going to have to deal with. But maybe because your book speaks about the power of hope, as having an having a multiplier effect. Talk to me about where you are experiencing hope in your work and your parenting, your day to day living.
Moix: 46:10 Oh gosh, that's a good question. Um, I mean I experienced a lot of hope and it's coupled with a lot of grief and a lot of tears at the way the world is unraveling. It feels, um, sometimes, but I have the privilege of having pretty regular interaction with people who are living in a lot more difficult situations than me. People on the front lines of violence and war, people experiencing more directly the real devastating impacts of migration and climate. And those people are incredibly joyful, hopeful people. Uh, and that, I mean I just, it inspires me. It gives me hope in the world and in the possibility of what people and the reality of what people are doing to change things. And it also kind of tells me to like get it together. Bridget, you know, you're, you're doing okay. The world is doing okay.
Moix: 47:13 It's been through a lot. It's in a really tough place right now. But look at all the people out there doing remarkable work. All the efforts underway. Look at the people who came before you and what they lived through. I mean we've got, we've got a really difficult time right now, but world war II, world war one, you know, I mean the experiences of genocide of the native American communities, I mean there, there's a lot of difficult times in the past. And if you look at the long arc of history, I do believe it bends towards justice. And I do believe that as a world we are progressing to get a little less violent over time. We're at a peak right now, um, of violence globally, but historically over the whole course of human, human species, um, we've put to rest some pretty awful things, um, that were happening in the past.
Moix: 48:14 And so, and I have a lot of hope in the next generations. I mean, I, you know, I'm in the, you know, middle age, I'm in the middle, you know, part of my career and I have a lot more hope in people who are younger than me that I see coming up and challenging things and being creative and, you know, being willing to take risks than I have in myself or my generation. And I'm sure this is the experience of every generation, but, um, but I think it's true. I mean, young people are leading today and, and they will, they will find solutions that my generation never would have. So yeah. So that's, I mean, that's the big picture a daily, you know, you have kids, you know that it's a daily rollercoaster and, um, but it's also a source of real, um, hope. And I'm sure that educators, you know, maybe get a little bit of this all the time, but seeing younger people and seeing them grow and their potential start to shine and come out and then becoming their own people is a pretty hopeful experience. So, yeah. So I'm really grateful for my kid, to my kids for giving me that.
Speaker 7: 49:42 Mentioned in this podcast is the work of Sula and Gulalai Ismail, at awaregirls.org they are working for the empowerment of young women and gender equality in Pakistan.
Shorner-Johnson: 49:45 as we close this conversation, I leave you with the recording of the Henhouse Prowlers a bluegrass group that engages musical diplomacy through their organization, Bluegrass Ambassadors. This group has partnered with Peace Direct for the tomorrow peacebuilders' awards in music and performing arts. At Bluegrassambassadors.org They have many videos, but this video of their performance in Uganda may be one of my favorites because it captures the beauty of music and the joy of cultural exchange.
Speaker 3: 50:20 [music in Uganda]
Shorner-Johnson: 52:06 May out lives be filled with the multiplier effect of hope and joy as we open space for new voices to hold agency for peace. Special thanks to Bridget Moix for her time and the writings of her scholarship. Her book, Choosing peace agency and action in the midst of war can be found from Roman and Littlefield press and is sponsored by the Alliance for peacebuilding. I also offer my gratitude to two of the organizations that are spotlighted in this podcast. Peace direct found at peacedirect.org is an advocate for locally-led peacebuilding around the world and the American friends Service Committee found afsc.org Is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice as a practical expression of faith and action.
Speaker 3: 53:02 [inaudible].
Shorner-Johnson: 53:02 This is the music and peacebuilding podcast hosted by Kevin Shorner-Johnson at Elizabeth town college. We host a master of music education with an emphasis in peacebuilding. Thinking deeply, we reclaim space for connection and care. Join us at music peace-building dot com
Speaker 5: 53:36 [inaudible].