Five Freedoms: Freedom from Oppression

CBC Radio · Posted: Apr 10, 2019 4:08 PM ET | Last Updated: April 10

Activists and refugees from North Korea at a protest against the regime. But what really changes things? Strongmen throughout history have never gone easily. 

In his 1941 State of the Union address, American president Franklin Roosevelt proposed four freedoms that he believed all people were entitled to: freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from fear and freedom from want.

All this week, we explore ideas about the meaning of freedom in a series of discussions recorded at the Stratford Festival. However, we've got a total of five freedoms in our list, and a stellar lineup of thoughtful people to dig into a central question for our times: what is freedom?

Freedom from oppression

Oppression takes many forms: it can be physical, the one-on-one power play of an abusive relationship. It can also be political and cultural, the oppression of one group by another in a society.

All of these things have their long-lasting effects: the psychological trauma of individuals and of groups.  

Then there's the legacy of inherited oppression: you yourself may not have been oppressed, but those in your group before you — parents, ancestors — suffered, and now here you are, carrying the weight of that inheritance.

Oppression shapes us, who we are, both individually and as a group — and often not in any way we might wish. That impact's one of the nasty lessons life offers.

Eloge Butila is a government lawyer and a Rwandan refugee. 

And maybe the nastiest part of the lesson is that there often isn't an awful lot anyone can do about it: the sins are in the past, the present grievance — even though you may not even know you have one — has no immediate agent, as the villains are long gone, but their legacy remains in the way you live and act, right down in your skin and bones.

And who can tell the real price for a legacy of oppression, the price for lost happiness and opportunity, or how many years or generations it may take for that legacy to be shaken off, if ever?

This episode features a discussion with Bhutila Karpoche an Ontario politician of Tibetan heritage, Eloge Butera  a government lawyer and a refugee from Rwanda, and Christina Gray a Dene-Metis lawyer.  

**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.