The Difference Between Freedom and Privilege

On Monday 7th February, Minegoziibe Anishinabe (Pine Creek First Nation) Chief Derek Nipanak spoke to CTV National News about the protests calling for an end to COVID-19 measures in Canada. Although he was talking about a specific situation at a specific time in Canada, he gave a wonderfully succinct explanation on the difference between freedom and privilege which we would all do well to reflect on.

Freedom is a much misunderstood concept. The prevailing understanding in Canada is an illusion of freedom. If your freedom is built on the denial of freedom to others, then you didn’t actually have freedom at all, you had privilege, and somewhere that privilege turned into entitlement.

Unabashed entitlement is the “getting back to normal” that a great number of people are aspiring for. Unabashed entitlement does not care about the health of their neighbour or their community to the same extent that it cares about maintaining or restoring entitlement and privilege.

Privilege in this context is an economic consideration, most notably expressed as an ability to act on privilege, for example, book a sunny vacation, get a nice haircut, buy sports tickets, etc., the normal things of life for the wage economy.

Canada’s privilege, or economy, has been built on the oppression of indigenous people. That has not changed and those truths continue to build around this knowledge. How can I put energy into supporting a “freedom convoy” when we’re still trying to find our lost children? This is how I see it but it’s OK to disagree with me, though.

These thoughts regarding privilege and entitlement, regarding exploitation by and material advantage for the few destroying the wellbeing of the many, should guide our actions as we work together to create another world, one based on co-operation and community. It makes absolutely no sense to allow the “new normal” to be a return to the desperately inequitable world which we have been conditioned to accept as normal.