In Search of Global Freedom

What does it mean to be free? All societies place restrictions on what citizens can do, but some restrictions (speed limits) may be more important than others (limiting the right to vote.) But one-size freedom doesn't really fit all: "democracy" has many faces, and ideas of freedom are shaped by culture. A discussion from the Stratford Festival with the Munk School of Global Affairs: Randall Hansen, Joseph Wong and Lama Mourad discuss the global meaning of freedom.
Immigrants wait to climb over the U.S./Mexico border fence on December 2, 2018 from Tijuana, Mexico. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Listen to the full episode53:59

What does it mean to be free? All societies place restrictions on what citizens can do, but some restrictions (speed limits) may be more important than others (limiting the right to vote). But one-size "freedom" doesn't really fit all: democracy has many faces, and ideas of freedom are shaped over place and time.

Borders are fundamentally violent places, and they have been since time immemorial in many ways, because so much of borders and the way we protect them is about making sure that others can't enjoy the same freedoms that we have.- Lama Mourad

Many people in the West may find it difficult to look at more theocratic Middle Eastern countries where a priestly class has huge influence in politics, and consider them to be democratic, and their people to be "free". For their part, these countries might look on our secular societies as profoundly morally corrupt and unfree. Similarly, we may look at a country with a single political party, such as China, and wonder how free anyone might feel in such a situation- even though many Chinese obviously do.

Joseph Wong is the Ralph and Roz Halbert Professor of Innovation at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, 0:49

Freedom, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder, and political systems don't export very well. That being said, it doesn't stop us from looking over the fence at our neighbours and wondering what freedom means to them, and what it means to compare what we have to what someone else has.

From the 2018 Stratford Festival, a discussion about the global meaning of freedom with Randall Hansen, Joseph Wong and Lama Mourad.
 

Guests in this episode:

  • Randall Hansen is Interim Director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, and Canada Research Chair in Global Migration. He works on immigration and citizenship, demography and population policy and the effects of war on civilians. 
  • Joseph Wong is the Ralph and Roz Halbert Professor of Innovation at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, Professor of Political Science, and Canada Research Chair in Health, Democracy and Development. He was the Director of the Asian Institute at the Munk School from 2005 to 2014.
  • Lama Mourad is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, and a research fellow with the Middle East Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She specializes in comparative politics and the politics of migration, with a regional focus on the Middle East. 
     

Further reading:

  • The Age of Walls: How barriers between nations are changing our world by Tim Marshall, published by Simon & Schuster, 2018.
  • How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, published by Penguin Random House, 2018.



**This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.