Generations before us have laid down their lives to protect it and now we're giving it away in return for "likes". Freedom is an essential ingredient of justice and democracy, but those of us lucky enough to live in a free country risk squandering it in return for free access to social media. In their gently funky blues song Freedom, Montreal rock band Rival remind us to be alert to the danger: "How could we ever have a right to complain / when we're the ones that said it's okay / to take our freedom away?"
Freedom works on a couple of levels. In the verses, explains frontman Jeremy Helten, we hear the "cynical view of the complacency I see in many people today, including myself". We look around and see injustice and yet, he continues "whether due to a feeling of futility, ignorance or just plain laziness so many of us don't act".
On the other hand, the chorus contains the call to arms: "Let's beat 'em, don't feed them our rights!" and, says Jeremy, "the song finishes with one last triumphant chorus and leaves the listener with a motivated feeling. At least that's the plan".
The rights "they" want to consume could include the right to free speech, freedom to choose who you marry, or practice your religion, says Jeremy.
But surely not in Canada? Everyone says it's so "nice" there. As an outsider, Canada seems like a pretty good place to live. The Liberal Party is pretty ideologically sound - progressive in giving equality to minority groups, protective of public services and the environment - and they've managed to tax the rich without frightening off the Right wing. It's easy to see why they've flourished.
"Montreal is a great city, full of creativity and heart," says Jeremy. "Likewise, Canada is a wonderful place to live and grow up, but it is not perfect. One of the issues that has always bothered me is our government's treatment of indigenous people. Since the founding of our country indigenous people have been marginalized, brutalized and nearly exterminated. There are some laws in place now that attempt to give some support to these communities, but it's far too little too late."
"The mistreatment of these people goes hand-in-hand with the environmental issues I also see," he continues. "Alberta is still a huge source of oil and exports that resource around the world, and they mean to increase the exports even though it's painfully obvious to me the use of oil and gas to run our vehicles is outdated and primitive. They plan to put a pipeline from Alberta all the way through BC to the pacific coast. The planned route goes through several native reserves (the land our government "gave" to them in the first place after forcing them from their homes). They never have any plan for spills and they happen all the time."
"Another social issue that I see is in my home town of Vancouver," he explains. "There's always been one section of the city (Hastings Street) where the homeless, mentally challenged and substance-abusers congregate. We are talking by the thousands here. The biggest cause of this was the shutting down of many of the facilities to help mentally challenged people in the late 80's. The problem was made worse during and after the 2010 Winter Olympics due to big corporations building astronomically expensive housing near this area and forcing the homeless into other parts of the city to 'keep up appearances'. This attempt didn't last long and now there are more homeless then ever and housing costs keep rising. You have to be a millionaire to live in Vancouver now; that's one of the reasons I moved to Montreal. I couldn't afford to live in my home town."
Furthermore, in a month when Mark Zuckerberg has appeared in front of the US Congress trying to smooth over the furore over Facebook's contribution to the small matter of manipulating the voting habits of a global superpower, the idea that we're "slumbering fools" seems frighteningly prescient. Jeremy himself has come to see that issue as the number one threat to freedom not only in Canada but around the world.
"Personally, when I listen to the song now I think of the right to privacy. Corporations such as Facebook and internet providers are constantly trying to invade our privacy more and more, so that they can better manipulate and control our consumer habits and now we know even our voting habits."
What's one thing we could and should do?
"The main thing I want people to take away from this song, is to not be complacent," concludes Jeremy. "Speak out when you see an injustice, whether it's just someone being bullied or a corporation/government trying to manipulate you. I see a very positive change in society right now. I see more action being taken, more marches, more passionate people speaking out. We need more of that. Globally, we need to demand accountability for our leaders. We need to do what we can to aid people in countries that are still oppressed. Of course I know this is a huge task and the world won't change overnight. I am a realist, so I guess it's important to realise it all starts at home. Sustainable local economy makes it much easier to help people in other areas. Educate yourself on what's happening in your own community and act where you see action is needed."
You can learn more about Rival here
About the curator: Jon Ewing
After graduating from the University of Keele in England with a degree in Politics and American Studies, Jon worked as editor of a music and entertainment magazine before spending several years as a freelance writer and, with the advent of the internet, a website designer, developer and consultant. He lives in Reading, home to one of the world's most famous and long-running music festivals, which he has attended every year since 1992.
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