How Can Statists Listen To “The Trees”?

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Posted: Nov 28, 2019 9:00 AM

“The Trees” is a song performed by the band, Rush. It came out in 1978 on their “Hemispheres” album. It was one of my all-time favorites from the first time I heard it. I am not alone. According to its Wikipedia entry, “The song is also featured on many of Rush's compilation albums, and was long a staple of the band's live performances. On the live album Exit...Stage Left, the song features an extended acoustic guitar introduction titled ‘Broon's Bane.’ Rolling Stone readers voted the song number 8 on the list of the 10 best Rush songs. Live365 ranked it the tenth best Rush song. Classic Rock readers voted ‘The Trees’ the band's 11th best song.”

For those who somehow have not heard of the song: It tells a story (here are the lyrics) about a conflict in the forest between the Oaks and the Maples. Oaks are “too lofty” according to the Maples, who accused them of being “greedy” for sunlight. They demand “equal rights” and form a union. In the end they get a “noble law” passed that keeps the trees equal by “hatchet, axe, and saw.”

Neil Peart, the drummer and song writer for the band, basically denied any real “deeper social message” in the lyrics in a 1980 interview. That is preposterous of course, but the campaign for the Reagan Revolution was heating up and I suspect no Canadian band wanted to be identified with the ironically named “wrong side of history.”  Rush experienced criticism eight years earlier when they credited the inspiration of an album to Ayn Rand, so Peart seems to have learned how to appease.

But it doesn’t really matter. I have heard thousands sing along at a Rush concert, as has happened all over the world. They sing about the folly of the war on economic inequality and show no noticeable awareness. Their politics are as foolish as ever.

Interesting, in the book of Judges, when the people wanted a king, one man warned them what would happen by telling them a story about trees:

"The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ [12] And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’" (Judges 9:8–15 ESV).

So, when looking for a political savior, people end up with “brambles” that force the loftier, productive plants down beneath them. Productive people are too busy making things of value to rule over others. It’s almost as if “The Trees” was an update of the Bible story to apply it to modern democracy and egalitarianism.

On paper people want a powerful government to guarantee justice. Even in cases of real injustice and not egalitarian dogma the results are mixed at best—as we have seen in the last few years of fake news and about fake crimes, political investigations, and show trials. "Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice" (Proverbs 29:26 ESV).