This song, The Trees, by 1970s-era progressive rock band Rush describes a dispute between maples and oaks in an imaginary forest. The maples resent the oaks for being taller, because, in the maples’ opinion, the oaks are hogging all the light. The oaks don’t understand that point of view, because they’re only doing what comes naturally. The song ends thusly:
… So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
‘The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light’
Now there’s no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw.
Whether or not this song is a paean to what Obama would call income inequality or, in other words, the right of the individual to enjoy the fruits of his own effort, is a matter of dispute. The lyricist, a self-described left-wing libertarian, viewed his song as little more than a metaphor for human behavior. This and other Rush songs were interpreted as being “anti-left-wing”, so some analysts went so far as to accuse the group of being fascists.
Read the full lyrics, and decide for yourself. As art, of course, the song sings to everyone differently. What’s interesting, however, is that a song many enjoyed decades ago seems so relevant today.
Do we or do we not want to live in the kind of world where “equality” is enforced by “hatchet, axe and saw?”
Or, more aptly, by