Skip to comments.The Trees
Posted on 02/24/2014 6:15:10 AM PST by Kaslin
Authors Note: This is a column I wrote back a few years ago but never published. Instead, it appeared in abbreviated form in my latest book, Letters to a Young Progressive. Given recent political trends, I thought it would be good to publish it in its original extended form.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the books of Ayn Rand. After escaping from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, Rand became a famous American playwright, philosopher, and novelist. She has written many books three of which I would urge everyone to read. The first, Anthem, is a lot like Orwells 1984. The second, The Fountainhead, is a longer novel expounding on her philosophy, which is known as objectivism. The third, Atlas Shrugged, is her most famous work and includes the most complete explanation of her views on economics and morality.
As a Christian, I reject a good bit of what Ayn Rand has to say. She defends capitalism eloquently but fails to understand exactly why it works better than socialism or communism. That reason, of course, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian idea of man as a fallen being. Man, by nature, is desirous of competition. He must try to best his neighbor and, therefore, cannot function in a system based on the idea of taking from each according to his ability and giving to each according to his need.
Nonetheless, atheist Rand comes to many correct conclusions without fully understanding the reasons why she is correct. That is why I am not at all uncomfortable recommending her books. There is much to be learned by studying the works of those with whom you disagree and much to be missed by ignoring them.
For those interested in Rand, I also recommend a song that was inspired by a rock musician who reads her work. His name is Neil Peart a member of the band Rush. Neil is the greatest rock and roll drummer who ever lived. He is also one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived.
When I was a teenager in the 1970s, Peart wrote The Trees, which fast became one of my favorite songs. I didnt know at the time that the song was a stinging indictment of socialism and communism inspired by Neils reading of Ayn Rand novels. Ive reprinted the verses below with some brief comments in between most verses.
There is unrest in the forest,
there is trouble with the trees,
for the maples want more sunlight
and the oaks ignore their pleas.
When I look back on it, I am somewhat embarrassed that it took me so long to figure out the symbolism behind the oak versus maple contrast. This is a classic Marxist over-simplification, which is intentional on Pearts behalf. There were only two classes of people according to Marx - the haves and the have nots or, as he called them, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Here, the oaks are the haves or the bourgeoisie and the maples are the have nots or the proletariat.
The trouble with the maples,
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
they say the oaks are just too lofty
and they grab up all the light.
This verse is interesting because it raises the issue of absolute versus relative poverty. When the maples claim that the oak trees grab up all the light they are exaggerating actually, the author of the song, Neil Peart, is exaggerating for effect. Oaks are big trees, to be sure. In my own yard, there is an oak that is 100 feet tall that will eventually grow to be about 125 feet tall. But maples are big trees, too. I have a sugar maple that is about 60 feet tall that will eventually grow to be about 80 feet tall.
Peart, quite ingeniously, shows that the have nots would be more accurately characterized as simply having less than others. Their problem is not that they do not have enough to get by. The problem is that, in their view, the oaks are just too lofty. In other words, others have too much. That is the key phrase in this paragraph because it reveals that covetousness, rather than true need, is what motivates the maples. In reality, that is always the motive of the collectivist.
But the oaks can't help their feelings
if they like the way they're made.
And they wonder why the maples
cant be happy in their shade.
It is funny to me that the lyrics to this song were written just a few years before Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. After he took office, there was no small amount of controversy about his ideas concerning trickle down economics. Here, the oaks seem to reference the idea that their loftiness benefits others, too this time, in the form of shade. This is a classic trickle down economic argument.
There is trouble in the forest,
And the creatures all have fled,
as the maples scream "Oppression!"
And the oaks just shake their heads.
So the maples formed a union
and demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy;
we will make them give us light."
This is classic Ayn Rand. She focuses on unjustly taking from someone that which he has earned noting that this always involves a violent struggle. The maples begin by screaming, and then they start demanding. Finally, they settle upon force, not reason, in order to obtain what they want. The results are always predictable.
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.
This last verse is chilling because it reveals two truths about progressivism:
1) Progressivism is not progressive. Oppression is ended and equality is achieved not by advancing anyone but by retarding the achievements of some.
2) Social justice is punitive, not restorative. No one is restored under a progressive system, but people are often punished in order to guarantee equal outcome. That is another reason why Rand prefers to use the term collectivism rather than progressivism.
Ayn Rand was not a Christian. Nor was she one who professed belief in the Ten Commandments. Nonetheless, she understood that what is often packaged as compassion is really covetousness in disguise. We would do well to familiarize ourselves with her work in an age of collective historical amnesia. Screams of oppression and cries for revolution are never more than a generation away.
When I get home I and going to look for this song. It sounds familiar, but....
One can do, as I just have done, an interesting exercise whilst rereading Atlas Shrugged. If you look for phrases uttered by the libfools in the novel, you can find ones that are almost exact clones (OK, reverse clones...or something) of idiocies uttered by the Obamadork, his cretin minions, or the Lamestream Press.
I’d like to see someone do a good web site on quotes from the novel on the left - and like quotes from your local progressive cretin on the right.
It’s not hard, but tres fun.
And a bit frightening, actually.
bump for later.
Ayn Rand, either unusually prescient, or an excellent student of the history of humanity over the eons, laid her finger on the pulse of humanity. In a totally unintentional manner, she swerved into a number of “self-evident” truths that were designated as endowed by the Creator by the Founding Fathers, themselves imperfect men.
The Randians claim to be “atheist”, but at some deeper, more profound level, their Objectivism is really an affirmation of a greater Intelligent Design. Call it what you will, the order that the Universe obeys, and as of yet, has scarcely been revealed, speaks of a vast and ubiquitous Presence, far beyond man’s poor ability to perceive and understand.
But we can embrace it. Whether we must, or should, is a matter of individual conscience, but this great Presence is defied only at great personal peril.
Peril which may or may not befall the individual within this lifetime.
BUMP. Posting that poem on the BB at work!
I’m currently reading Coolidge by Amity Shales, about a time when America was turning away from the progressivism of Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt.
President Harding in 1920 called it a return to Normalcy.
Will Rogers once asked Harding to tell him the latest political jokes. Harding said, “I know ‘em. I appointed most of them.”
Harding had a Reaganesque sense of humor. Good president too.
Peart isn’t only a phenomenal musician, he’s a thoughtful person who’s political thinking is basically on the right track. A rare breed in his line of work.
I just finished an interesting book by a brain scientist who suffered a catastrophic brain hemorrhage, while in her 30s.
My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD.
She details her memory of the event, and her recovery. Her message to anyone who suffers brain injury is to pay attention to their brain and the feelings that every event in daily life cause, for better or for worse, as these stimuli relate to recovery of the damaged neurons and their connections.
She praises the amazing powers of every cell in her body, but attributes the co-operation of her fifty trillion cells to evolution, rather than any input by a Higher Power.
Feeling at one with the universe is her comfort. So like Ayn Rand, while lacking faith in a personal God, this author details her experiences in words that seem to be similar to anyone who feels a close spiritual relationship.
I am surprised that she could be so attentive to her brain and her body, and yet not be able to go the next step and 'believe' that we did not come from single-celled animals by accident.
It's a lesser-known fact that here in Canada, "The Trees" is often assumed to be about Quebec separatism.
It is progressives natural state.
“It’s a lesser-known fact that here in Canada, “The Trees” is often assumed to be about Quebec separatism.”
If that’s what he was going for, he should have made the maples be the “lofty” ones.