1978 | Rock
Spotify | Amazon
“So the maples formed a union, and demanded equal rights. -- 'The oaks are just too greedy, we will make them give us light.”
- Rand Paul quoted the story in a 2010 senate race.
- In an issue of Modern Drummer Peart was asked if there was a message in the lyrics. "No. It was just a flash. I was working on an entirely different thing when I saw a cartoon picture of these trees carrying on like fools. I thought, 'What if trees acted like people?'
- On the live album Exit...Stage Left, the song features an extended acoustic guitar introduction titled "Broon's Bane."
THE HOT TAKES
One of my favorite Rush jams. That 5/4 in the instrumental segment is just too sweet, man. Sweet...like maple syrup! Okay, okay. Cringey dad-quality-jokes aside, there's a lot going on here. The oaks in this story are the dominant capitalists, taking more of the sunlight which leaves less for the maples. The maples are upset by this. Of course, this entire analysis depends on a "fixed pie" view of the world. People are not trees. They are not fixed to the ground. In human life, there is endless possibility to innovate. Find a different location to grow. Develop a way to get more from sunlight. Find an alternative source of energy. Develop energy trade routes with the squirrels! The metaphor falls apart rather quickly when you add a solid foundation in economics, but it's a memorable dichotomy nonetheless. The the last verse provides a reminder that all laws are inherently violent, even with the best of intentions. "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."
So I gotta say, I am one of the few women I have ever met who likes Rush. They are mostly a very cerebral guys jam band, but then again, I’m a woman who involves myself in politics and philosophy, so, it’s probably no real shock. I bring that up because the bottom line of this song is summed up in one word: equality. For so many people equality doesn’t really mean equality of natural rights, but equality of outcome, or fairness. Only, that’s a losing battle, that only ends up biting you in the ass. Life just doesn’t work that way. People could say, “Hey it’s not fair! All the Rush tickets are bought by men! There is some inequality going on her that we must have a government program to fix!” So they pass a law to set aside half the tickets to the Rush concert for the ladies, and I’m the only chic who shows, and Rush stops touring because ticket sales are too low. This is a silly analogy, but it is exactly what people do with things like the gender wage gap, for instance. They tend to look at people as one dimensional numbers on a chart and nobody is one dimensional. (except Donald Trump. ;-) All people are created equal in their rights, but not in their capabilities or stations in life. When the equality of outcome folks get their way, the last bit of the song becomes reality. “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.”
Perhaps the most earnest cartoon ever put out in song form. I miss the days when Mr. Peart openly postured on the underlying societal questions with some academic clarity.This song is interesting given where it came from. A political cartoon is hardly where I imagine most bands get their inspiration but sure enough this great lesson in the functional economics of equality is great. It feels almost prescient with where our culture is headed. This song is an illustration of why i went the way i did politically. As long as you have people in power there are going to be distortions that cause the type of unrest that leads to the entirety of humanity being chopped down. For some it doesn't matter how better off we all are, we need to chop down the tall poppies... As everyone on earth becomes wealthier we complain that some become wealthier faster ignoring all context as to how they achieved this. The problem is that in may ways they're not wrong that there is an issue there. Cronyism has certainly played its roll in inequality economically. So from my perspective is remove government power and intervention and this particular problem is solved by simply changing spending happens.