Before I start, let me just declare that I’m not a tree-hugging hippie. I am just acutely aware when the things destroyed are more valuable than the ugly monuments they replace them with. And such is the case every time some self-important, authoritarian politician wants to carve his little name into history (and the landscape). And for some reason, authoritarians seem to have a particular beef with trees.
Every time they have to choose between a forest and an empty car park to tear up – they choose the forest for their monuments. But now I know why.
In my village (and doubtless in many others) trees have been planted when a baby was born. Typically walnut trees. It was a way of remembering people that was far nicer and more civilized than elaborately awful headstones in a cemetery. Trees grew tall and imposing, and outlived everyone. Everyone, but not everything.
The day you see the walnut tree of your grandfather cut off for firewood – you understand the concept of sustainability in a very painful way. A few days’ worth of firewood to keep your ass from freezing stands against decades of family history, Sunday afternoons spent in the shadow of that tree, and all your memories of climbing it and peeking at passers-by from above. The time-disparity between growing a single tree – and burning it for surviving a week of winter is crushing your young mind.
I grew up in a cherry tree area – every spring was a symphony of blossoming trees lining the streets – every family had cherry trees in their yards, on the street front – some even had a few hundred of them in their garden. Many summers were spent picking cherries…
A few weeks ago I looked up my birth village on Google Maps – and found that all the trees are missing. The street fronts are empty, gardens are bare – not a single shrub survived. Even outside the village, agricultural land used to be lined by trees to fend off wind erosion of the sandy soil in the area. Those trees were missing, too.
The reason is simple: fuel poverty. And all sorts of poverty for that matter, but trees in particular fell prey to the winters and people’s desperate need to survive just one more week.
But politicians live off an unlimited supply of public money, so cutting trees isn’t such a burning necessity for them. They do it for something else. When having to choose between an empty plot or a forest – they will invariably build on the site of the forest. But why?
As it happens, I have recently solved that puzzle.
Remember that for an authoritarian mind cutting off the competitor is as good for winning as actually becoming better at what he does? In fact, becoming better doesn’t seem to be an option in their eyes.
Now, look at a tree.
- A tree stands tall – a politician doesn’t.
- A tree doesn’t hurt anyone – a politician does.
The comparison is unflattering already – but it might not warrant the kind of war authoritarians and dictators wage against trees and nature. But there is one more thing.
What do politicians compensate for when they build their ugly monuments?
That’s right… Tiny hands.
- Trees look like big hands.
Trees are also tall and erect. Chopping off those phallic beasts of competition must be immediately satisfying for a politician – even if subconsciously.
So from now on any politician announcing that they simply couldn’t find an empty plot to erect their overpriced tombstone of a monument – I will have it confirmed that they have very little hands indeed.
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