My wife looked out the back window by the patio. “Did you know that a tree is going to fall on our house?” she asked. “Yeah, right”, I responded casually.
Then I looked out the window.
The next thing I did was to look up the numbers for the city. Dealing with trees is no fun because municipalities have become quite ardent in their protection of trees. The fact is, that trees like anything else, can become a nuisance, or even dangerous.
The one hanging over our house was dangerous. It was tall, heavy, and over the course of the winter it had tilted about another ten degrees, buffeted by ice and inclement weather. It looked dead. Its tilted trunk had dramatically started to push over the wooden fence that separates our yard from the neighbour.
Trees can be tricky to cut. We had a large fir tree in front of our first house, that was so tall and wide, you could not see the house from the road. Worse, the grass was all but dead from the acidic droppings of needles. You could not walk in the yard without prickling your feet. So I climbed to the top and sawed off ten foot sections until I reached ground level. It was a heck of a lot of wood that had to be cut up and carted off that summer. You don’t think volume when you look up. It’s the yard equivalent of taking everything out of your cupboards and dumping them in the middle of a room. Despite the thickest of gloves, I was dealing with pine gum and prickles irritating my hands the entire summer.
The stump was another matter. I chopped at it with an axe until I thought I had most of it detached from the vast root system. Then I hooked up a chain to the back of the Ford, and went at it. The neighbours thought I was nuts. After taking down four rotting apple trees in the back yard later that same summer, and then another fir tree, they started calling me the great deforester.
Now things are a little more tricky. Town bylaws are quite strict.
Officers had to come and inspect, then make a report from a licensed arborist. They sent me a copy of the bylaws and informed me that I could not trim the tree. The owner would have to trim the tree, and only the parts that had already died, at that. “But the tree is dead” I protested. “I can’t see even one leaf on it. “The arborist will decide that”, they answered.
After a month of on and off worry during every storm, they got back to me. The tree was indeed dead. In fact they were issuing a writ to mandate that the tree be taken down within two weeks or the owner whose land it originated on would be fined at force of law. Basically, what I told them, except now they were telling me. Tax dollars at work.
Although I am sure government has its place, I am not a fan of big, or intrusive government. I pay my taxes. I do not want to see that as the modern equivalent to paying a tribute to the lord of the manor like in feudal times.
The best governance, is to govern yourself. You cannot decree that the human heart be just. It would be akin to King Knut commanding the tides. Still, we tend to have peace, order and good government in Canada. It is something that is being eaten away at slowly, due to ineptitudes in the current administration. You can see crime is on the increase, and the easy attitudes toward drugs and addiction, has not helped those statistics.
It is the particular genius of western civilization, owing to Christianity to champion a way of living by which the individual is free to find his own way to virtue. That generally meant self-constraint, social responsibility, and even better, community involvement to do good works. English speaking societies like Australia, New Zealand and Canada follow what is known as a Westminister form of parliamentary system. The citizens are under the sovereign and the sovereign is under God. Queen Elizabeth herself, has been vocal about the Christian faith which has sustained her.
The innate genius of Christianity is that it is an inside-out morality. No duress required. It is what happens naturally when God plants himself in your heart, and that virtue works its way out to the world. This kind of soft power reforms all that it touches into something better, inside out, from the bottom working its way out toward the top.
I don’t see the equivalent of this in third-world nations. Their rule of law tends to be corrupt, just like the saying. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. Once it is assumed that corruption is the norm, no law is really enforceable except by the very worst top-down methods. It might explain why the tide of immigration tends to come this way and not visa versa. There is something to be said for what we have and where it came from.
We have peace, order and good government generally. Still, there is a reason calling someone a politician is not considered to be a compliment. You cannot decree virtue, or even common sense. You may end up paying taxes so that the politicians you told the tree is dead, make a report and tell you the tree is dead. It only encourages them. It is not long after that that they start telling you what to do, and sending you the bill. So pray for your politicians meanwhile. Lord knows they need it. It’s even in the Bible, 1 Timothy chapter two. Consider it an act of Christian indulgence.