What has a beech tree to do with Brexit and Trump? I’ll tell you: There is a huge and very ancient beech tree in Frome. It is not well and over the last few years has become increasingly dangerous to the point where it really does need to be felled. As a Town Council, when we heard this we planned to let people know, explain carefully why and let people do whatever they need to do to respect a living member of our community that has seen much of Frome’s history.
The District Council, which has the responsibility, took a different line and made it known on Friday evening that he tree would be felled on Monday. No conversation with the neighbours, no significant warning, no explanation and – key to this piece – no taking of the opportunity to engage with people.
It seems completely obvious that when people are consistently crapped on by those in power this builds the distance between the people and those making decisions – the politicians. Cynicism, disengagement and eventually active animosity grow.
In a State where protest is increasingly difficult – both dangerous and largely ineffective – opportunities to wave two fingers at the headmaster are quite rare. The referendum in the UK and the rise of Trump in the USA represent just that. The powers that be are telling us what to do (as usual). But this time we have power to do the opposite – vote to leave the EU or crown Trump. Logic and facts go out of the window in the glorious opportunity.
My view is that this starts with relatively small acts of oppression and exclusion. If the District Council had thought for a few moments about the wider impact of their beech tree decision, they could have paused and taken the opportunity to engage and empower. Their decision is the right one – it’s the ‘how’ not the ‘what’. Each time the people are squashed down they remember and sooner or later will play their Trump card.