Fri | Mar 23, 2018

Garth Rattray | A parable about crime

Published:Monday | June 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

As if out of nowhere, a hardy malevolent tree grew right in the middle of the little village that was once called Paradise. It used to be an exotic place where many guests would play and frolic without fear. But this tree grew, spread its branches and cast a dark shadow all around.

Some tried to recall how it became so entrenched. Stories were told of the seed being planted by men greedy for power and control; they didn't care about the potential dangers of the tree growing unabated and threatening the entire village. They fertilized the soil with tribalism and with promises of a lifetime of freeness. They watered it with the blood and tears of the innocent and dependent underprivileged.

The roots of this tree went very deep and spread themselves afar. They took hold of every place imaginable, so much so that they became a part of just about everything. Very little could be done without coming across the roots of this large tree. Some citizens decided that it was only through this root system that they could make a living, so they defended the roots with their lives and would often take the lives of all those who threatened the root network.

The roots sucked the life out of everything that they encountered. There was no hiding from them. Even in places where they seemed to be absent, they existed surreptitiously and attached themselves to the most innocuous of places. Only the surface roots could be seen and counted, but more, far more roots, burrowed and made their way to unfathomable depths.

The trunk of the tree was in plain sight, but it had become so large and imposing that no individual or single group could cut it down. The tree could only be felled by a unified effort, but this was not forthcoming because many secretly benefited from the darkness that the tree created and sank their bloodstained lupine fangs deep into the sap for sustenance. Various tribal factions diverted attention away from themselves by blaming others for the existence of the tree.




The branches were so strong and healthy that they supported the weight of the overseers and the policymakers within this little town. The fruits were bitter and dangerous, but some used them to nourish themselves. Many made a great show of their disaffection for this tree even though they secretly rejoiced its existence. In fact, it was only because of this tree that some became empowered. Ironically, the naÔve villagers often looked to the beneficiaries of the tree for solutions in dealing with the fruits that it bore.

The people of the town were all held captive by the tree and its nefarious fruits. They imprisoned themselves in caged housing units and complexes. They devoted much of their lives to fretting about a time when one or several of the horrible fruits would fall upon them and/or their family and friends.

The society brought forth the reapers and instructed them to pick all the fruits off the tree. But many fruits were so high up in the uppermost branches that they were untouchable; and others were so camouflaged and/or protected that they remained unseen and undetected.

Some fruits fell to the ground before they were picked by the reapers and escaped, only to eventually become absorbed by the root system and re-enter an unending cycle that kept the tree fresh and strong. The reapers managed to harvest some fruits but this was a very difficult task ... they were not easily identifiable because they resembled innocent leaves.

The reapers were sometimes forced to destroy the particularly dangerous fruits and put many others on ice for long periods of time. But, once off the ice, many became rotten and, therefore, extremely toxic to the entire village.

The citizens refused to take personal responsibility for the tree and failed to play their part to uproot it. The reapers were expected to do almost everything. No overseer made any genuine effort to co-opt all stakeholders in the society to attack this monstrous tree from the root to the highest leaf and the largest fruit. Now, the tree flourishes and continues to grow stronger as Paradise goes slowly to hell.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and