John Lennon’s Imagine

While watching American Idol last night, I was struck by the last song, and especially by the judge’s reactions.  David Archuleta, who I believe is Mormon, sang John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  Paula Abdul mentioned how touching not only the song was, but touted his performance as one of the most touching she’d ever heard.  Randy Jackson asked why he didn’t sing the first verse, to which the teenage crooner replied that he really liked the third verse because it had a great message.

What is that message?  Let’s review the lyrics:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world 

And then of course the chorus:

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Now I’m chalking up David Archuleta’s feelings to teenage ignorance.  Yes, the third verse means what it says it means: John Lennon is singing for the abolition of private property (no possessions).  This is one of the bedrock principles of socialism, and the anti-thesis of a capitalist free market, the source of our wealth.

The song indicates that with the abolition of private property, replaced by some sort of communal ownership (or perhaps the abolition of ownership), that there will be “no need for greed or hunger,” and “a brotherhood of man” will result.  (Of course, with no private property, there’d be no market economy, hence no market for superstardom in America, and therefore no American Idol; but that is another story.)  Let’s examine these claims historically.

Central economic planning under Soviet Russia and the associated poor resource management led to a pattern of famines and droughts.  Similar problems resulted in China under the Great Leap Forward.  These famines resulted in what is estimated as the losses of tens of millions of lives.  Communist North Korea has had similar problems.  No need for hunger, eh?  I suppose the dead no longer hunger.

What about “a brotherhood of man?”  Let us examine the 20th Century Communist examples.  Under Stalin, when one considers the deaths from the prison camps and forced relocations, the USSR lost between 4 and 40 million individuals (I am not including the tens of millions dead from World War II).  Under Mao, 20 million deaths (that’s the official statistic) were attributed to famines from the Great Leap Forward; other estimates range as high as 72 million.  The Cultural Revolution, started in 1966, was responsible for hundreds of thousands if not millions of deaths.  The Khmer Rouge regime was responsible for 1.5 million deaths in Cambodia, or roughly 20% of the population.  Scanning history, it is hard to find genocide on this large of a scale.  Perhaps this brotherhood is one of the dead.

Apparently, neither David Archuleta nor Paula Abdul were considering any of this.  (Honestly, I’m not sure what John Lennon was thinking, either.)  Aside from the apparently gross misconception of the song’s meaning, the display last night showed something else: emotion.  Perhaps even a touch of spirituality.  It is very odd that a song about the glorious blessings of communism would evoke such strong feelings.  Such high praise and powerful emotion associated with a song about the destruction of Western Society, the elimination of religion, and a whole-hearted hedonistic embrace (“Living for today” as the unsung first verse says) without mention of family or consequences is indeed a sad commentary on us as a people.  It is almost as if this ignorant hedonism coupled with a self-destructively dangerous ideology is displacing that which should be of greatest value: our family, our freedoms, and our religion.  The mere presence of this song I find troubling.  But its whole-hearted embrace by the masses (that’s the “proles” to you Trotskyites) is far more troubling.

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9 Comments

Filed under Libertarian, Personal, politics, Social Commentary

9 responses to “John Lennon’s Imagine

  1. My sentiments exactly! That song makes everybody “feel good”. I’m an idiot and even I can see through the lyrics. Last night reminded me of another John Lennon song I hate. I don’t know the name, but its the one that starts “so this is Christmas and what have you done”. For someone who hates capitalism so much he sure had a lot of money laying around. Thank God for Paul McCartney. Without him we wouldn’t have any good Beatles songs!

  2. michael

    Randy just asked that question to poke fun at David’s choice of song given his faith in God. Even as an atheist, I thought it was uncool.

  3. Rebecca

    I think the song choice was very clever, in the way that he did it. I, too, am LDS and so generally find the song reprehensible and John Lennon worshippers often well-intentioned, but somewhat annoying. But he stuck it to John Lennon while making it appear that he was honoring him. He left out the verses about no god, no religion, etc., and sang a verse that, when standing alone and not in the context of the first two verses, seems to support the Mormon idea of a United Order–where everyone lives communally, but rather than in an ugly, godless Communist society, in one where this order actually works because its a Utopian ideal where all involved are devoted to Christ and hence to each other. I have several great-grandparents who grew up in towns in Utah and the southwest where they successfully practiced this ideal for years.

  4. mormonpaleo

    @Rebecca:
    I think that after a careful reading of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants concerning the United Order one can safely come to the conclusion that the United Order is opposed to the message John Lennon was sending in the third verse. The necessity of private property is central to the United Order and the revelations received by Joseph Smith confirm this truth. The United Order doesn’t work without it. All goods and services weren’t owned by the Church but were deeded to its members according to their wants and needs. Also commonly misunderstood is the idea that the United Order and law of consecration were to ensure “dead level” equality. This is not the case but under this order every man is to be “equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs” (D&C 51:3).

    Church leaders in the past have discussed this very issue. A classic talk by J. Reuben Clark (J. Reuben Clark, “Private Ownership Under the United Order,” 113th Semi-Annual Conference, October 4, 1942) helps for correct understanding of the law of consecration and the United Order. Also a good general reference is the entry on the United Order at Wikipedia.

  5. plato04

    Rebecca,

    Indeed the United Order is a communal-type lifestyle, and I can see how this song reflects some of the blessings associated with the United Order. As I understand it, there were specific stewardships. Yes, there was commonly owned water rights and timber rights. But there were plots of land that were, for all intents and purposes, privately owned and cultivated. Even in their poverty, individuals had some possessions, like a house, farm animals, some rudimentary furniture, clothing, etc. The economy as it was then was different than it appears today, but not nearly as different than John Lennon’s economic vision.

    This song is about an entire world (Imagine all the people / Sharing all the world) without possessions; I view this as something else entirely.

  6. E-Dogg

    A world without religion would have saved us how many lives that have needlessly been spent at this point? Millions. Maybe HUNDREDS of millions. The foundations of most religions are good… living a life that doesn’t negatively impact others, refraining from violence etc. The problem occurs (in EVERY religion) when egocentricity inevitably makes an appearance. Then we have idiocy like the LDS “missions.” Which basically are sales trips trying to drum up another 10% tithing from some other witless “lost” soul. This is religious imperialism. Keep YOUR religion to yourself. It’s a personal thing, not a club that you have to get EVERYONE to join so that you can boast of more followers than a competing belief set.

    Although I’m a fan of the young Archuleta, he basically committed censorship and we simply can’t pick and choose and edit out what we have been told we don’t believe in. It was out and out censorship. It reminds of that video company that was producing alternate versions of various mainstream movies with the segments THEY deemed inappropriate edited out. Guess what… that’s illegal.

    A world with no religion would be a fine world indeed. Less hate, less violence, less killing in the NAME of God/Allah et al. Religion is simply a crutch for the weak. Guess what… there IS no Santa in the sky waiting on your every wish/whim. There is no all-powerful parental figure flying around in space looking out for you. Get over it.

    Don’t sing Lennon if you don’t BELIEVE in the song. The same way you wouldn’t sing Black Sabbath if you’re devoutly religious. You can’t “shopping cart” art… “ooh, I like THAT chapter, but not THAT one…”

    What a sad world…

  7. plato04

    E-Dogg,

    Proselyting is as old as religion itself, and is affiliated with all manner of religious traditions, both Eastern and Western. For many religious traditions, proselyting (or “religious imperialism” as you call it) is part of the fabric. Suppose an individual receives great blessings. Why is it anything less than charitable to want to share those with others? The blanket assertion that “egocentricity” is responsible for proselyting activities does not explain the myriad reasons for proselyting (including divine mandate). Perhaps you had a bad or bitter personal experience with some LDS missionaries that has led to this line of thinking.

    As for censorship, all songs are censored at the decree of “American Idol.” After all, only about 90 seconds are given to each singer, so each singer is compelled to “censor” or abbreviate part of the song.

    As for violence and hatred and even mass killings at the hands of religion, I invite you to consider the atrocities associated with atheistic regimes of the 20th Century (Mao, Stalin, Hitler, etc.). To many believers, the existence of such awful abominations within religious traditions suggests the presence of a powerful opposing force which strives to discredit genuine religious belief and fervor.

    I am baffled by your assertion that “The foundations of most religions are good,” and then you oppose the existence of God, saying “A world without religion would be a fine world indeed.” I am not sure I understand the compatibility of these statements. Perhaps you could enlighten me.

  8. I have had this song resonating inside me ever since I heard it. Taking the third verse in isolation there is something so powerful that is lost in all this discussion of communism. What we imagine is not a world where there is forced equality. That’s communism and socialism. What we imagine is a condition on the earth and in the hearts of the human race wherein we have lost all desire for our own comfort and gain over another. All we desire is to have all things in common. This is powerful and this is the condition that will exist in the millennium. This is the condition that existed among the Nephites after Christ came. Communism is a perversion of a very real condition that’s going to exist after the earth’s mortal existence. Maybe there was something of this that stirred in the heart of John Lennon (despite his excesses in suggesting that this condition will only exist in a world without religion). Indeed I will join him and I will join David Archuleta in this ideal (when given a proper interpretation, of course).

  9. plato04

    Interesting interpretation of verse three of the world as one giant commune. I suppose I am just a little skeptical that the whole world, even during the millenium, will accept such conditions voluntarily. No question there will be groups, possible large groups, willing and able to share and have all things in common. But with the Earth’s inhabitants abiding a terrestrial standard, and still with varying degrees of faithfulness, will everyone be willing and able to abide such a law?

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