I hate “Imagine” by John Lennon. Hate it. I hate it’s sappy, maudlin piano riff; I hate it’s dull, lazy structure. I hate the video featuring Yoko just off to the side like some soul-engulfing gargoyle. I hate the insipid cartoon image of Lennon that packages the song.
But most of all, I hate the lyrics, which paint the picture of the saddest, lamest utopia ever conceived by the mind of man, yet has been transubstantiated into some kind of progressive Sermon on the Mount.
Let’s rip into them, shall we?
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
I didn’t know that so many people needed reassurance that imagination required small effort. Although, before you imagine that there’s no heaven, don’t you first need to imagine that there is one?
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Hooray! A universe with zero permanent consequences for your behavior! You will neither be eternally punished nor rewarded for your actions. Nothing matters, folks. Enjoy.
Imagine all the people
Living for today
If, despite Lennon’s counsel, you struggle to imagine such a happenstance, meditate upon the lives of junk-bond brokers and meth addicts. Or perhaps the Once-Ler from the Lorax story.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Again we are told that conceptualization requires no effort. If we needed to be told this, could we actually do it?
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Yep, without politics or religion nobody would ever kill or die for anything, except of course food, shelter, clothing, mating, insults, and all the things humans killed each other for before complex public institutions existed.
Imagine all the People
Living life in peace
Back in 1990, William F. Buckley hacked into this sentimentality with characteristic brusqueness:
Well, we certainly want to imagine a world in which everyone lives in peace, but you see, that is only possible in a world in which people are willing to die for causes. There’d have been peace for heaven knows (assuming heaven existed) how long in the South, except that men were willing to die to free the slaves, and Hitler would have died maybe about the time John Lennon did, at Berchtesgaden, at age ninety-one, happy in a Jewless Europe. There have got to be reasons that even affected John Lennon to prefer one country over against another. I happen to know this to be the case, since a long time ago he asked me to help him get papers permitting him to live in the United States, rather than in Great Britain.
The hypocrisy of the prophets, it is delicious. Let’s savor the final stanza.
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
Our Prophet has lost faith in us. Perhaps if we all crowd into a New York park and sing “Strawberry Fields Forever” as if it were the Gloria again, he might forgive us.
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of Man
Herein shall I invoke the Law of Infinitude: if every man is my brother, then being my brother doesn’t have any singular importance, so granting him the title doesn’t really do anything for him. “Brother” no longer implies any familial affection; it’s just a word.
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
Yeah, and who decides how this sharing shall happen? What do we do with those who will not share, but prefer to keep their possessions? For that matter, who decides what shall be done with the things we are sharing? Infinitude strikes again: if everyone owns something, no one can do anything with it.
To recap: No heaven, no hell, no planning for the future, no countries, no reason to care about anything sufficiently to fight for it, no religion (which would be an obvious consequence of their being no heaven or hell), no possessions, and no “need” for greed or hunger (which, I presume, would preclude the existence of either). Very little of this tedious song tells us what we would have to replace these things which have been part of human life for millenia. The only non-negatory parts of “Imagine” proclaim that we will all live in peace as brothers, sharing everything, which one might expect from someone who grew up without brothers, as John Lennon did. This is the quasi-nihilistic vision that the terminally progressive have held up for the past 40 years as the new Internationale.
So when Cee-Lo Green had the temerity to alter the lyric from “And no religions too,” to “And all religions true,” at the New Year’s Eve show, the atheist corner of the twitterverse swarmed to smite him hip and thigh. Keep in mind that “All religions true” shifts the meaning ever so slightly from atheism to a waffly pantheistic agnosticism. Infinitude again: if all religions are true, then none of them are.
But non-Hell hath no un-fury like an atheist scorned.
“F–k you, Cee Lo. It‘s ’And no religion too.’ F–k you for spitting in the face of John Lennon & what he conveyed with his lyrics. F–k you!” wrote Twitter user TerranRich, who describes himself in his profile as an atheist and a liberal.
Strange, she doesn’t believe in God, yet she expresses anger at Cee-Lo in the harshest of terms. It seems that in Imagine-Land, there’s nothing to kill or die for, but plenty to spout f-bombs about. Another Tweeter summed up the nature of Cee-Lo’s crime perfectly: “What blasphemy.”