Washington Post columnist Gary Abernathy’s provocative column in Wednesday’s edition, entitled, “Can’t We ‘Imagine’ a Better Song for Peace,” ignored the real reason for the latest surge of interest in the 1971 song by John Lennon, which of course has been the recent bloody invasion of Ukraine by Russian arch butcher Vlad (the Impaler) Putin.
But the song’s popularity dates back to its inception in the Vietnam War era, which also happened to be the time when, in the context of a new “detente” between President Nixon and the (then Soviets) opened gates for a new social, cultural, ideological and philosophical assault on core U.S. values that has become an increasing problem for U.S. culture ever since, contributing to the rise of Trumpism in particular.
“Imagine” influencing Trumpism, you ask? How is that possible? If you dissect the lyrics of the John Lennon song, you’ll find it is, aside from a call for “peace,” devoid of any values at all. “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below,” going on to suggest we imagine “nothing to kill or die for…and no religion too. Abernathy incorrectly argues the lyrics imply a preference for socialism. No, socialism, in its countless iterations, involves either a positively or negatively hewn practical political choice, not a dreamy state of illusion as in that song.
No, the main subject of that song is the world that was being shaped in that era where, most relevantly, evil does not exist in the minds of people.
So it was at that moment when the horrors of world wars had dissipated, and only those committed to the cause of “Never Again” sought to remind us. There was the unspeakable genocide of the ‘killing fields” in Cambodia in that decade, but that was too far away and unfamiliar to really arouse the American publlc. It launched the period of counterculturalism and “postmodernism” in which old values like love and loyalty were being challenged by the philosophies of fascists like Michel Foucault who taught that the only real values are power and pleasure.
This is the root of the amoral song, “Imagine.” It comes home to us now with the documentation of the worst atrocities since World War II, Putin’s current indescribably evil invasion and slaughters of the innocents of Ukraine.
As the coming operation of the Webb Telescope will grab everyone’s attention later this summer, we need to be reminded of from whence we’ve come, an unbelievably complex universe that has generated trillions of synapses in each and every single human mind. When one encounters the violence that has shaped this universe over eons, then can it be a surprise that among its more complex products, human minds, contain elements of that wanton violence, too?
On the plus side, humanity has learned the importance of suppressing such evil, even postmodernism, and John Lennon, try to downplay it. This latest wake up call is, sadly, much needed.