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Lennon, The Olympics, and Human Nature
For the third time in a row, the Olympics opening ceremony have included John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Of course the song has significant meaning especially in a world springing out of COVID. Imagine there’s nothing holding us back from being together peacefully!
But the song it’s concerning that the songs ideological premise is repeated without careful thought. Just tonight I read a short section about Plato’s Republic to my 6 year old son from James Mannion’s Essentials of Philosophy (a Barnes & Noble hardback now hard to locate, but here’s an affiliate link to it if you get lucky enough to find one). Great parenting right? Philosophy is a great way to educate your kids AND get them to sleep!
Anyways, the song, “Imagine,” says:
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 worldJohn Lennon
Plato stated that his “utopia” would have the Philosopher and Warrior classes free of private property as well. But this just goes against nature, doesn’t it? Lennon lived at a time where socialism hadn’t failed yet. The goals of socialism are noble, but never executed in a manner worth of the ideal. Observing Russia and Brazil, American biologist, E. O. Wilson commented:
No one can seriously question that a better quality of life for everyone is the unimpeachable universal goal of humanity. Free trade, the rule of law, and sound market practices are the proven means to attain it.E. O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 318
Private property is a basic right because it motivates us towards action. If we want something, we try to get it. If we have everything, we are plagued with boredom after enough time.
Then there’s also the line of “Imagine no religion” that comes up. John Lennon may or may not have been a true atheist, but the odds are that he was. Just check out this post I located that goes over the song “God,” as well as “Imagine”: Was John Lennon an Atheist.
Now the context of the line is that without states and religions, there would be nothing to kill each other in wars about. That’s simply not true and giving up possessions would never help. Greed is never averted by what one has, even in a shared sense. Now, religion and politics have led to their own fair shares of bloodshed. But abolishing both would not leave humanity in any better shape.
We’re getting to (back to?) a point in society where we don’t tackle tough issues – philosophical or scientific. We want to be fed “truth” with a lowercase “t” with a spoonful of emotion. And the Olympics opening ceremony in Tokyo was certainly emotional during “Imagine.” But when we look at what we long for in society, things like social justice, inclusiveness, kindness, fairness, what we really need to seek is the best means to reach these goals.
I don’t want to live in either Plato’s republic or Lennon’s socialist utopia. Neither would ever really work when put alongside human nature.
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