Utopia: Section 2: "Imagine"

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Utopia: Section 2: "Imagine"

Post by Admin on Wed Sep 16, 2015 3:32 am

Has everyone listened to the song "Imagine" by John Lennon? When we analyze a song, both the lyrics and the performance are important. The performance helps us get an idea of the spirit in which the words are meant. I reccommend that you not only read the lyrics, but watch one or more video performances of this song.

Remember to think about the context of Lennon's song. Lennon spent many years as a prominent figure in the "hippie" counterculture. He was not only a musician but an outspoken anti-war activist. In the 1970s, when "Imagine" was written, many people were experimenting with radical styles of living. For example, many "communes" were formed where people tried to live together peacefully, avoiding the use of money and sharing all things in common. Understanding something about the "hippie" ethos will help you understand how Lennon formed his dream and why he viewed it as potentially feasible.

Let's do some closer reading of the lyrics. In the first stanzas:

"Imagine there is no heaven
it's easy if you try
no hell below us
above us only sky."

It's easy to generalize that Lennon is citing the idea of God and organized religion as a divisive factor between people. Taking a closer look, he is specifically pointing out the concepts of heaven and hell. What could be deleterious about this specific aspect of religion?

If you are an atheist, try to picture how life might feel to someone who is a pious believer. The feeling of constantly being watched over by a supernatural being could be both comforting and terrifying. The idea of a supernatural authority validates the authority of human beings in the world who have power. It encourages people to blindly follow rules and believe what other people believe. It dicourages them from choosing their own ways of living and thinking. This is called "dogmatism". When people follow dogmas, they can become intolerant, setting themselves up as little authority figures with the power of deciding whether other people are good or bad.

The idea of being rewarded or punished forever in the afterlife could encourage people to focus on a life after death instead of living in the moment. It could foster a lack of freedom due to the fear of metaphysical moral judgement. It could hamper the demands of capitalist industry: people may be much less likely to defer pleasure and satisfaction if they believe they only have one life to live. Deferring or displacing pleasure is an important part of social control.

We could further suggest that if there were "only sky" above us, we might be able to freely and lucidly engage with the joys and challenges of our present lives, both material and ethical.

Try to look at the specific words Lennon is using and the way he is conveying his ideas to get an accurate picture of his criticism and suggestions.

The writing prompt is:
Do you agree that removing things like religion, countries, and possessions would promote peace in the world? Why or why not?
If you would like me to review and critique your writing for this assignment, please post your text in this thread!

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Eva-Discussion-Imagine

Post by Eva Song Yihua on Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:23 pm

Imagine is truly a beautiful song, and the voice of John Lennon with the piano relax and calm every listener’s mind. The wish to a peaceful world in the lyrics is beautiful, however, I doubt if removing things like religion, countries, and even possessions will really bring peace to the world. First, people should not blame religion to be the cause of war or, for example, terrorist attack. From where I see it, it is the way that people are educated causes the conflict on belief. If people get relatively high education, they will learn to think critically and to judge by themselves whether violation is the right way to solve problems or to fight for their family and country. Religion is something that origin in the early time of civilization, and it plays its role. It supports people feel desperate with belief, and it is powerful. Despite the part that removing religion is not doable, removing religion is not the best solution either. Same as religion, country boundaries shouldn't be what blocks people’s mind. Instead, it is the government and certain groups that manipulate people’s idea and cause conflicts. Talking about individual’s possession, I believe that owning property is the basic right of a citizen no matter in what country. Therefore, I don’t agree with John’s idea, that no possession can really bring peace to this world. Instead, it is the uneven distribution that causes “greed and hunger”. Even though, with all these disagreement with John Lennon’s ideas, Imagine is such a beautiful and positive song with a powerful message—to make the world a better place. In the whole song, I especially like the line “You may say I am a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you would join us, and the world would live as one.” Truly, individual is not enough for the dream to come true, yet, with everyone’s contribution, peace will arrive to this world eventually.

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Re: Utopia: Section 2: "Imagine"

Post by Admin on Wed Sep 23, 2015 3:23 am

Both here and in the Keystone forums, many students seem to believe that John Lennon is advocating the forceful abolition of religion, nations, and property, perhaps by the government. This could lead to state oppression and fascism.

But is this an accurate interpretation of Lennon's song? Let's again look at context.

John Lennon was a pacifist (he did not believe in using force or violence of any kind) and a utopian anarchist (he did not believe that people should be ruled by governments at all). This makes it unlikely that he envisioned a forceful institutional regime that prohibited religion, nationality, and property. In fact, by taking a closer look at the lyrics, we see his invitation:

"You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one
We hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one".

In these lyrics, he seems to be extending an invitation for people to share his dream in a free and voluntary way. He hopes other people will want to try these ways of living (and indeed, he already knows some people who do), and that together they can make their dream a reality for themselves. You can take a look at the Wikipedia article on anarchist communities to get a feel for the kind of project Lennon might be describing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anarchist_communities

Perhaps you still believe that Lennon's project could easily get out of hand; that the pursuit of possessions and religion will inevitably re-emerge in an intentional community like the ones described; that John's ideals could be co-opted by the government for sinister ends; or some other objection. Any of these would make a valid point. Remamber that it's important to point out the exact nature of your objection, after making an accurate analysis of the song.

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Re: Utopia: Section 2: "Imagine"

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