Columnists, Featured, Mike Rosen, National, Politics, Uncategorized

Rosen: John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ dream really a nightmare

In a recent column, I critically deconstructed the lyrics of “Universal Soldier,” a popular folk song of the 1960s with an anti-war theme and a pacifist plea. In response to that, some folks familiar with my work, requested I revisit one of my earlier song deconstructions: John Lennon’s utopian ode “Imagine.” The song was written and recorded by Lennon in 1971, after The Beatles breakup, during his Yoko Ono period. Yoko was his anti-war soul mate. The two had been wed in 1969 and consummated their marriage with a week-long honeymoon “bed-in for peace” in Amsterdam.

Baby boomer romantic nostalgia notwithstanding, the puerile lyrics of that tune sound like a collaboration of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Bernie Sanders and AOC. Here are the lyrics:

Imagine there’s no heaven/It’s easy if you try/No hell below us/Above us only sky/Imagine all the people/Living for today

Lennon seems to hope there’s only oblivion after death, as echoed in the song’s later desire for the elimination of religion. That won’t appeal to most people in this world who believe in rewards for good behavior and fear punishment for sins in the hereafter. In another sense, just “living for today,” can encourage short-sightedness and irresponsibility by those who fail to save for a rainy day and retirement. Think of the parable of the Grasshopper and the Ant.

Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion, too/Imagine all the people/Living life in peace

No, I can’t imagine that. It’s anti-historical and contrary to human nature. People are inherently familial, tribal, patriotic and nationalistic. They band together, linked by common cultures, superstitions, beliefs, values and preferred systems of government and economy. Nothing to kill or die for? How about the American Revolutionary War or risking your life to defend your home and family from human predators. And, again, there’s Lennon’s scorn for religion.

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

OK, I’ll say it, you’re a dreamer. Never happen. The only way the world would be as one is under the guns of a militaristic, totalitarian regime. And even that would be only temporary. Empires invariably fall.

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

Good heavens, no! That’s right out of The Communist Manifesto. And you saw how that turned out. No possessions? You mean no property rights? That means no rewards, no incentives, no creativity and very little production. Moochers living off a dwindling pool of hard workers. Just like in those so-called ‘communes” of the 1960s. Who’s going to harvest the crops while the “dreamers” are smoking dope and flashing peace signs with those spaced-out grins on their faces?

What everyone owns, no one owns. Think of the graffiti on the walls of public-property like a New York City subway station men’s room. By comparison, have you ever seen graffiti on the walls of a bathroom in someone’s private home?

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

He’s repeating himself. We’ve already covered that. Where’s Mister Hold Button when I really need him? End of song.

Years ago, when I discussed this on my radio show, a sweet, well-meaning, idealistic woman called in and defended Lennon’s message as “aspirational,” which she described as a lofty and hopeful goal. I responded that as an ambitious goal-setter myself, I’ve aspired to many things in my life and proudly accomplished some of them. But I don’t believe in setting your sights on things that are impossible to achieve or counterproductive. That’s a formula for wasted effort, failure and frustration.

Ironically, the woman described herself as a devout Christian whose “aspirations” apparently don’t include renouncing her faith. She must have missed those lyrics in “Imagine” that rejected the existence of heaven and hell, and longed for the elimination of all the world’s religions, including hers.

By the way, the aforementioned Yoko Ono, is alive and well in New York City, residing at The Dakota, where Lennon was assassinated in 1980. That building, in Manhattan’s exclusive Upper West Side, is regarded as one of the city’s most prestigious and luxurious, with apartments selling for as much as $20 million. Yoko’s net worth is $700 million (most of it John’s). So much for “no possessions.”

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for


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