What would John Lennon’s imagined world be like?

Some of what I wrote in my last post got the song  “Imagine” on my brain, and I started thinking of what the world described by Lennon in the song would actually be like, so I thought I’d take a look. Without further ado;

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

I have to agree that this first bit is indeed easy to imagine.

I’m assuming that “above us only sky” refers to there being no heaven above us, rather than no stars/satillites/other planets/other bits of the universe that can’t really count as sky. In this case, we’re simply talking about a state of belief. Some religions believe in various kinds of physical afterlife, others in reincarnation, and many people do believe that there is no life after death. We don’t have evidence for any of these positions, so as far as life on this world goes, the only possible difference that knowing there was no heaven or hell could have would be in people’s attitudes.

I would like to think that this would make no difference, but sadly people’s attitudes can have a large impact on the world. For some, the idea of an afterlife is reassuring and helps to make sense of life. For others, the prospect of eternal damnation serves to modify their behavior – in some cases to be a better person, in others to condemn others for doing things that they believe will send them to hell.

Imagine all the people

Living for today…

Living for today is a different matter. It implies everyone making the most of what can be done now, and not thinking about the future. This could be good – taking more chances, doing exciting things – but it could also mean that people did things without thinking of the consequences to themselves and others. Living for today could certainly include massive burning of fossil fuels to serve whatever energy needs we wish without thinking about the reserves left for tomorrow, or about the effect of the release of CO2 and global warming on the world, or deciding no tto bother spending time planting crops today without thinking about the effect of not having the food grown next year.

Imagine there’s no countries

This could actually work quite well, although would probably eliminate a lot of cultural diversity from the world. If we had some kind of global government that managed to equalise quality of life and access to services and oppertunities across the world, that could certainly be a very nice prospect. We would, however, lose a certain amount of choice in the sort of place we want to live – for example, in the UK I feel safe from certain bits of crime because no one, most of the police included, has a gun, while some people in the US feel safe from bits of crime precisely because many people have guns, and there are many differences between countries in attitudes to personal freedoms vs personal protections, in how different groups of people (women, children, young people, offenders, unemployed people, people with disabilities…) are treated by the law, and in what’s expected to be provided by the government. And this is let alone the cultural differences between different parts of the world, much of which would probably be eroded by a global government that was homogenising provisions rather than adapting them to local expectations.

On the other hand, this would mean a fairer global society, more connections between different sides of the world, greater freedom of movement around the world, and hopefully a sense of global community.

Nothing to kill or die for

This is a surprisingly broad point. People have been willing to kill or die for a lot of things throughout history: religion, their country, their political leader (or someone they wish to be such a leader), a difference of opinion on animal rights, nuclear weapons, abortion…

This line could mean eliminating all those differences, or it could mean eliminating the need for strong feelings to lead to a belief that killing or dying for a cause is necessary. In a way, I’d like the latter – if we were in a position where issues could indeed all be resolved by discussion, it would be a good world to live in. It’s hard to imagine that such resolutions would be accepted in all cases however, and certainly differences of opinion are hard to eliminate as problems unless somehow the entire issue is made irrelevent. If nuclear weapons had never existed, for example, there wouldn’t be massive debates and direct action in the arguement about whether they are necessary or abhorant to have.

And no religion too

It’s hard to talk about this from a state of the world where religions do exist and are a big part of some people’s lives. Forcing people to give up religion would be highly unethical and probably lead to worldwide unrest. However, imagine if religion had never existed as an idea. We would certainly have avoided a large number of conflicts, historical and in the present day, without the very strongly held and rightously thought of differences in opinion caused by differening religious beliefs. We could have avoided a lot of deaths, a lot of hurt, and a lot of discrimination that all continue to the present day. We would have to hope that we had found some other kind of unifying moral force however, preferably a single global one, else community and care for one another may well be unheard of concepts.

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace…

All I can say to this bit is that yeah, peace would be awesome.

Imagine no possessions

With no possessions, it would depend how certain aspects of life then worked. If we assumed that this means that all property is essentially communally owned but each person is provided with “their” house and “their” clothes and “their” furniture etcetera with some degree of ability for personalisation, then this could work.

No need for greed or hunger

No need for greed or hunger would be good. Even better if there actually was no greed or hunger. It doesn’t really follow from the other things, but if it could be arranged I don’t think there would be a way in which it was anything but brilliant.

A brotherhood of man

Assuming what is meant here is some sort of worldwide caring community, then that would be much appreciated I’m sure.

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world…

And the world will live as one

Everyone sharing the world is an attractive concept. It has implications of making sure everyone does get their share of use out of it, acknowledgement that we cannot be selfish and must take care of the world around us, that everyone should care about what happens to all of the world, not just a small part. If everyone had these sorts of attitudes, it would be an interestingly refreshing experience.

The more I think about it, the more of a radical song it seems. Would you want to live in that world?


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