Imagine Thinking Things Through

Alice quoted John Lennon’s Imagine in a post today. I figured it was something I could rant about as well…

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…

I don’t have too much of a problem with this. It’s not only easy to imagine no heaven or hell, but I have trouble taking their existence seriously. I guess I have a problem with the idea of people “living for today” if he means that literally. But, if it’s just a lyrical way of saying “living for their chosen values in this lifetime, which may entail taking future obligations seriously.” then it’s fine.

I agree with the position that people behaving as if this life doesn’t matter as much as the afterlife of their mythology causes lots of problems (suicide bombers, for example).

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

This is pretty stupid.

Yes, it’s true that people kill and die “for” their countries and religions, but that’s not because countries (or religion) are the problem. The problem is that they don’t take other people seriously enough to respect their autonomy and rights to life and property. They could easily find other things to kill and die for without countries or religion.

And countries have many useful features today. Most people would rather live in a “good” country than in an anarchic community with no organized protection from aggressors or an organized system of law for enabling trade and resolving disputes peacefully. Perhaps, someday non-country institutions to handle these things will evolve, but we’re not there yet.

Also, having multiple countries is much better than one. Especially if people are free to leave ones they don’t like and enter ones they do. It allows better evolution of good institutions, trial and error, etc. Also, it allows people with somewhat different preferences to be satisfied without forcing their preferences on everyone else.

Religions also serve a useful purpose for many people. I, personally, don’t think it makes sense for me to subscribe to one, but many people benefit from the comfort, community, and ready-made values that religion provides. As with countries, many people are better off with their religions until other institutions that fulfill these purposes better evolve.

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…


This is like the fallacy of the previous section (with countries and religion) that the solution to disputes that involve some concept is to eliminate its existence, rather than improve the way we think about it.

Imagine no possessions. Imagine that John Lennon didn’t own a guitar or harmonica (or whatever else he played) and couldn’t pursue his interests as thoroughly as he wanted to without the approval of some political body…

That would suck!

No possessions? The special thing about people is their creativity. In order to be creative, people need to be able to control their time, and things that interest them. They need to be able to change things to suit their tastes according to their own will; not dependent on the approval of others. People who can’t do this are less than human. Prisons treat people this way. Is that the kind of life he “imagine[s]”?

And how will eliminating possessions end the need for greed or hunger? Greed and hunger don’t exist because people have things! They exist because people want things, and people need to eat. If we didn’t have things to want or eat, it wouldn’t be better; we’d be dead. Who does he think would create things to eat? How does he think people would be satisfied without possessions? How does he “imagine” that a reasonable amount of things that would help people enjoy their lives would be created without the kind of information that markets provide?

And a “brotherhood of man” “sharing all the world” in abject poverty doesn’t sound very appealing to me. As I said before, while sharing some things voluntarily is fine, we need to have some things that we don’t have to share in order to realize our human creativity.

You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one,
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will live as one.

I say you’re an idiot. And, yes, you’re not the only one.

I don’t want the world to “live as one”. I don’t want to be an ant in a colony. I want to be an individual, free to associate or not as I choose, to create things without permission, to trade with others voluntarily instead of having things doled out based on some stupid rules or political pull.

I want to be human. I want to be free.

And, I’m not the only one, either!


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