John Lennon’s 1971 hit single “Imagine” asks us to imagine a world without “possessions,” a world in which “There’s no countries…Nothing to kill or die for.” The song urges us to “Imagine all the people/Sharing all the world,” a “brotherhood of man” committed to “living life in peace.” We may be forgiven for wondering if this vision of irenic inclusiveness would have embraced that other Brotherhood, the Muslim one, as well.
Lennon did not live long enough to witness the re-emergence of Islam as a virulent and conquering ideological force, whether via terrorist atrocities or demographic infiltration. Moreover, the Lennon who died in 1980 had travelled some distance from his peacenik persona. Dave Swindle notes, citing several informative sources, that “in his final years before his murder, the songwriter abandoned his famous progressive faith, enjoyed arguing with radicals, and supported Ronald Reagan.” According to Swindle, “Lennon was not a very serious leftist. He was just an artist too heavily influenced by some of the other dominant personalities of his age—the ones most skilled at manipulating talented people into becoming their political pawns, their useful idiots.” The lame-brained Yoko Ono might have had something to do with it as well.
One hopes Lennon would indeed have seen clearly enough not to have been badgered or indoctrinated into macro-cultural compliance by so-called “progressivist” forces, like some of his pop contemporaries. One thinks of the mushy and ill-informed views of a world-class ignoramus like Neil Young or the soft-in-the-head Cat Stevens, originally Steven Demetre Georgiou, who converted to Islam, grew a beard and again changed his name, this time to Yusuf Islam. As a convert to the faith, he wasted no time supporting the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, despite his later, evidently insincere walkback. Such figures now constitute part of our debased Golden Legend, a hagiography of musical legends who, like the majority of Hollywood actors, are also intellectual nonentities. That they have an impact on sensibility is unfortunate, but it is a fact that must be acknowledged. Though Lennon may have repudiated the message of his song, there’s no doubt that “Imagine” has survived him and become an anthem of the doctrinaire left. As Swindle writes,
It’s impossible to know the number of people over the last 40 years who jumped into lives of progressive activism because of Lennon’s music…Lennon and ‘Imagine’ are not symbols the Left will give up without a fight.
*Profanity warning for video*
Lennon, be it said, did imagine a world with “no religion too,” but would he have made allowances, as so many Christophobes do, for the “religion of peace”? Let’s give John Lennon the benefit of the doubt. But we cannot exonerate those who, mistakenly or not, regard themselves as his followers, the crowd of spineless appeasers, professional conciliators and clueless extenuators who continue to insist, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary—historical, textual, scriptural, and empirical—that Islam does not constitute a threat to our existence. From this obtuse perspective, Muslim violence is not the product of canonical Islam but of some twisted offshoot of the faith called “Islamism,” and Muslim immigration to the West is welcomed as a form of cultural endowment from which we will all benefit. Such cognitive dissonance is indeed remarkable, given the virtual destruction of neighborhoods in Western cities and the outrages perpetrated world-wide and on a daily basis by the votaries of Islam.
And as for terror itself, it has, as we have been lessoned by our betters, nothing to do with Islam in any conceivable way; the terrorists are either unhinged or casualties of Western colonialism or victims of grinding poverty taking revenge against their oppressors. They are almost never seen for what they chiefly are: devout believers, many of them highly educated and scions of prosperous families, observing the dictates their revered prophet laid down in a holy book that must be obeyed to the letter. As Mark Durie writes,
In reality, the will to “go forth” for jihad is not a manifestation of craziness—many of its actors are entirely sane. It is not a manifestation of stupidity—many of its actors are quite intelligent. It is not a manifestation of social dysfunction or poverty—many of its actors come from stable and wealthy homes. It is not a manifestation of weirdness—many of its actors are quite ordinary.…Jihadi terror is a manifestation of Islamic theology.
And indeed, one need no longer “imagine” what the “elitist” Western response to the scourge of 9/11 and all that followed in its wake might look like; it is everywhere around us, predictable as the setting sun, a scrolling panorama of ignorance, delusion and cowardice—in a word, surrender. 9/11 should have been a watershed moment, a historical game-changer provoking us out of our ideological torpor. Instead, it was a collapsing dike, as America and the Western world as a whole were flooded with self-doubt, cultural guilt, waves of political correctness and rampant Islamophilia.
And so we continue to deny that the terrorists have weakened our resolve or even altered our way of life. But as Mark Tapson points out,
they have changed our way of life and who we are as a culture. Look at what has become of air travel in the wake of 9/11 and the bungling Shoe Bomber: passengers shuffling along like cattle in long security lines, removing our shoes and laptops, submitting to invasive scans by the useless TSA, etc. This is but one example of our “new normal,” and as incidents like the Boston Marathon bombing and the Jerusalem synagogue butchering and the Sydney hostage-taking become more and more common, they too will become our new normal.
His conclusion is as chastening as it is accurate. “To accept living under the cloud of terrorism while declaring stubbornly that it won’t change us is a terrible self-delusion.” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking in the wake of the Sydney hostage crisis, is proof positive of Tapson’s thesis: “Australia is a peaceful, open, and generous society,” Abbott said. “Nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.”
Business as usual? Mark Durie points out that the first jihadi attack in Australia occurred in 1915, when two Muslim immigrants shot and killed four picnickers at Broken Hill. And as Charles Bybelezer reports, September 2014 provided a rich harvest of terrorist events and arrests Down Under: a certain Numan Haider stabbed two police officers before being killed; shortly afterward,
Australian police conducted major anti-terrorism raids in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney [in which at least] fifteen people were detained, including Omarjan Azari—an alleged associate of Mohammed Ali Baryalei, leader of the Islamic State in Australia—who was planning to behead random civilians in broad daylight; then, not long after the Sydney hostage episode, two more Muslims were arrested, including a budding young terrorist by the name of Sulayman Khalid, found with notes outlining plans to blow up a police building and organize terrorist activities at large.
Business as usual!—it can only be the imaginary construct of a political cartel suffering from advanced intellectual glaucoma. The hecatomb at Charlie Hebdo, in which twelve people were murdered, was foreordained, a disaster—or rather, an instance of Islamic “justice”—waiting to happen in the wake of deflationary references to Muhammad. The expression of official horror over the tragedy and sanctimonious empathy for its victims will soon dissipate and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will creep in its petty pace from day to day, as per usual.
Plainly, Islam has taken the measure of a faltering civilization whose field of vision has narrowed alarmingly: of a Christian Church that has almost nothing to say about the massacre of Christians in the Middle East and Africa, not discounting liberation theologian Pope Francis’ rather useless urbi et orbi Christmas message; of a political class that has favoured massive Muslim immigration and found any number of ways to justify its invasive potential and civil violence; of an academic and intellectual cadre that focuses exclusively on the sins of the West and the need to resist “Islamophobia”; and of a media mafia that spends itself in paroxysms of moral outrage against the Jewish state while minimizing the menace of Islamic terrorism. They are the progeny of John Lennon’s barmy dreamsong, a society of “people/Living for today,” devoid of historical understanding and prepared to forfeit the future. The way things are going now, there can be little question that Islam is the strong horse and the West a spavined nag.
I would prefer to imagine a world in which we are not afraid to rise to the defense of our culture against those who are intent on imposing an alien set of doctrines and usages upon us. I would imagine a world in which the historically unique and essential Judeo-Hellenic-Christian inheritance of individual liberty, democratic government, entrepreneurial capitalism, freedom of expression and conscience, due process and equality under the law are accepted as superior to collectivism, state control, socialist levelling and religious or ideological totalitarianism, be that Communism, Fascism or Shariaism. I would prefer a world in which criticism, satire, humour, and dissent are honoured over conformity, insipid euphemism, multicultural sensitivity and fear of giving offense. I would imagine a world in which the pursuit of truth, however difficult, elusive or unflattering, is recognized as a noble undertaking, and in which dissembling sophisms like political correctness are regarded with contempt.
Lennon’s imaginary domain is ultimately identical to his aural namesake’s, and just as Lenin’s arcadian fantasy turned into a sanguinary prison, Lennon’s passing dream, wherever it is pursued, ends in social and political nightmare. “Lennonism,” as his misguided acolytes understand it, and “Leninism,” as a destructive revolutionary force, derive from the same source, a utopian sensibility that fails to grasp the complexities, resistances and contradictions inherent in human nature. John Lennon, obviously, was no Vladimir Lenin, for which we are grateful; yet his silly little ditty was influentially representative of a world incapable of making distinctions, a world that cannot discriminate between reality and illusion, civilization and barbarism, friends and enemies, right and wrong, true and false, good and evil. “You may say I’m a dreamer,” he warbles, “but I’m not the only one.” And that is our undoing. Lennon may have awakened from his dream, but millions of his coetaneans and disciples have not. They are energetically plying what William Voegeli in The Pity Party calls the “rhetoric of compassion,” based on the raw emotionalism and spurious empathy that typifies left-liberal thinking and consistently fails on almost every social, political and economic level to yield wholesome results.
Here and there, ordinary people seem to be awakening from the imaginary domain they have inhabited, forming new parties and holding large demonstrations protesting policies resulting in cultural disintegration. But can we survive leaders still dazzled by the chromatic trance they have mistaken, and continue to mistake, for reality? Can we roll back the inflationary pageant of humorless self-righteousness, crafty politicking, strident sentimentality and delusional presumptions marching in the shadow of the brotherhood of man, and so begin to reclaim what we have lost? Of one thing there can be no doubt: we must imagine it possible if we are to make it possible.
This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism