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Something to Live and Die For

 

I was born in the sixties, which means when I was grown up enough to be aware of philosophy and war and the big stuff of that kind, the world was full of very bad ideas.

Admittedly the world is always full of very bad ideas, but it is not every era that produces the magnificently boneheaded masterpiece of "Imagine," a small part of whose undying wisdom is this:

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... You...

You may say 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

 There is more stupidity contained in those two stanzas that in any decent universe it would form a black hole of stupidity and start sucking the brains of everyone around.

Apparently in Lennon’s world, if there were no countries (or, as an afterthought, religion), there would be nothing to kill or die for.  This ignores the tens of thousands of years before the inventions of kingship, or perhaps even of tribe, when loosely bound small familiar bands of humans must have roamed the landscape bashing each other over the head with stone hammers.

Do we know for sure that there was no kingship or tribe?  No.  But we’re fairly sure there were no countries, as we understand them, as human bands, as far as we can reconstruct from pre-history, tended to be nomadic and mobile.  There certainly was no country that fits the understanding of “country” in the modern world.

As for bashing each other over the head, we’ve found way too many human and hominid remains whose bones bear the marks of having been butchered like prey to doubt that.

Now it is entirely possible that these hominids and early humans were killing each other because one band thought the divinity of fire was a god, the other thought it was a goddess, and the derpy tribe around the corner insisted the divinity of fire had thirty-five genders and would describe them to you at such length that they never hunted and insisted you share your catch with them.

However, I doubt that was the majority of wars between bands.  More likely they had the same motives to fight as chimpanzees do: the tasty fruit on a tree; the leavings of a lion kill; perhaps even the right to the waterhole.

Truth is, I don’t know what species John Lennon was familiar with, but it wasn’t humans.  Humans fight.  Humans fight wars.  It is part of who we are and what we do.  A world without countries or religion is not a world without war.  It’s a world of micro-wars, every day, of everyone’s hand against everyone else’s world without end.  That “Brotherhood of Man” would only be such in the sense that my kids are brothers and once upon a time we had to watch them like hawks to prevent their killing each other.