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John Lennon's Song- Imagine is a Utopia

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/31/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,741 times Debate No: 20730
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (5)
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Lyrics to the song are in the following link:

Imagine has ranked as the number 23 song in the UK in the year 2000. It's been played on New Year's Eve in 2005 before the ball drop. It's been played in all countries around the world. Whilst this may have been a very good song musically what if you take a step back and look at the lyrics? There are some major flaws with this imaginary world John Lennon has created for us with his song. That is why not looking in terms of music, but rather in terms of philosophy I disagree strongly with this song. The main reasons are no reason left to be living and a loss of diversity.

The first reason why I'm strongly against this song is that there is no reason left to be living. One of the lines of the song is "Nothing to kill or die for" (John Lennon); if that line came true, then what's the point in even living. If you have no principals or relations that you'd defend for everything, then why live. If you don't have a family who you'd sacrifice yourself for; if you don't wake up each day for something, then would that be a good place to live. The greater debate here is is it worth sacrificing everything you care about to keep peace and never take a risk. I'd argue that it absolutely isn't. The song also contradicts itself in this sense because it talks about a brotherhood of man and the world living as one. That isn't possible because you're not prepared to sacrifice yourself for anything or anyone, so how could you really be living in a brotherhood of man? It also talks about having no possessions. I question this too. You might have no need for greed or hunger, but is that the point? If you have no possession that you care about, then you lose all ambition. If you're not so caring about the wedding ring of your wife who died a week ago that you'd go into a fire to save it. I'd argue that greed and hunger in modest amounts can be good because that is ambition which fuels discovery and innovation. If you're competing with somebody else for a job, this song seems to be recommending that you just give up because you shouldn't have the hunger or drive to get it. Overall, there is no point in living if you follow the exact guidelines of this song.
The second problem is a lack of diversity. There wouldn't be any countries to travel to. No religions to explore. Everything would be similar to you. Even if there are wars and conflicts, it's worth it to keep that religion. To keep the diversity. You cannot have a world with no religions. Again there's nothing that you care about so much that you'd be prepared to do anything for it. If we followed the advise in this song, we'd probably not be having this debate right now because it would require us to be to like minded. You don't go to different countries to see different experiences in the world of the song. Everywhere would be just like your own country. There wouldn't be religions where people get to clearly express themselves, and thus, this song also implies a lack of freedom. Overall, diversity would be ruined by this song.

Overall, this song isn't a utopia. It's a dreadful world where there's nothing to live for and no diversity. It's a dull world where while there may be no conflicts, there's nothing to cherish, to care for, to love either. It ruins diversity and the whole point of living. I'd like to finish with a quote about diversity which demonstrates my point as to why diversity is essential, and I believe the world of the song would ruin it. "Diversity in the world is a basic characteristic of human society, and also the key condition for a lively and dynamic world as we see today" (Jinato Hu).



Thank you for offering this debate, I am happy to accept. Among other things, it gives me an excuse to listen to this extraordinary song again, and to clear up a misconception Con holds in common with many people who criticize atheistic/ skeptical/ free thought. John Lennon wrote Imagine to describe a world that had given up the limited fear based thoughts of national and religious jingoism. I hold that the song is very much a Utopian future- except in those nations for which it is in fact the present.

1st Objection by Con to Imagine is the line “nothing to kill or die for”, which you somehow take to mean having no “point to even living”. As a first argument, the point to living is obvious- when you consider the alternative. Further, the lyric is in a verse that points out no countries – i.e. no nation states that can make you kill or die for, say political convenience or profiteering. It doesn’t describe 'principles or relations'. I and many people like me wake up every day- for something that WE CHOOSE. Believe me, that is a great place to live. And Con, you are wrong about the brotherhood- a brotherhood is in fact the willingness to protect your fellows. In a society where that is the norm, it becomes unnecessary to anyone to kill or to be killed, as people who respect each other don't have a motive to hurt others.

Next, in what should have been the second point, con asks if you have no greed or hunger, is that the point? Well, YES. Again the alternative to having no hunger is to be hungry (in the songs context of world scale poverty and famine), which sucks by comparison. Next you seem to conflate greed and ambition, which in the context of Imagine are not synonymous. In a quick bit of advice- your hypothetical gold wedding band can handle the fire- better to wait and recover it safely. Again, ambition and greed should not be equivalent. One can have ambition that has nothing in common with being grasping, envious and coveting. Lennon himself was rich, from creating great works of art, and never was even vaguely miserly. Compete for a job all you want, but if it goes to your competitor, don't wail at the heavens- go get another job.

2nd Objection- The claim of a lack of diversity. I frankly don't know how you managed to hear a song that is an anthem to reason and forbearance and got that it called for the annihilation of diversity instead of removing divisive loyalties and Us vs Them mentalities. You made a few direct objections, not being able to fly to a country or explore a religion. May I suggest flying to a city and meeting the people, or exploring art and mythology, as all religions really are? And as far as wars being worth keeping the religion, that statement is wrong enough to be worth its own debate- the wars directly caused by religion are numberless, while those caused by art or philosophy? We are still waiting. It is tyranny that Imagine opposes, not diversity. It is obedience that authoritarian states want, and conformity instead of what you called 'clear expression' that religion preaches.

Overall, Imagine calls for a world where people respect and aid one another, not killing each other for ideas or ideology. It wants people to to cherish, to care for, to love each other, and to allow for free thought in ways priests and warlords instinctively despise. This world will be rich and peaceful and free. I will close with a quote of my own.

"A believer is a bird in a cage. A freethinker is an eagle parting the clouds with tireless wing." - Robert Ingersoll
Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, I still very firmly believe that noting to kill or die for does mean no point in living. My opponent mentioned that no nation can make you die for anything. What if you want to die for your nation? What if you want to give up your life to protect your country? My opponent would probably counteract that argument with the fact that the song says it's a brotherhood of man which would mean no death in the first place, yet for that to happen there would be no diversity. The only way to avoid conflict completely and totally is to get rid of the diversity which makes our world so interesting a place. Again, with the brotherhood argument my opponent mentioned diversity also must go, and later in this argument I will demonstrate how it's not worth getting rid of the diversity for that. Also, I feel that my opponent very much contradicts themselves when they state that they wake up for something that they choose. Well, you wouldn't be able to do that in the world of this song because the song clearly states that people are living for the current day and nothing more.
The point my opponent makes here is not actually a given fact but an argument and one which they don't present much supporting evidence of. The point that I'm discussing is are you able to have ambition without a little greed. That once again is a separate debate, but I will try to make the point that you can't have ambition without greed. To go get another job as my opponent mentions would be greedy even in a minor scale; you want something for yourself. To have no greed at all means you give your entire life up for others since greed is defined as "excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions". The only way not to have an excessive desire is to donate your lives to others. If everybody did that, that would mean that the innovation and personal ambition wouldn't happen any more. Therefore, the world set forth by John Lennon's song would crush innovation in the world.
My opponent's argument here doesn't work They suggest meeting people or exploring art. However, it works both ways; art can be about religion. People with religious beliefs can express themselves via art. If there was no religious diversity, then art would also have to suffer. I also ask my opponent how can they say that a song which directly states in its lyrics there should be no religion has diversity. The song may be against tyranny, but it is fairly clear that it is also attacking religion. Religion is worth fighting over. Is my opponent saying that there shouldn't have been fighting to protect the Jewish religion throughout the Holocaust in World War 2. Religion has done wondrous things such as helping to end slavery for instance with William Wilberforce in the U.K. or people helping with the Underground Railroad in the U.S.A .Overall, the song directly opposes religion and religious diversity may cause wars, yet it is also essential.
Overall, Imagine may be a world where people respect each other, but it's also a world without diversity, ambition, or a clear purpose in life. The world set forth in Imagine would not be positive as my opponent says. For me it's more of a dictatorship by not allowing others to succeed or diversity to flourish, and therefore, I believe imagine is not a utopia.



(I note that my opponent says I made an argument without supporting evidence. I'll try to correct that, but I cant suppress You Tube thumb nails, so the page looks rather ugly. I apologise, and hope the readers can parse out where the links should go.) Well, first- it is a fact that nothing to kill or die for means no point in killing, which is opposite not having a point to living. Life in the modern world is a fantastic, wonderful experience that can be valued for just about any part of it, and for most of us will never involve a literal body count. Further anyone who would fight to the death in order to have a point to living is clearly someone who has surrendered their claim to humanity. You next questions, Con, are troubling in that same way. As a veteran myself, I can assure that the service members I know were there to make "the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country" as George C. Scott said in Patton. Being willing to accept a risk of death to protect others is patriotic, but wanting to die for your preferred cause is simply patriotic suicide. Perhaps you didn't think through the logical endpoint, of elevating suicide bombers to a paragon of virtue. The next point, that of pacaem per conformitatem [|la|peace%20through%20conformity], is simply wrong. Peaceful states have always been the foundation of cultural golden ages [] and it is only ever through coercion or force that diversity is extinguished. Through the Inquisition, through the fatwa, through conquest and re education camps, it has been the use of power to remove difference in dress, word and deed for the purpose of destroying the difference in thought. Sooner or later, the people will rebel to establish peace and freedom to express themselves []. Citation for further reading: [] Also, my 'choosing what I wake up for', in other words my setting my own goals and amending them on a day by day (or month by month or minute by minute) basis is the very foundation of diversity. Finally, the line you quote, in context of the verse it is in, is to think and act in terms of our everyday reality instead of focusing on a hypothetical afterlife- but more on that later. Con, your next paragraph concerns "are you able to have ambition without a little greed". Taking your own quoted definition of greed as "excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions" neatly destroys as a slippery slope fallacy your entire argument. It is clear that ambition is a desire for yourself, as you said, but if it is reasonable ambition it doesn't rise to the level of greed, which again doesn't exist in a minor scale. A good job leads to a roof over your head, food on your table, savings for retirement- all of which is a sufficient ambition without being excessive, or worse rapacious. It also leaves time for hobbies [] []. The other big failure in your argument is that you argue that Imagine calls for complete subjugation of the self to the group- on an altruistic scale from 1 to 10, you only seem to recognize the 1 and the 10. It is in the 4-5-6 bracket that creative tension works, most of us reside, and Imagine sings to in the line "no NEED for greed or hunger/ A brotherhood of man". In the last argument, you correctly say that art can be about religion- without noting I have already said that it can also be about mythology, which is old religions after the toxins have been leached out by time. People with mythologies do express themselves through art[] []- those with religion tend to add bigotry and violence as well [] [] [WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT ]. As such, I am convinced that no religion means that there are no desecration of art [], no book burnings [], no prosecution of free thought [ ]. As for your question that is written as a statement, it is religious beliefs themselves that are a threat to diversity, as Imagine alluded to religions. Religion is a type of tyranny after all, and has been demonstrated to be very conformist and hostile to divergence to the very last degree. And "religion is worth fighting over", or even 'for' which I believe you meant- that last was a bald, risible assertion, that you may wish to make into a debate topic itself. I have already begun to demonstrate that various competing collections of fables, unverified assertions and fantastical delusions are probably the least worth fighting for concepts in the human mental inventory. World War 2 was to protect the Jewish people from exactly the sort of religious bigotry that itself always attempts to end diversity. I'm also going to call foul on the claim that religion ended slavery- the true story is much more complicated, and secular, than that. Overall, Imagine is a call for an entire world, where the tolerance, happiness and high living standards of nations and states such as Japan, Sweden, California and Massachusetts should progress through out the world, supplanting the relatively harsh governments and ignorance of places like Iran, North Korea, Texas and Missouri (and I know that there are exceptions within all those groups, it an overall statistic) []. It cannot be a dictatorship, but would encourage one to succeed on their own and to be kind to other while doing so. It is built on freedom of persons, freedom of expression, freedom from want and fear. That is as Utopian as it gets. I thank my opponent for this debate, and again encourage a topic on "Religion Is Worth Fighting Over"- or "For". That should be interesting, I may do it myself, although I am chronically short on time. I will close with a quote. "Doubt everything. Find your own light." -Last words of Gotama Buddha, in Theravada tradition
Debate Round No. 2
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by debate250 4 years ago
PeterO, you've made a great many statements without any backup evidence. You're saying that liberals are all the same yet contradictory; could you please explain where you drew these great many conclusions from?
Posted by bbowhan 4 years ago
@ The_Fool_on_the_hill 2 days ago-

As it has been two days, I will go ahead and accept this debate.
Posted by PeterO 4 years ago
John Lennon was so non-conformist and against the flow that he even rejected the requisite liberal ideology which so many adopted such that liberals in general can be seen today as a population apart and disdainful from the rest, though dependent upon the rest, professing an entitlement, and are clones as well as a parody of themselves.
Posted by debate250 4 years ago
I've made the debating period 3 days instead of 12 hours because I figured it would be easier to write arguments and reply.
Posted by The_Fool_on_the_hill 4 years ago
I am accepting.. I was just writting my argument... reopen it
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