The Gods of the Beatles’ “Imagine”

Dedicated to Rudyard Kipling’s memory

Based on “The Gods of the Copybook Headings,” by Rudyard Kipling


Though there never was a golden age when all men were noble and wise,

In certain epochs and countries, it seems, some have had more experienced eyes.

This cannot be said of America, nor of its commanders today,

For the Gods of the Beatles’ “Imagine,” it seems, more often than not hold sway.



Disgusted by slaughter in Vietnam, a new elite started to grow.

They grew up protected in middle-class life- war, poverty, they didn’t know.

But they sure as hell knew how to protest injustice and make their voices heard,

And at Woodstock they listened to Lennon and Co., singing to them these words:


“Imagine there’s no countries,” and that there’s a “brotherhood of man.”

Detach yourself from your fathers’ blood, detach from your native land!

Imagined Communities are simply unjust, and preclude perpetual peace.

Stop being a goddamned patriot and the wars of the nations will cease!


With “nothing to kill or die for” we’d be harmonious as could be;

No pursuit of honor or mammon or pride, no reason for you to hate me.

With nothing left to divide us, all “the world will be as one;”

“All the people sharing all the world” with God’s work on Earth all done.


Yet, “Imagine there’s no heaven,” they said, “and no religion, too.”

Presume “no Hell below us,” and then, do whatever you’d like to do!

You are the captain of your soul, the author of what is right-

These things they were told, they internalized, til they climbed to the heights of heights.



When the Berlin Wall came crashing down, and it seemed Democracy’d won,

The new elite had just fully matured and had taken its place in the sun.

No longer ensconced in utopian dreams, they nonetheless had been shaped

By glorious visions of human good, illusions they’d not escaped.


Applying these visions pragmatically, “Global Citizens” they became!

They read Fukuyama and Friedman and Co., and accordingly rewrote the game.

Democracy would eternally spread, to societies far and wide,

And free trade, free movement of peoples, were also on History’s inevitable side.


In an age when History’d ended, and in an age where the world was flat,

We’d gradually drift towards Lennon’s dreams, and that would be that would be that.

There’d be no need for strong nations- the UN could fix Third World woes,

No need to fight and die anymore, as we’d made into friends, our foes.



The once-new elite is useless today, in an age of irregular war,

Great powers arising, ungoverned spots thriving, international order impure.

For history has not ended; and the world is round as a ball.

And the Gods of the Beatles’ “Imagine”- they were wrong and inaccurate, all.


As it will be in the future, as it was at the birth of Man,

Human beings will live in societies with states if they possibly can.

And there always will be outsiders societies must unite against;

Though we won’t necessarily always be foes, we’ll neither always be friends.


Peering into the human spirit, one finds a curious fact of life

That we crave more than mere survival and comfort, often instead seeking strife.

We look for higher purpose than our own individual needs,

And so long as we do, we’ll commit on each other violent, horrible deeds.


And, where two or more are gathered, some “religion” of sorts will hold sway,

For it orders our relations and our rituals day-to-day.

It need not confess a god or gods; merely deal with moral right,

And concern itself with behavior, and strive to be society’s light.



The world Lennon imagined is a world not of this Earth.

The world his listeners tried to build is more trouble than it’s worth.

Better to stick to prudence; better to stay out of wrong;

Better to align your values with a better-thought-out song.

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