What the Media Won't Tell You About John Lennon

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The last week saw a paroxysm of media bathos on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of ex-Beatle John Lennon’s death.
They trotted out old footages of Lennon, the beads-bedecked hippie of “peace” and “brotherhood.” What the media didn’t and wouldn’t tell you is that Lennon himself had grown and matured beyond the infantilism of the Left. He had become wiser.
It is reprehensible for the media to freeze him in aspic — in their fantasy of Lennon.
H/t my friend Bob W.

Stop Imagining
By Jordan Michael Smith – American Conservative – December 6, 2010
John Lennon lived long enough to change his mind about God, money, and politics.
After John Lennon was shot on Dec. 8, 1980, thousands of fans spontaneously gathered around his apartment in New York City, imagining what the apostle of peace might have accomplished with the rest of his life. The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund received an outpouring of donations, some of which described the late Beatles songwriter as a “humanitarian.”
That was one John Lennon. And it was the one the world chose to remember, the Lennon opposed to the Vietnam War and hosting bed-ins for peace with Yoko Ono. But that was not the only Lennon, nor the final one. In fact, the one who emerged in 1980 after five years of shunning public life held views far removed from those of the counterculture icon. Yet this Lennon—a wiser, more honest self, according to the singer—seems to have been erased from public memory in favor of the bearded prophet perpetually singing “Imagine.”
In the last major interview Lennon gave, to Playboy in late 1980 (and later released unedited as a book, All We Are Saying), he and Yoko Ono offered opinions that can fairly be described as chastened, jaded, even provincial. The Lennon memorialized in Strawberry Fields in New York City, John Lennon Park in Havana, or the Imagine Peace Tower in Reykjavík—or the Lennon martyred at monuments in Italy, Spain, Peru, Hungary, and England—would not have said the following: “I am not going to get locked in that business of saving the world on stage. The show is always a mess and the artist always comes off badly… . All of you who are reading this, don’t bother sending me all that garbage about, ‘Just come and save the Indians, come and save the blacks, come and save the war veterans’.”
When it was pointed out that a Beatles reunion could possibly raise $200 million for a poverty-stricken country in South America , Lennon had no time for it. “You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. After they’ve eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles.” It’s a critique of foreign aid readers of P.T. Bauer would be familiar with. “You can pour money in forever. After Peru, then Harlem, then Britain. There is no one concert. We would have to dedicate the rest of our lives to one world concert tour, and I’m not ready for it.”
This was not the ’60s revolutionary who hung out with Yippies and Black Panthers. Not only did Lennon dismiss his earlier efforts, he rejected the entire idea of social change through political action. “I have never voted for anybody, anytime, ever,” he said. “Even at my most so-called political. I have never registered and I never will. It’s going to make a lot of people upset, but that’s too bad.”
“I dabbled in so-called politics in the late Sixties and Seventies more out of guilt than anything,” he revealed. “Guilt for being rich, and guilt thinking that perhaps love and peace isn’t enough and you have to go and get shot or something, or get punched in the face, to prove I’m one of the people. I was doing it against my instincts.”
For Lennon, the political gave way to the personal and what he saw as a much more important, difficult battle. “The hardest thing is facing yourself,” he told Rolling Stone. “It’s easier to shout ‘Revolution’ and ‘Power to the people’ than it is to look at yourself and try to find out what’s real inside you and what isn’t, when you’re pulling the wool over your own eyes. That’s the hardest one.”
Nothing seems less like the popular idea of Lennon, but there was more. In his definitive song, “Imagine”—Yoko Ono has said its lyrics express “just what John believed”—he famously dreams of a world with “no possessions.” The mature Lennon explicitly disavowed such naïve sentiments:
“I worked for money and I wanted to be rich. So what the hell—if that’s a paradox, then I’m a socialist. But I am not anything. What I used to be is guilty about money. … Because I thought money was equated with sin. I don’t know. I think I got over it, because I either have to put up or shut up, you know. If I’m going to be a monk with nothing, do it. Otherwise, if I am going to try and make money, make it. Money itself isn’t the root of all evil.”
The man who famously called for imagining a world with “No religion” also jettisoned his anti-theism. “People got the image I was anti-Christ or antireligion,” he said. “I’m not at all. I’m a most religious fellow. I’m religious in the sense of admitting there is more to it than meets the eye. I’m certainly not an atheist.”
Even more shocking to the idea of Lennon as a secular leftist, or a deep thinker, the man rejected evolution. “Nor do I think we came from monkeys, by the way,” he insisted. “That’s another piece of garbage. What the hell’s it based on? We couldn’t’ve come from anything—fish, maybe, but not monkeys. I don’t believe in the evolution of fish to monkeys to men. Why aren’t monkeys changing into men now? It’s absolute garbage.”
To some extent, Lennon simply took the same path that many Baby Boomers followed, from sloganeering left-winger to almost conservative father and husband. His final interviews make clear he was above all concerned with his family. “I’m not here for you,”he said, speaking to his fans. “I’m here for me and her and the baby.” He revered the institution of marriage, explaining how much it meant to get the state approving his union with Ono. “[R]ituals are important, no matter what we thought as kids. … So nowadays it’s hip not to be married. But I’m not interested in being hip.”
More than anything else, the Boomer sense of entitlement enraged him, to the point of sounding a little like another John—the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten:
“I used to think that the world was doing it to me and that the world owed me something, and that either the conservatives or the socialists or the fascists or the communists or the Christians or the Jews were doing something to me; and when you’re a teenybopper, that’s what you think. I’m forty now. I don’t think that anymore, ‘cause I found out it doesn’t f—-ing work!”
Lennon’s disillusionment, if that’s what it was, never carried him all the way to the right: he never became a Reagan Democrat, let alone a neoconservative. He was a stay-at-home husband and avowed feminist and remained deeply antiwar until his death. But he was far removed from his adoring fans’ image of him as a walking United Nations.
In fact, Lennon died as something of an individualist. “Produce your own dream,” he advised in lieu of getting involved in politics. “If you want to save Peru, go save Peru. It’s quite possible to do anything, but not if you put it on the leaders and the parking meters. Don’t expect Carter or Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it yourself.”
Lennon once sang, in “Revolution,” “But when you talk about destruction / don’t you know that you can count me out” to express his ambivalence about Weatherman-style violence. By 1980 he was skeptical even about nonviolent social change. “I can’t wake you up. You can wake you up. I can’t cure you. You can cure you.”
He had traveled a long way from his New Left days. This Lennon was more complex, less idealistic than the one on posters and T-shirts worldwide. Imagine that.

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0 responses to “What the Media Won't Tell You About John Lennon

  1. Humph, who knew? I guess age truly does bring some wisdom.

    • Imagine if he were alive today… “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom,” Bob Dylan said recently, for example.

  2. In my cyberspace wanderings, I’ve noticed a tendency for people to frame issues and subjects as left or right. In the real world, things don’t fit the boxes so neatly.The universe is complex, with no hard edges.
    Just “Imagine” young John Lennon, a working class kid from Liverpool, embarking on a journey most of us could never attain.That is what we call “the American Dream”.
    Lennon’s life was an evolution from the poor city kid to world traveler, Rock icon, mystic sage, then finally to a person trapped by fame and fortune, gunned down by a madman.A wonderful but tragic story.
    Celibrities are products of publicists, and image is usually far removed from their true personality.I’m sure Lennon was far more complicated than the “hippie / champion idealist” portrayed by the media.He lived a life of comfort and privledge. Nothing wrong with that.
    I’d like to believe that Lennon did represent the peace and love we need so much in the world.Most things in our society are driven by money; sad but true.Just as Lennon could not follow his script, we can’t either.
    To be “Christ like” in our society is next to impossible, and would result in a number unpleasant situations;Just “Imagine”.
    Lennon gave hope to a lot of people during a turbulent time; love him or dispise him.
    I would have “imagine” played at my memorial service when the day comes.
    Ironically, “Imagine” lives only in our imagination.The utopia that will never be.

  3. Thanks for the much-needed “rest of the story.” I’ve never cared much for the Lennon I’ve seen portrayed in the media, but I find myself liking the man portrayed here. A man who has made mistakes and struggled with himself, but finally recognized that the only person anyone can make change is himself.

  4. Much like P.J. O’Rourke who, upon opening his paycheck at his first real job with bills to pay as an adult after being a goofball during the ’60s, exclaimed, “Hey, who the @#%& is FICA? This is Communism!”

  5. Happy Sunday to you Steve I guess it’s true that the media and those devout followers of them can blanket just about anything.

  6. Well Steve, I had a workout partner in L.A. who was a publicist.
    He let me in on some inside info.
    Who was it that said “All the world’s a stage, and we are the actors”?

  7. I am looking for a good STD dating Internet site for people with herpes or HIV. Please let me know….
    [Note by Administrator of this blog: Each day I delete 30-50 spam pseudo-comments that wordpress had not already filtered out. But I’m letting this one stand. Of course I did first delete her business; Fellowship does not advertise and if we did, people will darn well pay for it! LOL ~Eowyn]

    • Damn, she thinks we’d know more than anyone else would? (I don’t know whether top be offended or flattered.)

  8. How dare you all..
    Lennon was Jesus reborn and come to save the world.
    Cut down in his prime by that CIA paid Judas with a gun and no life.
    Oh what have we become.
    I am ashamed to be alive after reading that and will now go to the bathroom take all my sleeping pills and go join that wonderful man up there in heaven.
    Thankyou for giving me a reason to leave this world.

  9. I think she means it folks.

  10. ah good riddance Imagined.
    I Imagine you are past your sell by anyway and those beads must stink by now and the hippy pants are all but faded.
    God bless and good bye.

  11. You are wrong. You are sitting at a computer for crying out loud! Do some research.

    • We have no idea what you mean. Who is “you” and how is “you” “wrong”? Wrong about what?
      You are incoherent. Perhaps it may be because English is not your native language since your IP address says you’re in Amsterdam?


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