John Lennon’s Imagine, 50 years later, resonates with a global politics of brotherhood

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John Lennon’s Imagine turns 50 tomorrow. Though a song cannot be pinned down to one day, it was on July 4, 1971, that finishing touches were put on the recording of Imagine. It was released in an album later that year.

How might we honour, or just respond to, this poignant anniversary? What is the bittersweet significance of Lennon’s dream of a world living as one? Should his longing for universal brotherhood be dismissed as futile because Lennon himself was killed by a “fan” who, among other reasons, was incensed by Imagine?

At a time when identity-based hatred is diversely justified across the world, it is easy to feel entrapped in a pessimistic view of human societies. For those so afflicted, Imagine can be little more than a hippie fantasy.

Most of us know people who feel offended by Lennon’s proposition that there is neither heaven nor hell, “above us, only sky”. Add to that the vision of “no countries”, “no…

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