Let’s take John Lennon up on his offer. Let’s imagine what the world would be like with no countries, religions or a heaven or hell. Let’s imagine a world with no possessions and nothing important enough to be willing to kill to protect it or die to ensure its continuing. Let’s imagine Lennon’s world where all the people are living for nothing other than today.
In this world, people will have saved no money for their retirement. After all, retirement is somewhere down the line. All the people would have massive debts – borrowed every penny from everywhere they could, maxed out their credit cards, bought houses they couldn’t pay for – because the promise to repay those debts were made yesterday. In Lennon’s world people would splurge on big screen TVs, using money that should have gone to buying health insurance, but, alas, the big game is tonight while their health at the moment is just fine.
There wouldn’t be much kindness or decency in a world where all the people are living for today. Kindness is not a form of instant gratification, it’s a lubricant that makes society work in the long run. The long run goes on for years. Those living for today don’t care about the long run and thus they don’t care about how society will function any further down the line than twenty-four hours from now. This world would be vulgar – horribly vulgar – as refinement, as the word suggests, takes time. Who knows, one might even find pornography on every corner, filth spewing from the radios, maybe even someday a gathering of the best and the brightest in all the land, will declare the vulgar and profane “beautiful,” and name something like “F---k You” – spelled out, of course -- the very best record of the year.
In this world you would find the infrastructure going to hell. Maintenance is performed to prevent disasters down the road and since it is down the road, the people who are living for today are not likely to invest in it. Instead, monies taken from those who have not yet become enlightened (and thus work hard and well), said to be for infrastructure would, instead, be redirected into the pockets of those whose works are so infantile and incompetent that they could not be sustained except in a utopia where possessions are confiscated and redistributed at the point of a gun.
Besides, who would do the work? Why in the world would anyone do the hard physical labor, put off momentary pleasure to acquire the skills to be, say, a plumber and the wade in those murky waters when, with no possessions, he can equally “share the world” by sitting on the beach all day? In fact, in Lennon’s world, one might even find a class of people who do nothing except talk or paint or draw who look down on the hard working and the skilled for being so foolish as to not have joined them in their careers as “artists” and stand-up comedians and college lecturers and daytime chat show hosts like Joy Behar. The might be an entire class of people convinced that those who work hard have something “the matter” with them and become fearful and filled with loathing for them. After all, by not living for today – by putting off instant gratification for a better tomorrow – they are throwing the whole utopia thing off kilter.
In Lennon’s world the schools would quickly go to pot. Educating the child would be recognized as unimportant, since an education is designed to prepare the child for a better tomorrow. Everyone knows “the children are the future,” and, thus, to those who are living for today, their education would be meaningless. Feelings would replace facts in Lennon’s paradise, so one might see children who graduate from high school and college completely illiterate and unable to count but filled with good feelings about themselves. “Self-esteem” and not knowledge or competence might become the dominant “educational” goal in Lennon’s land for an education is for the future but feelings are right now.
As for the teacher, well, teaching is hard. It’s sometimes unpleasant. It’s so much easier to inflate the child’s grade, send him along to the next level and make your today easier by doing so. Who knows, in this world, one might even find themselves opening the newspaper to find more and more teachers having sex with their young students. Why not? After all, who’s going to complain? Those old fuddy-duddies? They’re so yesterday!
In this world, parents wouldn’t parent. Why would they? Tough love is tough and, well, it can hurt peoples’ feelings. Besides, punishing the child for doing wrong is an act meant to build better character tomorrow. You might even find in Lennon’s world parents who proudly proclaim, “my child is my best friend.” Friends are so much easier, so much more fun, so much less hassle than children. You don’t have to educate friends. You wouldn’t dream of disciplining your friends. And if the child grows up to be an illiterate thug, oh well, that’s another day and someone else’s problem.
Actually, that’s the good news, for that at least presupposes that the child has parents. But, in Lennon’s world, why would anyone bother to parent at all? Thus, this “utopia” would likely breed an epidemic of out-of-wedlock births (marriage being a promise to stay together “till death do you part” which, in most cases, is longer than the next twenty-four hours,) and mothers with as many baby-daddies as babies. After all, sex is thrilling in the moment but relationships can last for years.
In Lennon’s “utopia,” abortions would be sold as fast, easy and, of course, free of all moral qualms. There’d be no moral issue involved in abortion for the answer is easy – the party’s tonight, the baby? Not due for another few months. Why, in Lennon’s utopia you might even find abortion factories running so near capacity they’ll come to be known as “mills.”
And what might the children who live be like? Well, it wouldn’t be surprising to find them vulgar, violent, illiterate and undisciplined, perhaps brandishing the latest technology (gifts from the folks who want to be their friends) gathering into mobs and doing as they please. Heaven and hell? Not their concern in Lennon’s world. The ire of their parents? Non-existent. The courts? Well, maybe (if they don’t get a Lennon-ite Liberal judge) but prison is tomorrow, that leather jacket feels good right now!
And just as Lennon’s world would see the end of civility it would see the end of profundity. The beautiful would be replaced by the titillating. Rather than great plays from the heart and mind, one might find monologues emanating from vaginas. Rather than great ballets, one might find standing ovations bestowed upon those who masterfully puppet their penises. Rather than plays about love, duty and honor, one might find entire musicals about an orgasm.
Like small children – those who do live for the day -- feces would hold great fascination for “artist” in Lennon’s world. In his utopia, Broadway might have plays with names like “Urinetown” while museums would eschew the Monets and the Manets for a drawing of Jesus in a jar of excrement. Body fluids and body functions and not the meaning of life would be the depths they’d plumb for genius takes time but cutting a fart is instantly relieving. It’s so much easier for a sit-com writer to type: “Then Al flushes the toilet” than it is to come up with a clever bon mot.
Virtuosity would be looked down on in Lennon’s world for it is the product of hard work and personal sacrifice. Instead, the musically illiterate shouting vulgarities and guttural emotions would dominate the airwaves and populate the recording studios. Who knows, maybe one day the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences might compile a list of nominees for the “best song” of the year and the winner will be a wholly unmelodic exhortation to have sympathy for pimps because, well, it’s hard out there for them. (The pimp, in Lennon’s world would be the hero, for he is living the dream, “sharing all the world” by getting others to do the work.)
Of course, we don’t have to imagine Lennon’s world. Half of America now lives it and is doing everything in their power to drag the rest of us down that sewer pipe with them. Millions are in debt. Millions have no savings. Our infrastructure is in ill-repair and our schools have gone from best to worst. Our teachers aren’t teaching, our parents aren’t parenting our children are illiterate, incompetent and lazy, taking to the streets in flash mobs, randomly pummeling and pillaging for the momentary pleasure. Out-of-wedlock birthrates are epidemic, abortions are commonplace and so are mothers with multiple “baby-daddies.” “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp” was chosen as the “best song” of the year by the glitterati at the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and The Vagina Monologues is one of the most celebrated plays of our lifetime. Broadway is littered with infantile productions and flushing toilets do now garner laughs on prime time TV. Welcome to Lennon’s world, it’s nothing like you imagined.