From Tolerance to Tyranny

C.S. Lewis, Image: Wikipedia



“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.” 

– John Lennon, final chorus from the song Imagine




Greetings my fellow Americans!

I was still wet behind the ears during the glory years of the Beatles, and have scattered firsthand memories of Lennon’s solo work in the 1970s, leading up to his murder in 1980 at the hands of John Hinckley, Jr.  Having grown up on 60s, 70s, and early 80s Rock-n-Roll, I anecdotally became quite familiar with the Beatles, and have enjoyed (and still enjoy) much of their music.  I also recall singing along with Lennon’s Imagine while enjoying the tune without thinking much about the words, as with many songs of that era.

It wasn’t until about 20 years ago that I really started listening to what Lennon was saying, especially during the choruses, and first noticed just how intolerant of thoughts other than those he was expressing in the song his message in it seemed to be.  I had anecdotally heard of his “Jesus complex” and the direct quote “we are more popular than Jesus” that sparked a brief rebellion against Beatlemania, but chalked that up to the arrogance which seemed directly proportional to fame for nearly all musicians and singers of that era.

“I hope someday you’ll join us….”  This phrase has stuck out to me more than any other since my lyrical epiphany of a score of years ago, and I believe epitomizes the dichotomy of thought coming from those of the Baby Boomer generation who now appear to be spearheading the fall of the United States of America.  I also see it now as seminal to the cultural rift which has been steadily widening within our borders since the 1960s.

In an effort to better understand, and ultimately thwart, the arguments of those who have grown to apparently hate everything the United States has ever represented, I’ve been trying to figure out at what point the Boomers’ early message of peace, love and understanding began to devolve into abject intolerance, and outright hatred, for anyone who did not fully ascribe to their notions of peace, love and understanding.  And when did it become appropriate, for those whose professed desire had been for everyone to live as they pleased without judgment, to judge others for being overly judgmental?  How did tolerance turn into tyranny?

To attempt to answer this, I hearken to the musings of C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity regarding our innate sense of right ways and wrong ways to approach any situation.  Said Professor Lewis in 1942, “It seems, then, that we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong.  People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as they get their [mathematic] sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.”[i]  Lewis’ observation was that even those around him who claimed to have no belief in Right and Wrong were consistently quick to point out when they believed something was “unfair,” a judgment which could only be premised on a sense of right and wrong which could not be ignored, despite verbal claims to the contrary.

This observation by Lewis of human nature goes to the heart of where we find ourselves today as a nation.  On the one hand, we still have a significant number of people who believe in individual freedom and liberty for all, and have effectively tolerated (perhaps to our detriment) behavior we have found objectionable and in which we would not engage ourselves, but have permitted for the sake of preserving that relative freedom in America.  On the other, we have those who have sought not just individual freedom and liberty, but also the Utopia imagined by the likes of John Lennon.  Some have risen to positions of governmental and/or corporate power which they now wield to move beyond the “hope someday you’ll join us” stage and to compel such joining; many others ascribe to the Imagine mantra, and are fine with the notion of “fundamental transformation” for the sake of this greater good.  The apparatus which all despised in their youth of the 1960s is now the instrument of the “tolerance” upon which they insist everyone exercise—or else.

Of course, in order to enforce tolerance, someone needs (and is empowered to) decide what is or is not tolerable in any given situation in this new world order, and have the power to impose consequences for non-conformance.  So while the stated ultimate objective is to remove all judgment from our society and its culture, and to enable the “world to live as one,” someone must pass judgment and sentence until all non-compliant judgment is eradicated; in other words, someone must act as the final authority regardless of how much or little aberrant judging is still occurring.  The world vision of John Lennon requires that final authority to control and force the masses into compliance. 

Regardless of the true motivations of the latest crop of world beaters and control freaks and their hordes of compliant followers (be it naïve idealism or something more nefarious), the message of Imagine could easily be considered an anthem for their actions over the past 50 years, as their trek for universal tolerance has now devolved into universal tyranny.  While attempting to create the “perfect” society on this planet is nothing new, the ongoing idolization of the Beatles and their assassinated leader, combined with a budding anti-American counterculture that burst forth in the late 1960s and continues to spread, this latest wave of humans-can-do-world-building-better-than-God has appeared to coalesce around Lennon’s vision.

Man’s greatest enemy has always been his own arrogance, along with his failure to truly learn from past mistakes.  Consider yourself blessed if you can see this latest drive to perfection at the hands of other “tolerant” humans as the fallacy that it will prove to be, just as all such previous endeavors have.  And also pray that the collateral damage that will be caused as such lessons are relearned is minimal.

[i] Lewis, C.S., Mere Christianity, p. 7

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1 thought on “From Tolerance to Tyranny”

  1. It’s the “Tolerant Utopian” who is most dangerous. He is the one who is not considering anyone else, and is only trying to make everyone else bow to his ideas.
    “I hope you will join us… so the world can live as one.” If we were supposed to live as one, we would all be set up as the same as everyone else, no brain to use, individually, no uniqueness in man and woman anywhere in the world. It’s really pretty damned arrogant for one to hope for something that someone “imagined” on his own.
    That tolerant utopian could have considered the views and uniqueness of the world before he started out on his trek for being another “Ford” in Brave New World, because that’s where his world would end up. Lennon had a mix of communism and something else that I’ll leave to the imagination of others.

    Put John Lennon in the same category as that Coca Cola song, “I’d like to teach the world to sing…” Peace, harmony and love comes from another place, not theirs, but God’s Kingdom.
    Now, that song of his, “Tax Man”, is another side of Lennon that makes some scratch their heads, also.

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