Today, millions of people will listen to John Lennon sing Imagine. For me, Working Class Hero reveals the man behind Imagine. It also depicts the pain that makes Imagine such a hopeful anthem for humanity. The first lines of the song grab the shattering experience that shaped his life and music—As soon as you're born they make you feel small / By giving you no time instead of it all / Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all. The soul wails. It aches of coming into this world, bright spirited, curious and music-filled and having the wonder of being alive deadened by neglect. John and we feel less than zero. We drown in the confusion of not knowing why our parents brought us into the world only to abandon us.
They hurt you at home and they hit you at school / They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool / Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules. John expresses the pain of not belonging anywhere. Safety is nowhere. Hurt and pain are everywhere. His natural brilliance and playfulness are shunned and disdained. Not able to escape his, or our, own nature and the world's rules drives him and us mad.
When they've tortured and scared you for twenty-odd years / Then they expect you to pick a career / When you really can't function you're so full of fear. When our education in hatred, abuse and dread of the world is complete, we're thrown into the marketplace and expected to fend for ourselves. But we're paralyzed by fear. Despite outer appearances, he and we can't function.
Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV / And you think you're so clever and classless and free / But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see. Suffering from the post traumatic stress of being raised in an abusive society John and we medicate ourselves with belief, relationships and entertainment. We buy into our programing and still see ourselves as the small nothings we were when we were born.
There's room at the top they're telling you still / But first you must learn to smile as you kill / If you want to be like folks on the hill. Numb and confused, the society that abused John and us offers a way out. It tells us ti whistle while we do the dirty work of beating out the other guy and polluting the earth. Then we will have our shining house on the hill.
After this dark picture of a tortured soul, the only healthy path to recovering John's and our humanity is to imagine an alternate way. It is to enter a place where no boundary lines separate people, there's no valid reason to murder, no one hoards the wealth. In the face of society's ignorance and brutality, the courageous act is to dream of another way. It is to leave the nightmare of division and hatred and enter the dream of love and unity. John Lennon made this courageous break and showed us an imperfect, human, working class way. Every day I'm grateful he had the heroic heart to dream a new dream and he had the soul to live it in the world. Thanks, John. We love you for it.