Friday, May 6, 2011

Give Peace A Chance

In 1991, when President George Bush – now referenced as Senior – decided to attack Iraq because of its invasion of Kuwait, a group of musicians labelled themselves “The Peace Choir” and re-recorded “Give Peace a Chance”, originally released by John Lennon. The British BBC decided not to air the song either on radio or television, for it was felt that the song was too controversial. Of course, by 1991, the two decades old
song was already world famous, hummed and whistled on a daily basis. But it was, together with “War Is Over” and “Imagine” part of a trilogy of songs written by Lennon that sent out a powerful message of peace, a message which the leaders of those and our times did not want to hear.

War, rather than peace, is the ambition of politicians, even though they declare that wars are instigated to protect “our freedom”, even though our freedom is condensed more and more by those same politicians, “for our protection”. Of course. Logical. Not?

The 20th century knew three fervent promoters of the Message of Peace: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. All three were assassinated. Two were politically active, but Lennon was a musician. But he understood better than anyone that the entire world was his stage, due to the popularity of The Beatles. “The Summer of 1968” was in part Lennon’s creation, for an entire young generation listened to Lennon as one of their potential social leaders.

Personally, Lennon hoped that this new generation did not need or listened to leaders. He was convinced that everyone suffered from a “father problem”. He himself had grown up without the presence of his dad, but that was not the key problem: once an adult, Lennon believed, everyone looked towards politicians and religious leaders as substitute-dads and this was one of the primary problems of society. And though he preached a revolution, he felt that protest marches were not the right way to bring about change. Rallies were always abused by the authorities and the larger they were, the more death or destruction seemed to accompany them.

So how was the Revolution of Peace to come about? It was a subject that Lennon had pondered from the early days of his fame. Once a phenomenon, Lennon realized that everything he said, would not only be scrutinized, but also became headline news the world over. One somewhat loose remark about Jesus made him a most controversial figure in the United States and even resulted in a series of death threats. When he was asked about the war in Vietnam, he bit his tongue for many years, until he could no longer suppress his opinion. By that time, the world had come around to his point of view. He realized that people looked to him as a prophet. But as he realized that the entire world listened to what he had to say, and sometimes went ballistic over it, he realized that there were two distinct methods on how he could, if not should, manage the rest of his life.

He knew that his words could unleash commotion if not a revolt with an entire generation, if he so wanted to. He could become a demagogue. But if he were to, he would become a substitute father himself and that is not what he wanted to accomplish. Instead, he felt that the Revolution of Peace had to occur inside each of us. That he had to meditate and had to live in peace and harmony with himself. Internal peace had to be established and from this core, the world would change, if everyone could embrace this basic message. That was the Peace Message that Lennon wanted to send into the world and music was his initial vehicle.
And why was he murdered? Of course, the standard version is that it was a coincidence, but look beyond the official line and it is obvious that many authorities considered Lennon to be a lose cannon – a man who greatly upset the standard social status quo. He was world famous, had the ear of millions if not billions, and preached a message of peace at a time of war. Once The Beatles dissolved and he was married to Yoko Ono, the message of peace became coupled with a message of love. United, Lennon and Ono began to organize specific campaigns so that the world heard the message of peace and love time after time. It had become his mantra. But it was a mantra that was the opposite of the Message of the (Cold) War that the substitute dads preached. And thus Lennon was “accidentally” killed by a lone gunman. But thirty years onwards, his message remains present in the collective unconscious and hopefully continues to inspire more than just one generation of us.

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