Meditation on “Imagine” pt. 2

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

This part screams to me. “Imagine there’s no countries / It is isn’t hard to do…” To which my first response is “Duh! How can anyone believe countries exist?” I’ve posted on the subject a couple of times before here and here; not only do I find it “not hard” to “imagine there’s no countries,” but it seems a simple, obvious fact that there are none.

However, looking back, it wasn’t always obvious to me… it was a revelation that came to me over a period of reflection. I think I was in high school, and I was thinking about phrases I would hear in the news… “Russia said,” “China announced,” “Washington replied,” “Israel demanded,” etc.

I realized that statements like these were simply shorthand for quickly describing something far more complex: “Russia” hadn’t said anything… A statement was issued with the authority of the Soviet government declaring something. And that statement probably had probably gone through some quick drafts and discussion among General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and his advisors, clarifying shades and nuances of what precisely was meant, what should be said, and why. In short, a small group of people, strongly influenced by a single individual, in essence different from no other persons on the globe, had made a statement.

Now this statement had some weight in the world, because the individuals who issued it were presumed to have “power” over a “country.” I realized that “power” itself was another slippery fiction. Again, it was a shorthand for the notion that a person had the means to effect what he or she desired to do, in spite of opposition. In the Soviet Union, the “power” of the individuals making a statement, was considered close to total… that if anyone resisted their effort, say they tried to turn off the microphone or take the statement out of the speaker’s hand, they would be immediately arrested and certainly face dire consequences.

Yet the only way they could be arrested was for other individuals chose to act in accord with his orders, thus granting him “power.” If no one?no soldiers, no police, no judges, no comrades—would cooperate, he would have no “power.”

Ditto, then, for all the supposed countries making statements. All that was really happening was persons at the head of organizations with usually-respected chains of command were making statements… Countries were not talking. The country was something with no existence other than the fact that a large group of persons agreed to pretend it existed and respect the established chains of command.

Could a mass of people destroy a country by simply no longer agreeing to pretend it existed? That was a question on many minds in 1991. For over a year, persons in Vilnius, Lithuania had declared that “the Soviet Union” did not exist in the area called Lithuania, that Lithuania was “independent.” Yet most people inside and outside the Soviet Union kept agreeing to pretend that it did.

Their willingness to do so collapsed following the kidnapping of President Gorbachev in August that year. Suddenly “the Soviet Union” seemed a flimsy and undesirable fiction to hold on to. Others were proposed and found more appealing: Russian Federation, Ukraine, Commonwealth of Independent States, etc. On Christmas Day, 1991, the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered from the Kremlin forever, no longer a symbol of “rule” but a piece of cloth evoking the past. Influential persons living in the landmass that had been called the Soviet Union had agreed to stop pretending it existed, and it was gone.

That is the extent of reality a country has. That is why you were taught to believe your country (no matter what it is), is real, and that your country (no matter what it is), is “good.”

At this time, Southwest Asia, from Afghanistan in the East, to Iraq in the center, and Lebanon and Israel in the West, is engaged in varying levels of warfare, with Syria and Iran participating behind-the-scenes.

But imagine there’s no countries… only people. No past to avenge. No future to fight for. No cause to enlist into a militia or terrorist group for. Nothing to kill or die for. Only men and women, boys and girls, all alike in having the same human needs, fears, aspirations.

That’s the way I see it now. What will it take for others there to imagine it too?

Posts in this series: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, interlude, conclusion.