Wikipedia tells me that after the success of Imagine, John Lennon said that he’d realised that you have to “put your political message across with a little honey”. So, to the eminently singable but oddly facile Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band.
Many of the core elements of a classic Christmas song, there. A catchy chorus, a (seemingly) heartwarming message, a children’s choir. But of course, John & Yoko were part of the counterculture, and trying to use these familiar tropes to infiltrate hearts and minds and end the Vietnam War.
Maybe it seemed smarter or more subversive at the time, but listening today it feels laughably simplistic. War is over if you want it. I mean… It isn’t though, is it?
In a week where our MPs are voting about whether to bomb Syria, and the media is trying to make us angry with Jeremy Corbyn for his crazy conviction that bombing mayyyybe isn’t the answer, it all just feels a bit patronising.
War isn’t over. It wasn’t over when the American forces left Vietnam, and it won’t be over whether or not we start airstrikes on Syria. It seems like war is a constant. Sometimes it’s on TV and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s religious and sometimes it isn’t. Often it’s politically or commercially driven – and the two go hand in hand.
There’s something that strikes me as a bit smug and Westernised about the sentiment that if “your” war is over, that means they all are. I know I bang on a fair bit about the Rwandan genocide, but that’s because I was completely horrified at the fact that something that had happened in my lifetime had barely even entered my sphere of consciousness until I was confronted by a memorial to the million or more lives that were lost. And yet I know the same is true today – Wikipedia (again) lists 18 “wars or major wars” as currently ongoing. I can barely tell you about four of them. I chuck a monthly direct debit to War Child, and hope for the best.
I don’t have a particular point I’m trying to make, here. But I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to understand what makes one human being think they have the right to take the life of another. I just cannot fathom it.
Anyway, all of that said, I don’t begrudge John & Yoko their place on my Christmas playlist. The honey might be too sweet for me, but I cannot argue with a children’s choir.
Merry Christmas Kyoko. Merry Christmas Julian.