The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

Mont Blanc-149 fountain pen is emblazoned with a ‘Union Jack flag’ on the body of its barrel likening the nib of the pen to an explosive rocket. The villainous Fatima Blush, a fictional spectre assassin and the secondary antagonist in the James Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again (1983)’, meets her end when a rocket propelled by the Mont Blanc-149 shooting pen, leaving behind only a pair of smoking heels. The scene of this film ‘Never Say Never Again’ so created shows how fatal and deceptive a pen releasing explosives can be if used as a fire weapon truly in the literal sense. No doubt, a pen can never be equal to a fire weapon spewing the lethal effects on the target of attack. However, pen is more than competent to fight the righteous battle or make gruesome dissections with unsurpassable analytic discriminatory ability. If at all one desires to draw a parallel between a pen and a sword, a variety of brands such as Pen knife, Pen gun, Pen dagger, Arrow Pen are the real weapons available in the shape and size of a pen together with the ink of explosives hurling out languages full of images, imageries, ideas and ideologies, sharpness of which make or mar the future of individuals and human society.

The meaning of this age old adage, ‘Pen is mightier than sword’ is simple: ideas rule the world, not fear. Pen, though looks small made up of much lesser amount of metal against a pure metallic heavy blood-thirsty sword, is the ultimate winner in the long run. Those who wielded pen with aplomb such as philosophers, writers, poets, journalists, teachers and novelists were imprisoned, tortured, maimed or even killed by dictators, cruel kings and so-called custodians of religions just to give impression that the might of brute physical force of sword is mightier than a feeble nib of a pen. Sword signifying physical violence boasts of having power to eliminate the wielders of pen and suppresses the ideas which are produced by pen.

 India’s struggle for independence was mainly attained through the use of non-violence, a tactical weapon, which uprooted the mighty British Empire where sun never set. Lala Lajpat Rai, Subramanium Bharati, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and Aurobindo Ghose fought from the front against the British colonisers and stood guard to protect the motherland India by publishing their ideas in newspapers and books using their pen which caused ripples and untamed waves finally transforming into a tsunami of revolution. It must not be forgotten that “the General who wins the battle makes many calculations in the temple” as stated by Sun Tze. The battle plans or war strategies drawn on a piece of paper using pen when executed faultlessly reward victory. Not only that, even a treaty, after the war between the countries is over with all the necessary terms and conditions written in black and white, is signed by using pen. Ultimately, sword that fought the war gets concluded with a stroke of pen. Pen replaces sword.

Pen is used in writing autobiographies of great men who walked on this planet including the ruthless dictators who were firm believers of sword, such as Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong and Muammar Al Gaddafi. All the angels and devils are kept immortal on this planet only by pen unfolding a narrative recounting their life struggles. “Mein Kampf” translated as ‘My Struggle’ is a prison diary by Adolf Hitler while Mao Zedong has his own story to share through “The Little Red Book”. Muammar Al Gaddafi opened up in “Green Book” and Joseph Stalin was able to sell a total of 42 million copies of a book based on his life story printed in Russian language within his own country Russia. All of these were great dictators in their own right but could not resist the magical and ever-lasting power of pen by publishing books on their life-events.

“If everyone is thinking alike then someone isn’t thinking”, says the late George S. Patton, a brilliant US military general. His book ‘War as I knew it’ appeared posthumously in 1947. ‘A Soldier’s General’—An Autobiography by the Retd. Gen J. J. Singh, an ex-Indian Army Chief is to be read to know about the war. Good generals know when and how to use pen even to teach how to win a war as the power flowing from the barrel of a gun aims at establishing a rule. PB Shelley, Munshi Premchand, Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Maxim Gorky all had penned their ideas and stories whereas likes of Rani of Jhansi-Laxmibai, George Washington, Julius Caesar and others had fought for their motherland with conviction and liberated their folks from oppressors using the swords. The pen warriors simply did not thrust their ideas but only reflect their thoughts by creating prose and poetry which have been carried through many generations and will pass on to many future generations. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than one thousand bayonets.” He suppressed dozens of newspapers in France and put publications under sanctions. Napoleon wanted to control the pen as most of the rulers do. He realised that the pen in his own hand can prove to be a powerful weapon. Says Broyes, “He knew that he could undermine the allies who had defeated him through his published memoirs and he actually did.” The late Anand Bakshi, the famous lyricist of ‘Indian Film Industry’ (popularly called Bollywood) was a less known soldier. He was a sword-wielder as he had retired from the Indian Army. Pen gave him status, position and innumerable number of fans as poet and lyricist when he wielded pen. It is a wrongly believed notion that barrel of a gun is necessary to bring justice in the life of citizens. The history of nations throughout the world proves that ballot symbolising pen through which the constitution of the country is upheld plays more important role in creating a just society.

The problem of pen, as someone said, that it is mightier than the sword, be careful how you use words flowing through it. Late Issac Assimov, an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, said, “Writing to me is simply thinking through my fingers.”

Writing can be more consequential as compared to bloodshed. It is easier to wield a pen using few fingers than a sword which requires the fist and the strength of wielder’s arm to hold but pen which slides over a piece of paper to make impressions in the form of picture or words carries more meaning across the generations than the poor sword which is used for beheading and eliminating those who produce ideas. In Charlie Hebdo shooting on January 7, 2015, gunmen armed with rifles and other weapons killed 12 people and injured 11 others in Paris. Terrorists forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo and destroyed all that they could. Pencils of cartoonists were lying on the ground broken into pieces by indiscriminate shooting. Later, same broken pencils were picked up and sharpened to create more cartoons for next issue of weekly newspaper. The motif ‘a pencil broken into pieces by a gun was sharpened again to produce more pencils’ was shown in banners. Beautiful ideas of pen are mightier than the sword. Pen is the tongue of mind and a tongue is mightier than the blade, wrote Euprides, Greek poet who died in 406 BC. Ideas delivered by pen give a purpose and direction to gun or sword that spins into actions.

A simple birthday gift of a pen to a growing up boy, a young adult or adorable ones and wise old men is far better than a gift of a gun. Even the presenter of a gift knows very well the worth of a pen and the influence it creates on the recipient of the gift not just on a person but also on the family, community, society and on the nation. “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write,” says peace activist the late Martin Luther. Ms. Malala Yousufzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate and human rights advocate, says one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world. The testimonies cited above unambiguously prove the might of the pen.

Throughout the history of the mankind, weapon and brush were used together or alternatively in different periods of time. The oldest cave paintings (the art of upper Paleolithic age), found in both Western Europe and Indonesia, are over 40,000 years old. According to the paper presented at The Society of American Archeology, Honolulu in 2013, the evidence of using projectile weapon is somewhere between 91000-98000 years ago. Weapons were used much earlier but much of water has flown in Indus, Nile, Hwang He and Tigris since then and brush, though simple in form and use, has helped mankind grow, prosper and flourish till the present day. Pen is never perceived as lethally dangerous to mankind as complex and advanced weapons are. Pen stands for playwrights, essayists and novelists and recently has been expanded to include poets, editors, cartoonists, painters and artists of all forms and varieties. PEN is also an abbreviation for ‘Power Enriched in Nib’. And, nib dipped in darkest of ink can bring the brightest of light in a person’s life. This power of nib, when used to give death sentence in a court is normally broken so that the incident does not happen again with a nib to another person in future. Generally, nib of a pen is not used to kill a person. It is extremely rare that the power of pen is judged by its ability to poke into someone’s eye but sword is always judged by its ability to cause violence and hence to be dreaded. Revenge of sword by another sword is simply understood and often quoted as ‘as eye for an eye will turn the whole world blind.’ It goes with another famous saying, ‘there is no stronger sword than a pen of a learned man’. The takeaways from the above explanation can also be put as ‘ink of a saint’s pen is no less holy than the martyr’s blood’. Pen has evolved a long way over the ages from being a quill to fountain pen to ball pen and from being ordinary to become personalised pen to further progress into the next stage of being a golden pen and even the plastic pen. Pen has evolved in form and size but its soul hasn’t. The soul is the same. It pinches, hurts, tickles and awakens the wielder to explore multiple dimensions of life both outward and inward. Pen will continue to do so till the human species survive on Earth.    

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