Pen vs Sword

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By: Risim Rongpi

It doesn’t really require a great deal of thought to put the whole phrase into perspective. Before we dwell deeper into this topic and I put my perspective, the meaning of the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword,” means that communication (particularly written language), or in some interpretations, administrative power or advocacy of an independent press, is a more effective tool than direct violence. In simpler words, we use this proverb to mean that problems can be solved or purpose achieved more effectively through verbal communication than by armed violence.

History has lot of examples to promote this phrase. Let’s look at Martin Luther King Junior. Martin Luther King Jr, a social activist and Baptist minister played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. King sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protests. One of his most famous speeches “I have a dream” exposed America’s sins of the past (slavery) and the lack of democratic principles which contradicted “the land of freedom and opportunities”. When he addressed what he called “the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation,” he would inadvertently set off a worldwide movement for racial emancipation.

The statement, the pen is mightier than the sword is a compelling phrase because it is obviously wrong in its literal sense. To be blunt, never bring a pen to a sword fight.

The pen as a metaphor could probably be expanded to broadcast, websites, social media, et cetera. A pen affects many people while a sword tends to deal with a single customer at a time. So, you can tell a compelling story, share relevant information, or convince many people of an idea, you could affect greater change than threatening, harming or killing people one by one. But here I am trying to oppose the impact of the phrase. If the pen can be a news or opinion empire, then a sword could be a military, or a terrorist group. The world has been changed by bringing the army in a word fight. The Nepalese Civil War or the Maoist Insurgency is an example that highlights this fact. Despite the fact that the civil war was for democracy and a Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed, the battle between Government of Nepal and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal is what led to the abolition of monarchy in Nepal.

Now here is the dilemma – the pen might be mightier than the sword, but actions speak louder than words. It is true that the pen is a tool that can trigger revolutions, however what makes things memorable is when, who and how the sword was used. Words persuade while actions are remembered. The sword is also a deterrent – you can brandish it more easily than you fight. So the threat of violence is a more compelling force.

However, I would go a little further and say that media has a huge impact and violence can be quite convincing – but a pen backed by a sword is a wicked combination. One final thought, a pen can write, sell, praise and instill fear. And a sword can only cower and kill. While we can come up with ideas to stand for or against the metaphor, but at the end it depends whether you’re a pacifist or a warmonger.

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