The old nursery rhyme went : “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me”. Is the pen mightier than the sword? Well , let’s face it , in a physical confrontatation , the fellow with the sword would easily dominate. In real terms, though, anyone with a modicum of motor skills can quickly learn to lift a sharp weapon or a gun and injure or kill his pen-wieding foe.The pen is a tool only for a skilled user. I dare say that in the age of the computer keypad, it may be a skill that many have little use for and has all but atrophied.It may be a good time to check your own handwriting. The gun on the other hand , can be aimed and fired by almost anyone.It takes time, skill and talent to write and draw cartoons.Let anyone try , if they think otherwise.
In real terms , even the physical pen has been replaced by digital pens in the artist’s toolbox but they are used essentially the same way as their ink-filled counterparts. In reality, the tools are simple inert extensions of the hand and the brain .They are idea- carriers, worked by the brain and the hand.So it’s not the actual pen that is a problem but rather the ideas conjured up by the user that may be mightier.Well, last week in France, the pen , most decidedly ,lost out to the sword…or gun . When you are armed with a pencil it is a physically unequal contest when confronted with an armed killer. It is an easy and unequal contest.You might say that brutalism won out over brain.Ideas were attacked on the Parisian streets.
Many will want to argue that there is a social and religious context to this latest attack.There always is a context. Since almost the beginning of the 21st century there has been a new game in town . When the Twin Towers in New York were bombed using suicide killers flying jets to destroy them, a line had been crossed .There will never be a good way to deal with a killer who does not value human life or rationalism…his own, or anyone else’s. In that sort of scenario you are dealing with a deep psychosis. There are many who take their own lives for many more trivial reasons ,such as low self esteem, or depression ,but if someone has what they feel is a deeply felt legitimate cause, there is no deterrent against them, available anyway . Nothing can keep them from killing themselves or thousands of others.The damage has already been done to their psyche already. For one thing , they usually believe that their life’s end is not the end of the story. Simply put, ..they think there’s going to be more…More life of a sort.
One thing is sure: not many organisations has been able to convince their followers to kill themselves for their cause or the good of the company. There have been suicide cults of course .There were the kamikaze pilots in Japan during World War Two , who gave their lives for the Emperor and Irish Republicans have had Hunger Strikes until death in an act of sacrifice , I suppose , but not too many went out with bombs strapped to their bodies.They would have sent someone else as their proxy.There is a Biblical tradition of sacrifice , undeniably; Christianity being based wholly on the act of self- sacrifice.The idea that the corporeal body is only a vessel for the “soul”and is expendable.
“The Jonestown Massacre” was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project formed by the Peoples Temple, an American religious organization under the leadership of Jim Jones, in northwestern Guyana. It became internationally notorious when on November 18, 1978, 913 people died in the settlement.
Some 913 people died , in an event termed “revolutionary suicide” by Jones and some members . They were administered poison en masse. It was the largest such event in modern history and resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers were bombed.
It would appear that this behaviour is a by-product of some religious faiths so it should be tackled within those communities at root , in schooling. In a modern cosmopolitan society comprising of so many differing faiths, opinions and ways of living ,it should be noted that everyone, no matter who, has a right to express their opinions in safety and everyone has the right to either accept or ignore them and get on with their private lives. If that is not sorted out at root level , the future holds nothing but murder and censorship for us all. It opens the door to mayhem for any supposed slight. Anyone can be offended by anything if they allow themselves to take offence, but there are strict laws about acting out a revenge for the real or supposed slight. I am offended by much of the banality that passes for entertainment on television or radio , but I do not attempt to murder Simon Cowell or some chef on that has offended me.
The pen can only be mightier than the sword in a civilised society. If that is forgotten or overturned ,all we will have is a future of hiding our heads in the sand and keeping our mouths tightly shut.