Wars form less than one-hundredth part of history. Brave deed and splendid valor shown on the battlefield are certainly recalled time and again. But what the words and writings of great men have achieved, no clash of arms, however long and widespread, can achieve. “Peace”, it is said, “hath her victories no less renowned than war”, and peace creates conditions and an amiable climate in which the arts, including the art of writing flourish.
Literature, after all, is the thought of thinking souls, and it is the latter that are able to express themselves through the power of the pen. Charles Dickens once said: “I made a compact with myself that in my person literature should stand by itself, of itself and for itself.” Writing is an avenue to glory; the written word makes a permanent impact on several generations, often for centuries. Literature moulds life according to the times.
The Mahabharata, the great and memorable epic, often described as a gift of the pen to mankind and not of the sword, has inspired and guided millions of people through the ages. Public opinion is mightier than the army and the police. But public opinion is built up not by any clash c arms but by the writings of great men and by newspapers. The Press, ii fact, is the main instrument of war campaigns. Wars are forgotten literature never meets that fate.
The French Revolution owed inspiration to the writings of Rousseau and Voltaire. Homer’s epics had a far greater impact than the events of the Trojan War. Karl Marx’s “Capital” inspired Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution. Several cruel practices in the history of mankind have been abolished as a result of exposures through widely read books. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, it is believed, was a major factor in the abolition of slavery
The sword implies the use of brute force, while the pen, which is the tongue of the mind, relies on reason, persuasion by argument instead c imposing a decision. There is thought and rationale behind the pen, but the resort to the sword and the gun are clear indications of thoughtlessness haste and rashness. Throughout the course of history it is reason, conviction and thought that have produced durable results, not declarations of war, massacres and destruction.
The pen stands for positive and constructive efforts, but the sword always signifies negative postures and destruction all round. It takes decades for nations to rebuild what wars destroy and to rehabilitate the countless victims of military aggression. And yet so unwise is man the every now and then he prepares to pull the trigger. He apparently forgets that the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.
The pen can solve many complex problems through explanation and sweet reasonableness. But the resort to the sword does no such thin; nor can the sword do any of the things which Thackeray advised wielders of the pen to strive for. “Ye knights of the pen, may honour be your shield and truth tip your lances! Be gentle to all gentle people. Be modest to women, be tender to children…” Armed conflicts, bombs and canon however, make no distinction between good men and bad, men an. women; in a war gentle men, women and children suffer as much as the wily warriors and the wicked ones.
Writers plead for progress and social reform. They enlighten people, thus making them better citizens. Every country’s future depends upon good citizens, not on those who can kill or maim. The pen is mightier because it gives good counsel, promotes cultural values and the graces c life, thus helping to remove cobwebs from society. During a war the contestants relapse into barbarism. War, on the contrary, destroys culture and negates the cultural values, which writers and artists strive zealously to promote. Warriors work themselves up into a terrible state of excitement. The worst passions are aroused and the fighters begin to resemble their savage ancestors. Wars tend to destroy civilization, which the wielders of the pen consistently seek to advance.
There are some people who argue that resort to the sword and the compulsions of war encourage some virtues—fidelity, cohesiveness, tenacity, heroism, inventiveness and physical vigour. But this is largely an illusion. The pen can promote these virtues far more effectively and permanently, while wars bring only temporary psychological or material gains.
All writers are, however, not constructive and benefactors of mankind. Some of them write sheer nonsense and resort to pornography and demoralizing literature. Such persons cannot be described as “knights of the pen”. Rather, they are even greater enemies of society than warmongers and inventors of destructive weapons.