2017 – Most Philosophical 8th Grader in America

Chase Whitmer, Missouri.

Is the Pen Mightier than the Sword?

Although the sword has been used to spread ideas and ideals, it would not be as formidable or as powerful without the might of the pen. The sword destroyed empires, brought down regimes, and conquered millions. However, fear of the sword, the “might makes right” mindset, is eclipsed when armed by the power of words, the pen.

Propaganda is a major employer of this tactic. It takes any event, be it war, climate, politics, etc. and using the pen paints them anything from admirable to the heinous. One famous example of this is Caesar’s account of the Gallic Wars. His book Commentarii de Bello Gallico is a summary of his years fighting in Gaul and is a perfect example of how the pen, a metaphor for words and writing, spreads the word of the sword. It made his brutal military conquest seem noble and even righteous in the eyes of the ancient Romans. Caesar knew that the pen was, and still is, mightier than the sword, and used this to his advantage.

Furthermore, humans need writing more than we need warfare. We are hardwired for story. The Dark Ages were a desperate time for humanity. Peasants were starving, the sword ran rampant, and there was very little access to words. Most people know little about this time period, but we know when the dark ages ended, writing flourished, and this arguably led to enlightenment and the renaissance. During this period of time, society improved, the economy boomed, and the arts flourished as well. What was present in the renaissance that was not present in the Dark Ages? Of course, It was the word!

Words are also a powerful tool to avoid conflicts. As the renowned philosopher, Sun Tzu once said, “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” A brilliant example of negotiations being used to avoid conflict is the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1962, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev used the pen to negotiate a deal that prevented the United states and Soviet Russia from starting a nuclear war.

Also, words are more effective at gaining rights than fighting. In the 1960’s the Black Panther Party fought violently for the rights of Afican-Americans but made little progress. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to change millions by using the word, specifically persuasive speeches. He and his supporters secured rights for African-Americans without resorting to violence They protested nonviolently and did not respond to brutal tactics by police. MLK nonviolently changed the world with the pen.

The definition of a tool is “A device or implement... used to carry out a particular function.” The sword is supposed to control. The pen’s objective is to control as well. What’s the difference? The pen can control on its own. The sword can’t control anything without being improved by the pen. One tool works by itself, one tool doesn’t. You don’t need a genius to tell you which one is mightier.



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