It is said, “the pen is mightier than the sword”. Consider all of the rulers vicious and kind and philosophers wise and insightful and decide whether you agree or disagree with Edward...

It is said, “the pen is mightier than the sword”. Consider all of the rulers vicious and kind and philosophers wise and insightful and decide whether you agree or disagree with Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s famous quote.  

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In general, I would say that the pen is mightier than the sword in the long run but not in the short.

In the short run, it is absurd to say that the pen is mightier than the sword.  Today, the Philippines or Vietnam can write all the articles they want protesting China’s building of new islands in the South China Sea but China’s military (and economic) might means they can do nothing about it.  Ukraine can do little about Russia’s annexation of the Crimea because Russia is more powerful.  No written work could have prevented the racist murderer in South Carolina last week from doing what he did.

In the long run, however, the pen is mightier than the sword.  This is because the pen can actually persuade people to change their minds in the way that the sword cannot.  You can make me change my behavior by threatening me with violence, but you cannot make me change what I believe.  Once you stop having the ability to threaten me, you lose because I will no longer obey you.  If, conversely, I can persuade you of something, I can get you on my side permanently.  For example, the “pen” of Martin Luther King, Jr. got many white people to agree with him, thus getting what he wanted (greater rights for African Americans) in the long run.  Moreover, since he had persuaded whites to side with him, he did not have to worry that they would rise up and take back what he had gained.  Similarly, the United States is more secure because it is friendly with Canada and Mexico (in part through the values shown in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, which came from “the pen”).  This makes the US more secure because those nations will not want to attack it.  This is a contrast with, for example, Israel, which is only secure because it is militarily more powerful than its neighbors.

In the short run, the sword can allow the person who has it to get whatever they want. This makes it mightier than the pen. In the long run, however, the pen provides longer term security because it allows the person who wields it to persuade others and get them on his or her side on a permanent basis. 

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