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10 January 2002
“The pen is mightier than the sword.”
Not, we think, written by a military chap.
How mighty are the pens today in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo-Kinshasa, Somalia or China, to name but a few of the world’s trouble spots?
“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Wishful thinking by pen-pushers?
It sounds good but rings false.
The truth, perhaps, is the reverse:
“The sword is mightier than the pen”.
However, since this may be taken as given by most intelligent folk, it has not, unlike its inverse, acquired the patina of a literary paradox.
We might not be happy that the military chap is right, but that is irrelevant.
The military chap might even go further:
“The sword is mightier than the pen and two swords are better than one.”
Who is to say that he is wrong?
Or, to put it a different way, paraphrasing a question Joe Stalin put to Churchill, when the Georgian was asked to promote Catholicism in Russia: “How many panzer divisions has the Pope?”
Or then again down on the farm: “Fine words butter no parsnips.”
Bleedin’ obvious, innit?