Penning Non-violence

The pen is mightier than the sword they say and true to this philosophy; ideas have a much larger impact than violence. In fact, new ideas can alter the thinking of people and demolish old prejudiced beliefs that may have guided their actions for considerable period of time, years or even decades. Violence on the other hand can only suppress the beliefs of people and cow them into submission out of fear. It would be erroneous to even calculate that violence and force can influence the mindsets of any substantial number of people in a significant manner. Force, in fact, is incapable of changing the idea and beliefs of a people. But since ideas are propagated by writing, the written word has today become the most powerful medium of propagating ideas, convictions and beliefs of a few on a vast majority of people. The local media therefore is in a position to play a more positive role in a society marred by deep seeded conflict. 

During the Vietnam War journalists and photographers played a key role in bringing an end to that ghastly conflict. The American government undaunted by the mass casualties of both US and Vietnamese nationals was prepared to carry on the war to its bitter end. However, the American public opinion was inflamed by accounts of journalists who had seen the carnage in Vietnam. Day after day there were articles in the papers condemning the war. Photographers were able to show the masses, the grim and ugly reality of war in a manner never before seen. Pictures of dead children, burning villages, and wounded soldiers inflamed the public opinion to such a point that millions of US citizens took part in the largest ever anti-war demonstrations in recorded history. Finally, the US government had to bow down before the people. While it may not have been the only factor, it was the efforts of the journalists, the press and the people who finally brought about an end to the war.  

The power of ideas can likewise be illustrated with the example of Adolf Hitler and how he was profoundly influenced by the ideas of famous German philosophers like Hegel, Nietzsche and Treitsche. These philosophers in their books extolled the virtues of war and derided peace as corrosive and futile. It was their pen as much as the machine gun which plunged the world into the greatest war in human history. But the ‘pen’ can also be used as a great unifying factor. A people’s culture, Religion, folktales and festivals give a common identity to a people even in times of the great adversity. At the end of the day, ideas and persuasion have much stronger influence in shaping the minds of men and women and in changing the course of human destiny. Violence is in general futile and incapable of providing a solution to any problem, rather it only augments it. As such newspapers and journalists with its vast reach and influence on the minds of people can play a transformative role in overcoming the power of violence.