THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD That old cliche is more true today than ever at least if you allow a little literary license, and let me treat keyboards as "pens" and websites as "papers". THE PEN IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD The written or spoken word has more power to change the world -- by persuasion -- than all of the swords, rifles, tanks, and bombs ever created by man. Yes, people can be stopped (or killed) by swords and bombs, and yes people can be coerced by threats and violence, BUT that never changes anything in the long run. NO, only words and communication can ever cause true and lasting change. That is because, unlike most animals, the mani survival mechanism we humans have is a 3-pound portable coumuter, which we carry around in a bone case at the top our heads. A gray lump of neural nets known as "the brain". Most other animals have one, and they need to work the controls of the appendages they need to survive. However, in our species it IS the main survival mechanism! Nothing else, no tool, no weapon, no device, no construction, is as vital to the survival of an individual human being as a functioning, reasoning brain. It is not perfect, not always correct. There are no guarantees. A brain does not always win. But time after time, it is the wit and inventiveness of the individual human brain that overcomes the obstacles, beats the odds, vanquishes the oppressor, or achieves the impossible dream. Quite often, it is the persuasive power of words that unites people to take action, and to set things right. Overcoming a tyrant, escaping from slavery, +++++ Sure, Guttenbers's printing press was NOT the invention that revolutionized the world. Nor was Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. The world was also changed by tranportation breakthroughs (wheel, spoke, jet plane -- to name a few), and by computers, gunpowder, +++ and other technological breakthroughs. But it is communication -- the transportation of information -- getting the word out that has time and again brought greater freedom and sometimes the overthrow or weakening of tyrannical governments. Very often, especially in the last century, this has been triggered just by getting the information out, by overcoming censorship in "closed" societies, e.g. Ham radio reports from Tienanmen Square Email from captive nations Solzhenitzn and others writing about the Gulag Reports about Auschwitz and Treblinka & others Before the American Revolution, it was the Committies of Correspondence that informed New England patriots about the King's governor abolishing the Virginia legislature; it later told Virginians about the Boston Tea Party. Then, there were the paphlets of Thomas Paine and those of the Russian refusniks (both printed on "illegal printing presses". Later, there were the Federalist Papers AND the Anti-Federalist papers. Much late, the world was changed by: Mein Kampf. Das Kapital. Wealth of Nations. Atlas Shrugged. And changed in other ways by: The Interpretation of Dreams. The Voyage of the Beagle.
Every once I a while, somebody does a survey about "What book had the most influence on your own life?" In Western countries, there are usually enuf people who feel obliged to list the Bible first. (Perhaps, in the literate East, it's the Quran or the Bhaghavad Gita.) "Atlas Shrugged" has come in second quite often. But I'm not going to talk about Ayn Rand, today. I'd like to reword the question to ask which AUTHOR had the greatest influence on your life,... Which single, human author (excluding the "sacred writings") had the most influence -- especially upon the formation of your ideas and values? Not kiddie books, but real books read during your youth and adolescence, when your values were being formed (and tested). There are many people who, if they thought about it, would name an author who was considered to be in a "fringe" field, at least by teachers and librarians when I borrowed his books. "Science Fiction" was classified just above (or below) the comic books in those days (This was long before Michael Crichton, and way before ET.) Robert Heinlein wrote many, many novels, as well as stories in Boys Life and elsewhere, that greatly influenced and molded the youth of my generation and the next, at least. As with Ayn Rand, it was not the stories but the ideas they brought forth; it was the characters but their ideals 50 years ago, on a radio show rather different from this one (an interview by Edward R. Murrow), Robert Heinlein made a little statement -- I have it here, it's less than 2 pages -- about what he believed. This is not science fiction, at all. Yet it expresses and maybe explains) one of the main themes that runs throughout all of his works. To us, 50 years ago seems like a long time. (Longer than most of my listeners' lives, I am sure.) The world 50 years ago seems so distant. It was, technologically. But not much different at all, in terms of human beings and human values. (In his novewls, it is clear that Heinlein believed that human beings would be fundamentally the same in the future and other planets. I think he's right.) The human issues 50 years ago were no different. The language might seem just a bit dted, but that's merely fad, not substance. I am highly privileged to have received permission from the copyright holder, enabling me to read these word on the air -- just this one time. The copyright is held by Virginia Heinlein, the author's widow, who reread the same words in 1988, when Robert Heinlein received the ____ Posthumously. She got a standing ovation. I don't expect to do as well, but this is radio and I cannot see my audience. The permission was arranged thru the kind intervention of "The Heinlein Society", to which I am grateful. I'd be happy to give their URL, regardless, but it is with extreme gratitude and respect that I tell you how to read all about their fine work the web, at: http://heinleinsociety.org/ You'll find the text there too. It is copyright, and I am privileged to read it (once) with permission.