Friday, 9 January 2015

Pen is mightier than the sword - Voltaire

On this day when the French Charlie Hebdo incident persists I felt that it was important to stress the importance of free speech.

The English words "The pen is mightier than the sword" were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu.
Richelieu, chief minister to King Louis XIII, discovers a plot to kill him, but as a priest he is unable to take up arms against his enemies.
His page, Francois, points out: But now, at your command are other weapons, my good Lord.
Richelieu agrees: The pen is mightier than the sword... Take away the sword; States can be saved without it!

By the 1840s the phrase was commonplace.

The French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher said these words over 250 years ago and what he said then hasn't aged in the slightest in the light of the attack on Charlie Hebdo. 

In 1766 in Abbeville in northern France a young man was found guilty of religious crime.

The young nobleman named Lefebvre de la Barre was found guilty of blasphemy. The charges against him were numerous - that he had defecated on a crucifix, spat on religious images, and refused to remove his hat as a Church procession went past.
These crimes, together with the vandalising of a wooden cross on the main bridge of Abbeville, were sufficient to see him sentenced to death. Once La Barre's tongue had been cut out and his head chopped off, his mortal remains were burned by the public executioner, and dumped into the river Somme. Mingled among the ashes were those of a book that had been found in La Barre's study, and consigned to the flames alongside his corpse - the Philosophical Dictionary of the notorious philosopher, Voltaire.
Voltaire himself, informed of his reader's fate, was appalled. "Superstition," he declared from his refuge in Switzerland, "sets the whole world in flames."

Voltaire was an outspoken critic of the catholic church and government which led to many exiles and imprisonments and it was while spending 11 months in the Bastille that he wrote Oedipe which made his name. He mostly spoke out against religious intolerance and supported the idea of freedom of thought.

I think the above cartoon says it all. If you write then ensure you write about Charlie Hebdo or at least freedom of speech. It is interesting that the brothers have been quoted as being prepared to die as martyrs. Perhaps they are expecting to have 72 virgins in attendance, well remember boys not all virgins are female!
God Bless