Great events in world history have proven that, the copybook maxim – the pen is mightier than the sword, is absolutely true. The sword can dismember or destroy the body but, great ideas flowing from the pen can change the world.
Leo Tolstoy wrote his ideas about the irresistible power of non-violent protest in his book, Civil Disobedience and Non-Violence, and Mohandas Gandhi accepted and converted the principles advocated by Tolstoy into action. The force of the Indian nation’s non-violent protest against the injustice of British rule, resulted in the Independence of India and Pakistan in 1947.
Gandhi’s mission, which was-self rule for the Indian nation, was helped by the fact that the other political leaders and himself were fervent adherents of the Hindu religion and, that he had come to be revered by the populace as a spiritual icon.
The British rulers of India, which was a colony, were masters of public administration, supported by a comparatively small army, but the British soldiers were the finest in the world. India was exploited by laws which favored the mother country and considered oppressive by the natives, who reacted by armed rebellion, which was put down with great efficiency and carnage.
Having read Tolstoy, Gandhi knew that there was a better way. They called him Mahatma, which means Great Spirit. He also had a great mind, which he used to convince his countrymen to follow his leadership. It is said that he once told a British Envoy, “300,000 Britons cannot govern 300,000,000 Indians, if they don’t want you to.” The issue was decided when the British made a law which infuriated the native populace. They would have resorted to armed rebellion, with the usual result, but Ghandi called the leaders together and it was agreed that there should be a day of prayer and fasting throughout India, when no manner of work would be done, on the same day that the new law would come into effect. On that day, there were no services in the hotels and restaurants; no servants in the homes of the rulers; no telephone, no water, no constables, no buses or trains: everything came to a standstill.
The British are a very wise nation. They read the signs which told them that it was time to shift gears. Instead of a colony, India would become a member of the Commonwealth. Gandhi was summoned to Whitehall and the deed was done. Thanks to the pen of Leo Tolstoy.
Not many years after in America, a group of the members of the Southern Christian Leadearship Conference (SCLC), under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., conceived of the idea that in order to achieve the civil rights long denied to people of colour by repressive laws which discriminated against them and made them second class citizens, that non-violent protest might succeed, where all other efforts had failed. The movement began with a spark. In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in a bus to a white patron, as the law required, she being a person of colour. King called a boycott on the bus service, which was successful, and the civil rights movement began in earnest. This was followed by protest marches in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma, which were met with state-sponsored violence in the form of attack dogs and brutal beatings with clubs and other implements by the police and hostile civilians. The marchers were unfazed. They took their beatings, jailings and dog bites without the usual futile violent reaction. Their cause was just and, before long they were joined by white citizens who had a sense of justice. Their numbers grew and gained momentum, while passion faded in the ranks of the ungodly. How could they possibly win when their constitution said, we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. In the end the segregation laws were revoked and replaced by the Laws on Civil Rights, a great milestone in the history of human progress. Thanks to the thoughts of Tolstoy, put into words and written in a book. And, thanks to Mahatma Gandhi for his example of what can be achieved by converting words into action.
Three centuries ago, France and the other European nations were ruled by kings, who were anointed and crowned by the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. They and their successors were said to rule by “divine right.” The power of the executive, the judiciary and legislature reposed in the king and his chosen ministers, and only they and the nobles, which formed the aristocracy in France, enjoyed wealth and privileges. The lower classes had no rights, only duties to serve the aristocracy. The aristocracy ruled with an iron fist and iron boot to crush the masses underfoot. The people cried out for redress, but the sound of their voices did not reach the ears of their monarch, or, if it did, it was ignored. Then, a man named Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote the Social Contract. It was a dissertation on the relationships which should exist between the State and the people: The powers, privileges and responsibilities of the State, and the functions and duties of the citizen. The people, other than the aristocracy, began to consider seriously, that something should be done to change the status quo, and the ideas of “Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite” were born. From that beginning grew agitation, protests, violent upheavals and finally outright rebellion known to history as the French Revolution in the year 1789. Historians believe that Rousseau’s thoughts, written down in the Social Contract, were what made the citizens of France rise up against their corrupt and oppressive rulers.
The best example of what the pen can accomplish are the writings in the four Gospels of the New Testament recording the words and deeds of the Son of Man. Western civilization is only one of the numberless good fruits which came forth from the words of the Gospels. I shall not attempt to list the others here.
The pen is mighty indeed but, modern science has produced another means of influencing the minds and hearts of men that is even more powerful.
When we read, our minds receive the thoughts of the writer through our eyes; we examine and analyse, accept and reject, retain and discard, etc. It’s all visual and we have to make an effort to obtain a benefit. Television is both audio and visual and, we have to expend no effort. It is also instant. Its contents are delivered in person. What is more, television can convey messages to the subconscious mind, without the viewer’s knowledge or volition. Television is a more effective way to influence people than the written word.
American culture is spread throughout the whole world by the pervasiveness and proliferation of its television programming. Why are there McDonald’s hamburgers and Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in China? Why are American sports heroes Lebron James, R G III, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods sports heroes also in Belize; why do they dictate the fashion in clothes and footwear; and why do all our young people want to go to America? All is due to the influence of American televsion programs. But, that’s all right. We are in the American orbit.
So. We are an American satellite. There is no great harm in allowing ourselves to become Americanized in things like sports and fashion and music. Where we need to call a halt is when they want to decide for us what should be our standards of morality. This brings me to my thesis of this article, which is that television can be a dangerous power.
A dangerous power
There was a time when America was a nation with high standards of morality. These standards have eroded greatly in the last twenty years due to the concerted efforts of a small but very closely knitted members of an organization, which was formed in alliance with the leadership of the civil rights movement. They made common cause with the movement of the citizens of color, who were being discriminated against by laws which, in effect, made people of color, second class citizens. They have advanced their cause rapidly since then. They are brought into this article to demonstrate the power of television in general and, in particular what has come to be known as the social media and, to point out that it is a dangerous power, when it can be used to serve the ends of citizens who practice a lifestyle that can be harmful to the body politic. And, also, to show that the power exercised by the social media, even with good intentions, can be a dangerous thing.
Throughout the ages, the homosexual act, called sodomy, was a grievous sin and a great crime. In the time of Moses, it was an offence against the state punishable by death. Over time, individuals who engage in the homosexual act were social outcasts, but modern societies are more sympathetic, considering it a disorder of the mind, an aberration, or an affliction. The very “enlightened” societies like the British thought that any sexual act between consenting adults is acceptable and changed their laws to reflect public opinion.
The attitude toward homosexuality has softened in the First World countries, particularly in America. In the last twenty years, public opinion in America towards the so-called “gay” community has changed very rapidly. This has not happened by chance. Public opinion in this regard has been and, is being shaped by the media, especially by the electronic media, i.e. television.
After achieving full acceptance of their life style, as a normal relationship, the homosexual community in America sought to have the union of two males in a sexual relationship recognized by the state. They were not satisfied with a legal but civil union: they wanted it to be sanctified with all the rights and privileges of a married couple. A few states in the American Union were willing to consider the proposition, but 60% of the public disapproved. Ten years later, public opinion changed from 60% disapproval to 51% approval. How did this happen? What made the unnatural, natural? What made the unthinkable, acceptable? Public opinion swung eleven points from negative to positive. All this was due to the power which the social media has to influence the minds and hearts of its patrons. Is it possible that the homosexual community has been able to get control of the social media networks? It is not impossible. If so, that would be a dangerous power for any element to have.