My dear Billy, There is a gross fallacy that has been making the rounds for centuries, to the effect that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” I don’t now remember who had the temerity to make such an assertion, but there have been many others who have said the same thing in their own words. Napoleon Bonaparte was one of them. He said, “There are only two powers in the world, the sword and the pen; and in the end the former is always conquered by the latter.” The veracity of this statement is very doubtful. Is the pen really more powerful? Napoleon ought to know because he has valiantly wielded the sword, although not so much the pen. Judging by the number of impotent pens being brandished about, the sword seems to be standing better chances these days. “Take away the sword; states can be saved without it. Bring the pen!” wrote Edward Bulwer-Lytton. But that was centuries ago. With the passage of time, however, the sword has become an obsolete instrument of destruction, replaced by an arsenal of other more sophisticated, a million times more deadly weapons. They are today producing nuclear weapons which they have invented to destroy the world in an avowed attempt to save it. Save it? From what? From whom? For whom? The pen still endures to wage a lonely, peaceful battle, and to prove to the world that “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr,” as Prophet Muhammad asserted centuries ago. But who is listening today? Definitely not the so-called jihadists of the Islamic state. Sir Thomas Browne wrote that “Scholars are men of peace; they bear no arms, but their pens are sharper than the sword; they give a louder report than thunder.” However, the pen today has to contend with a number of rivals, its top competitor the computer. More and more people are discarding the pen in favour of the computer. If the trend continues, we shall be having more and more computer key pressers in the future than writers. There are also those who send messages through the mobile phone instead of using pen and paper to write letters. The computer and the mobile phone have advantages that a poor pen can never provide, my dear Billy. Lord Byron called his “gray” goose-quill “nature’s noblest gift.” Had he and his contemporaries had access to the “word” on the “windows” of the computer, they would certainly have produced so many more works to enrich the range of English and world literature. I hate to have to say this, my dear Billy, but I have just lost my pen. Not that somebody has stolen it – people don’t steal pens anymore – but I have unfortunately misplaced it somewhere. I only hope that I find it again safe and sound some time, somewhere. I don’t know how it is with other people, but on the rare occasions that I have had to part with a pen, I have felt a certain pang of melancholy. It’s like I have lost a dear friend, a close intimate companion from whom I have been suddenly estranged. Otherwise, I take all precautions to keep my pens as long as possible. My pen thus becomes a trusted confidant that commits to paper my deepest thoughts and most profound feelings. It is a privileged witness of my changing moods, of the joys and sorrows that visit me. Over the years, it has also become the instrument that procures my daily bread for me and my family. Those who manipulate the pen must be very careful about the use they put it to. They must think a number of times before writing down a word on paper. There should be a law that if you use a word without knowing what it means, you go to jail. Talking about words, it has often baffled me why “abbreviation” should be such a long word. Have you realized that the word “luck” is 75% obscene? Or the “Fragile” on a packet is often interpreted by postal workers as “Throw with force.”? At school they taught me to spell words that I have never had cause to write again, words like “myrrh”, “scimitar,” “obsequious.” Others learned words that they were never inclined to use again in their lives, words like “Good morning,” “Thank you,” “Please,” “Sorry,” and a few others. On the other hand, there has always been a great outcry that the English language is going to the dogs in Mauritius. But I have often wondered that even if you write good English, for whom are you going to write it? By the way, I am fed up being corrected by the computer whenever i write words correctly, for example, there’s nothing that causes more harassment than when you write “labour” and the computer underlines it in red for you, as if you were the biggest moron around, my dear Billy.
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