Can the Power of Writing Change Our History?

   Writing represents the power of wisdom. Therefore, it is not only the rhetoric but also one’s action, thought, and humanity as a whole. Today, when we visit a big library or bookstore, I wonder how many books I could and deserve to read among many. Further, I have to ask whether a book can affect our age effectively. Is the writing so important now? Can an individual effectively change others by writing? I often feel no confidence in my writing. Therefore, I would follow the history first.

   To begin with, let us study Hippocrates of Cos in ancient Greece. Hippocrates is said to have divided medicine from religion, and many medical records and treatises are attributed to him. His contribution and influence in the field of health science is overwhelming, so he is called the Father of Medicine. Despite the pioneering era, he analyzed the cause, used some assumption to apply for diseases, and wrote clinical records of those days. In addition, his most important contribution has been the establishment of ethical code, the Hippocratic Oath which may have dated much earlier days than him though. Physicians and health professionals are privileged to treat patients. They are even permitted to use a knife for surgery. Then their moral and ethics have to be authoritative and strict. Now, when medical students graduate, they recite the Oath and vow their ethical conduct. Here is the power of writing lasting for 2,500 years. Many classical scriptures and writings are such things that have kept inspiring people, and thus changed our history indirectly and directly some time.

   Next, I would mention Common Sense by Thomas Paine. Although he wrote it not so long after he settled into America from Britain, it inspired and ignited people’s courage to stand against the British colonization. Reprinting after reprinting, the publication reached an amazing number though it is fairly short. Because of the passionate contents, timing before American Independence and epoch-making position, it still has historical significance among documents around the beginning of the United States history. Here is another example of the power of writing which changed history.

   Thirdly, also Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet B. Stowe cannot be overlooked. Writers do not write novels for a practical purpose, but they write because they want to. However, her novel had a very practical impact on eliciting people’s concern against slavery, and thus contributed in releasing many “Toms.” Of course we have to mention the Civil War and the influence of leaders such as Pr. Abraham Lincoln who contributed, too. From a citizen’s point of view, her story’s power must have been strong on contemporaries because they could not have succeeded in releasing the “Toms” without citizen’s agreement. Further, her novel functioned well to enhance people’s knowledge and sympathy for them.

   Today, in a rapidly accelerating changing society, each individual might find himself/herself too nameless and powerless to influence world at all. In addition, younger generations increasingly don’t care for politics and civilization, so nonvoters might have high percentage in countries. Now, however, the info-highway has connected almost every human activity and knowledge to form a tremendous cyberspace. Email exchanges have progressed written communication more than before and enabled what we can call direct democracy. An individual can communicate with any VIPs if he/she wishes. Therefore, the power of writing can be more important, although we have a huge amount of garbage information appearing and disappearing one after another. The pen is mightier than the sword. This is the time to appreciate the old proverb.

Can the Power of Writing Change our History?

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Copyright © Tamaki Hosoe, 2003