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The pen is mightier than politics

Justin Kundalin
Justin Kundalin - "Wealth may build the nation, but it’s the pen that will shape it"


SONOMA - I believe in the power of pen, not the political ploys of crooked leaders.

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” wrote the English novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, referring to the writers of the world invisibly exercising an influence upon people more titanic than soldiers.

I want to paraphrase it by saying, “The pen is mightier than politics”.

There is no peer to the power of literature because literature has more influence than all the artillery and ammunition that may be mustered by a military force.

The current need for Papua New Guinea is not more politics but more literature. It is the pen that will shape this nation more than politics. William D Howells put it well when he said, “All civilisation comes through literature.”

How can PNG tap into the world of literature? Can PNG writers produce works of literature that can stand as magnum opuses? Yes, of course we can!

The secret is for our writers to write about that which interests people in our culture-rich nation. But for our writers to blossom and come before the public, the government needs to support them. It is not so easy for literature to flourish in a heavily illiterate land no matter how well our culture may support it.

To underestimate the pen and to overestimate politics more is a friendly danger to this nation.

PNG has been using the full weaponry of politics for more than 40 years and still falls short.

We have been poorly rewarded by polarisation and fragmentation of leadership without the country being developed to the desired intent and expectation of its wonderful citizens.

Politics has brought more division than development. PNG has gained international recognition for the contrariness of its politics.

One smart way to counterbalance this is to educate the upcoming generation with literature that contains national cultural and moral values, a love and pride of country and personal knowledge and empowerment.

A national literature has the capacity to develop and yield intelligent students who will become a blessing to Papua New Guinea.

A nation burdened with people too poorly educated to read books is doomed to failure. Instead of moving forward, it will move backward. The nation will have done nothing for its young people than to breed sluggards and barely educated illiterates.

As for me, I don’t believe so much in the power of the wealth and politics as in the power of the pen because the rise of civilisation depends upon the ability of its citizens to think clearly and express these thoughts clearly to others.

It’s time the pen took the lead in this nation and not political tricks and poses.

I wish our leaders could see the importance of the pen and give it some credit. Wealth may build the nation, but it’s the pen that will shape it.

I heartily support the petition that 300 writers and their supporters are seeking to present to the prime minister asking him to recognise and support PNG literature.  

My fear is that Mr Marape’s failure to respond quickly might simply be a sign of his reluctance to attending to this plea.

That would be said, as he wrote in PNG Attitude just yesterday, his goal is to “take back PNG, where no child will be left behind in the process of us making PNG the richest black Christian nation on earth”.

If he fails to respond positively to the benefits offered by literature, politics will continue to dominate and eventually PNG will become the wealthiest poor nation in the Pacific and replete with educated illiterates who have been left behind.

In the world today, India is the leading reading nation. Chins is second. Papua New Guinea does not rate.

I believe in the power of pen and PNG is yet to see it. If we allow literature to assume its rightful place it can revolutionise our nation.

Leaders and laity must work together to give PNG a literary culture.

Local writers must never give because literature is a light that shines eternal.


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Michael Dom

A good and timely write Justin, thank you.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Nicely put Justin. When the politicians have gone the books will remain.

I'm not sure how you convince politicians of this fact however. The efforts of Daniel, Caroline and Betty to even speak to the politicians seems particularly painful.

Some of those politicians that everyone thought were on side seem to have gone to ground.

Their lack of interest tells us a lot about them and the way they think.

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