Swords to ploughshares

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Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich in the United Nations Art Collection[1]

Swords to ploughshares (or swords to plowshares) is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications.

The phrase originates from the Book of Isaiah:

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.—Isaiah 2:3–4

The ploughshare is often used to symbolize creative tools that benefit mankind, as opposed to destructive tools of war, symbolized by the sword, a similar sharp metal tool with an arguably opposite use.

In addition to the original Biblical Messianic intent, the expression "beat swords into ploughshares" has been used by disparate social and political groups.

An ongoing example as of 2013, is the dismantling of nuclear weapons and the use of their contents as fuel in civilian electric power stations, the Megatons to Megawatts Program. Nuclear fission development, originally accelerated for World War II weapons needs, has been applied to many civilian purposes since its use at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, including electricity and radiopharmaceutical production. The later use of nuclear fusion in weapons designs, supplied the ability to create new elements, such as einsteinium, which was key to explaining the r-process in nucleosynthesis. Electricity generation from fusion power will require further research before it can become as practical as nuclear fission power stations. One approach to this end is inertial confinement fusion, which follows the same mechanism to achieving a fusion power station, radiation implosion, as that which was originally developed for weapons use, the Teller-Ulam design.

Biblical references[edit]

This analogy is used several times in the Old Testament or Tanakh, in both directions, such as in the following verses:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.

And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.Micah 4:3[4]

An expression of this concept can be seen a bronze statue in the United Nations garden called Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares, a gift from the Soviet Union sculpted by Evgeniy Vuchetich, representing the figure of a man hammering a sword into the shape of a plowshare.

In popular culture[edit]

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences world-wide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien than war and the threat of war?
  • The popular anti-war song "The Vine and Fig Tree" repeats the verse[7]
And everyone neath their vine and fig tree
shall live in peace and unafraid,
Everyone neath their vine and fig tree
shall live in peace and unafraid.
And into ploughshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more.
And into ploughshares beat their swords
Nations shall learn war no more.
  • Create a world with no fear
Together we'll cry happy tears
See the nations turn
Their swords into plowshares  — Heal The World by Michael Jackson (1991)
  • They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
They will walk behind the ploughshare,
They will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward. — finale of the musical Les Misérables

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Swords Into Plowshares". United Nations Cyber School Bus. United Nations (UN.org). 2001. Retrieved 2007-08-04. 
  2. ^ According to the traditional Jewish numbering and an alternate and non-customary (in English) transliteration scheme for the Hebrew, Yeshayahu 2:4
  3. ^ See above: Yoel 4:10
  4. ^ See above: Michah 4:3
  5. ^ Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter. Office of the Federal Register. 1979. pp. 518–520. 
  6. ^ "Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Archives". UTexas.edu. 1987-09-21. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  7. ^ "Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp Songbook". Fredsakademiet.dk. Retrieved 2013-01-01.