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Swords to ploughshares (or plowshares) is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications.
The phrase originates from the Book of Isaiah:
Many peoples shall come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; 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. –
The ploughshare (Hebrew: אֵת ’êṯ, also translated coulter) is often used to symbolize creative tools that benefit humankind, as opposed to destructive tools of war, symbolized by the sword (Hebrew: חֶרֶב ḥereḇ), 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.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; 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.
Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weakling say, “I am a warrior.”
He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; 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.
An expression of this concept can be seen in 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 ploughshare.
- After World War II, military surplus AFVs were sometimes converted into bulldozers, agricultural, and logging tractors, as seen in the American television series Axe Men. Two are currently preserved at the Swords and Ploughshares Museum in Canada. French farmers sometimes used modified versions of the obsolete FT-17 tank, and similar vehicles, based on the T-34 tank, remain in widespread use in the former USSR. A British agricultural engineer and collector of classic tractors, owns a Sherman tank that was adapted to plough Lincolnshire's fields in response to the shortage of crawler tractors.
- From the 1970s onwards, several anti-war musicians play guitars made from military surplus weapons. Jamaican reggae star Pete Tosh famously owned a Stratocaster built around an M-16 rifle. In the present day the Escopetarra, a guitar converted from the AK-47, is the signature instrument of César López, Souriya Sunshine and Sami Lopakka of the Finnish death metal band Sentenced.
- Nitrogen mustard, developed from the chemical weapon mustard gas developed in World War I, became the basis for the world's first chemotherapy drug, mustine, developed through the 1940s.
- Swedish aid organization IM Swedish Development Partner launched Humanium Metal, using metal from illegal handguns to create everyday objects. The first product announced was headphones by Yevo.
- The Global Positioning System was originally developed to enable more accurate strikes with long-range weapons by the United States, but its purpose was later expanded to include civilian applications such as personal navigation assistants.
- The Plowshares movement (British, Christian, founded by Daniel Berrigan), Trident Ploughshares (British) and Pitstop Ploughshares (US, Christian) are peace movements, inspired by the book of Isaiah, in which participants attempt to damage or destroy modern weapons, such as nuclear missiles.
- The Megatons to Megawatts Program, agreed to in 1993 by the United States and Russia, successfully converted 500 metric tonnes of fuel from Soviet-era nuclear warheads into fuel for nuclear power plants over a period of 20 years.
In political and popular culture
- The Starry Plough, a flag associated with revolutionary Irish republicanism and socialism, features a sword as the plowshare.
- Twelve-term US Congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul wrote a book entitled Swords into Plowshares: A Life in Wartime and a Future of Peace and Prosperity, in which he discusses growing up during World War II and living his life through war after war.
- In his farewell address, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, when speaking about the military–industrial complex, stated:
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.
- For his first and second inaugurations, U.S. President Richard Nixon took the oath of office with his hand on two family Bibles, opened to Isaiah 2:2–4.
- In their speeches at the signing of the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty, Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin all referenced the saying in calling for peace.
- In Ronald Reagan's address to the 42nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York.
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?
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.
- The song "The End of the Innocence" by Don Henley (1989) uses the Joel inverted version of the phrase:
O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Create a world with no fear
Together we'll cry happy tears
See the nations turn
Their swords into plowshares
- Finale of the musical Les Misérables:
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.
- A poem by Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai:
Don’t stop after beating the swords
into plowshares, don’t stop! Go on beating
and make musical instruments out of them.
Whoever wants to make war again
will have to turn them into plowshares first.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Swords into plowshares.|
- Templar, Simon (11 October 2015). "Civilian Shermans: after the war – they went to work..." Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- Spoelstra, Hanno. "Shermans into ploughshares". web.inter.nl.net. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- "The Swords And Ploughshares Museum". www.calnan.com. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- "BBC NEWS – Monitoring – Media reports – Ukraine turns tank into tractor". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- "More Than Music: Peter Tosh And His M16 Rifle Guitar". Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- UNODC. "UNODC Perspectives No. 3 – Escopetarra: Instrument of peace". www.unodc.org. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
- United States Department of State, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance; United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (May 2004). "Introduction to Industry Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention" (PDF). cwc.gov.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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- Kleinman, Zoe (2018). "Illegal guns turned into headphones". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-01-15.
- "Megatons to Megawatts program will conclude at the end of 2013 - Today in Energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)". www.eia.gov. Retrieved 2020-04-02.
- Paul, Ron (17 July 2015). Swords into Plowshares. Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. ISBN 978-0996426503.
- United Press International (UPI) (20 January 1973). "Protestors' shouts mar inaugural ceremonies". Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- "These Are the Bible Verses Past Presidents Have Turned to on Inauguration Day". Time.
- Ross, Scott (21 January 2013). "Obama's Inaugural Bibles: Lincoln, MLK". NBC 6 South Florida. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
- Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Jimmy Carter. Office of the Federal Register. 1979. pp. 518–520.
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- "Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp Songbook". Fredsakademiet.dk. Retrieved 2013-01-01.