The MAN who Ignited Many Revolutions
The word revolution is disliked by many but progressive changes have taken place mostly by revolutions. A study of the world history will reveal that one man was responsible for most of the revolutions since 1500 AD. Revolutions prior to 1500 AD were military centric involving violence thereby causing death and destruction. The revolutions after 1500 were more non violent than violent. Many social and political revolutions broke out in the last 500 years because of this man’s technological development.
The Man, I am referring to, was Johannes Gutenberg, born in Germany who developed the printing machine.
This device took knowledge to the masses which were once the guarded secret of the elite in the society. Religion was the most dominant force all over the world and their leaders could frighten the masses in the name of God and religion and built their empire larger than an emperor. The first victim of the printing machine was the religious leaders who were the custodians of the holy book. The printing machine brought the holy books in everybody’s hand which decimated the dominance of these religious leaders. He sowed the seed of mass communication. The first revolution was spearheaded by Martin Luther of Germany (1483 to 1546) who fought the protestant reformation against the Pope in Rome. It was not an armed revolution. The esotericism of religion started melting all over the world. As reading of books and news papers increased, knowledge expanded planting the ideas of a revolution. Social and political leaders started attracting the minds of the commoners who were looking for change and progress.
Revolution in India
Social and political revolution started only after the introduction of print media by the British.
The printing machine was first introduced in 1780 and the first news paper was Hicky’s Bengal Gazette. Over the years the circulation and number of news papers and magazines increased igniting the revolutionary feelings and thoughts of the commoners in India. The first vernacular (Bengali) news paper was Amrith Bazzar Pathika 1868. The first Tamil news paper was “Swadhesamitran” started by G. Subramania Iyer in 1882.
The print media brought to light several social reformists like Rajaram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Sagar, Dayanand Saraswathi, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and many more. The Hindu culture underwent several changes from extreme orthodoxy to liberal approach. The social and political revolution in India, unlike the West, was very peaceful and did not invoke any armed rebellion. The leaders of the revolution were well educated and upheld the value of India’s ancient culture, epics, Vedas and other literature but opposed only the conservatism of reaching them to the masses. All the leaders used the print media to reach the masses and were very successful.
The political awakening against the imperial British rule was also caused by the spread of print media in Indian languages. The British colonial government put several restrictions on the freedom of Indian press as they realized that its freedom will boomerang on their domination. Subrmania Bharathi who worked as Assistant Editor in ‘Swadesamitran’ took refuge in Pondicherry when the British were after him for his spread of freedom fire to the commoners through his magazines. He continued his propaganda of freedom through dailies and weeklies while in exile in Pondicherry. Most of the freedom fighting leaders was directly involved in some news daily or weekly. Gandhi would not have succeeded in his struggle against the British but for the print media.
The Modern Revolution
The revolution started by Gutenburg shifted to the USA in the 20th century. The IT corporate sector revolutionized the technical aspect of written and spoken communication. William Gates popularly known as Bill Gates through his Microsoft firm specialized in the technicalities of written media and brought in numerous developments in the last twenty years. The preparation for a thesis or a book which consumed two years of full time efforts until 1990 is now reduced to six months. The presentation quality has substantially improved in terms of editing, formatting, spell check highlights, cross reference, foot notes, diagram, charts, tables, and a few more reducing the burden of the old tedious methods of typing and proof reading. The e-mailing programme, gives an address to a person without having a physical place of dwelling.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin the promoters of Google, took the revolutions to newer heights. The search engine called ‘Google’ introduced by them has become a part of life for many writers. There is no author of book, thesis and article who does not use Google. Most of the information required are now available through their web site. It brings to the table top the required information for which one may have to visit several libraries 20 years ago. Name the information you get it from Google with in a fraction of a second.
Gutenburg’s transformation of the means of revolution remains strong, only its technology has changed. It contributed to the development of language and literature whereas the new information revolution is more technological aiming at speed and reach. The importance of language proficiency and literature value are going down giving away to technology. English, the dominant computer language is transforming and romanizing many vernaculars. The SMS exchanged by youngsters are in Tamil language but written in English.
This is not the end of the present revolution. Many more developments are on the pipeline. Technological revolution is so far peaceful, however, it has precipitated new types of conflicts like Cyber war, network hacking and hate campaign which affect the economic and social fabric of the world.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” (John F. Kennedy)
Dr. Krishnan Arunachalam
Arunachalam/ Thiagarajan in YMCA Toast Masters Club
(Published in Mylapore Club Magazine Jun/2015)