“New eras don’t come about because of swords; they’re created by the people who wield them.”
– Kenshin Himura, Rurouni Kenshin
Episode 40, “A Killer Without Mercy: Fight to the Death Against the Cho of the Juppongatana”
How many times has it happened? Someone, for some reason, wants to do away with how things are and usher in a new age more to their liking, and they think they can do it because of the weapon they wield. It could be a sword, or a gun, or an army, or a bomb, or money, or words. Whatever the weapon is, they think it gives them power, even power enough to reshape the world itself. They fail to understand that the weapon is just a tool, and all tools are meaningless props without the person wielding them.
It is the person, not the weapon, which is powerful.
The weapon can only enhance what is already there, be it good or bad, professional or incompetent, strong or weak.
But it’s not just the person with the weapon who needs to realize this, it’s the people around them.
When Kenshin says this, he is in the middle of a fight with a bloodthirsty glory hound. The enemy is bragging about the swords he’ll use to create a new era, but he’s wrong. Kenshin replies with the above quote, but the man is beyond listening. Yet, it does not fall on deaf ears alone, because there is another man nearby. He is a man who has seen his son, a young boy in immediate danger, kidnapped by Kenshin’s enemy.
He has a long history of his own with swords, as he is a smith, successor to his father, who also promised a new era through the swords he made, many of them unusual and even more deadly than normal swords. He could never make sense of those words until this moment, when Kenshin is fighting, risking his life, to save the man’s son. He had almost no hope, only a desperation to get his son out of danger. But then Kenshin’s words hit home in his heart, and he realizes something he did not know before.
When his father was making those swords, he was only seeking to arm the people who would use them, and praying that they ended up in good hands. But for that to happen, for a dangerous tool to rest in good hands, there must be a good person to whom those hands belong. That good person must have chosen, at some point, to stand up and do something about the wrongs of the world. It is in his or her hands that the future must rest, because otherwise, it will automatically be clutched in the hands of lesser men, and once they have it, they will hold on to it for dear life. That can only be countered with the resolve to do likewise: to take the future into one’s own hands.
The man who hears Kenshin’s words makes his own choice then, because he now knows that it is people who make new eras, and it is people who must protect said new eras. He risks his life to get Kenshin a desperately-needed weapon, the last one his father forged, so he can win this fight, and keep protecting the future they both want.
That is how it works. There are those who can fight, and those who can equip the fighters. There are those who can clothe them, feed them, heal them, and otherwise support them in their time of need. Each person has their own “weapon,” but they must have the resolve to use it. That is a power that every ordinary man and woman has, and it is the ultimate power. It is the source of that power which governments of every kind use, but which rightfully and automatically belongs, in truth, to the people.
It is no army, or bomb, or gun, or sword, or words, or even ideas which change the world. It is the choice of the people who wield them. That is the hinge on which the course of history truly turns.
The future is ours to make, and ours to protect.