Humour, Tin Soldier

OPINION: The Iron Warrior Must Return to its Medieval Roots

PenMightierThanSword - Courtesy of Ewan Simms

In 1839, the playwright Edward Bulwer Lytton famously said that the pen is mightier than the sword. While this statement has its artistic merits, it has since been disproven by many sword-vs-pen fights, which have all gone as you might expect. Alas, while the pen may be easier to wield than the sword, it pales in comparison when it comes to hand-to-hand combat.

It is for this reason and many others that I believe it is long past the time that the Iron Warrior ditched the pen and returned to its medieval roots. Tell me, when you picture an iron warrior, what do you see in your mind? Do you see a tall, strapping knight clad in armour, or a 5’9” engineering student who weighs 145 pounds on a good day crouched over his desk like a gargoyle at 2 AM working on a lab report, having eaten only yogurt, toast and spaghetti in the last 3 days?
This is very clearly not knightly behaviour. Instead of writing articles, if we truly wish to be iron warriors, more time should be spent donning armour, grabbing a sword and shield, mounting a horse, and riding it along with one’s damsel into an enchanted forest, at the center of which stands a mysterious cave. I guarantee you that not a single engineering student could manage to find their way to the cave, let alone slay the giant venomous half-snake-half-woman and her million children. In fact, most engineering students don’t even own their own horse or large plot of land on which they let other people live in exchange for their absolute loyalty and service. It’s pathetic, really.

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, he speaks about a knight who leads a group of followers on many adventures, and they all have a great time telling stories. The crucial thing to realize about this knight is that he is cool as hell. He speaks at length about his role in many historical battles and how he has served as a badass warrior. It does not even matter if he is lying about these experiences; just the fact that he is a real knight is enough to instantly grant him the benefit of the doubt and just assume that he actually has done all those things. What are you going to do if you don’t believe him? Fight him? Yeah right, he’s a knight—the man will slice you in half without breaking a sweat. It doesn’t matter how often you work out at CIF or PAC, my guy was on the field at the Battle of St Pol de Léon; you don’t stand a chance.

And what about Chaucer himself? He was just a poet and public servant who also became a renowned astronomer later in life because it really didn’t take that much to make it in astronomy at the time. In short, he was a massive loser. While he may be remembered many centuries after his death as one of the most significant poets and authors in English history, I can say with confidence that he never killed a dragon or defeated a sorcerer who summoned sprites to trick Morpheus into sending him a false dream seeking to convince him that his beloved was unchaste, so is he even really that cool?

This is exactly the issue. You can know all the vector calculus in the world, but the truth is Green’s theorem won’t help you when you inevitably come face-to-face with Orgoglio, the massive giant with a club who seeks to lock you up forever in his castle. While writing and the engineering profession are both noble, neither do their part to address the real problems of terrible beasts and malevolent spirits which people face on a day-to-day basis. That is why I believe that the Iron Warrior must embrace its name and the medieval roots behind it, and become true iron warriors.

In fact, I propose that engineering as a whole turn to this unified mission. Mechanical engineers will forge the best swords, shields and armour, architectural engineers will construct great castles, and systems design engineers will do whatever it is that systems design engineers do. We must all work together on the common mission of beating all these unspeakable creatures borne of the hellish Netherworld.

You want to boost your resume? How does “Captured the vile witch Acrasia and freed the prisoners held on her faraway island” sound as a bullet point? Enough building bridges, designing medical devices, and working effectively with a diverse team in an Agile design environment to create high-quality, scalable software engineering solutions! The time has come to put down the measly pen and take up the blade! We must become true iron warriors! Huzzah, and I will see you all at St Pol de Léon!

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