Created By: mythbuster on April 29, 2012

Swords Into Plowshares

Converting weapons of war into peaceful use

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Great news! The war is over! Now what do we do with all these weapons we built for the war? Turn them into things civilians can use! All that scrap steel can make some heavy machinery or be used in construction. Those nuclear weapons? Fuel rods. TNT? Use it for earth-moving. Those factories that built bombers and warships? Use them to build cars.

If a weapon of war does not even require conversion to be used for civilian purposes, then it doubles as an example of mundane utility.

The Trope Namer is The Bible.

Examples:
  • From The Bible: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and study war no more."- Isaiah 2:4
  • Real Life Example: The Megatons to Megawatts program converts nuclear weapons into fuel rods that produce 10% of the US electricity supply.
  • Nuclear power itself is an example, because for over a decade the only use of nuclear power was to build bombs, and then later to power submarines.
Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • April 29, 2012
    Mauri
    • In the case you wonder it is also the name of a Magic the Gathering card: [1]
    • A LOT of Military Technology is sent towards the civilian side... also known as the plowshare of your trope. Cellphones where initially quick Intel tools for communicating important information and or saying where to drop the artillery strike.
    Also if I don't recall wrong:
    • In the Italian written series of "Don Camilo" by Giovanni Guareschi there is a story about some family that tries to re-purpose a tank into a field tractor but given the lack of knowledge they have one hell of a time then forget it and then ask the local priest and then the priest involves the towns mechanic which is also the major... hilarityensues
  • April 30, 2012
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Terran Trade Authority series by Stewart Cowley. After the Proxima War, many of the military spacecraft used in the war were converted for civilian use, e.g. by removing their weapons.
  • April 30, 2012
    Belfagor

    VVV It replaces a creature with life gain, so I think it can fit.
  • April 30, 2012
    Antigone3
    Wasn't there a Bolo story where the titular supertank had an bulldozer blade mounted on its front end?
  • April 30, 2012
    LeeM
    I wonder if the Thames Estuary forts would count as a RL example? Former WWII ack-ack stations converted into BuccaneerBroadcasters by some enterprising squatters in the 60s.
  • April 30, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^^^ The magic card is named for it, but the effect isn't really related to the trope.

    • Hero had a metaphorical example, in that the way of the warrior was supposed to end in peace, without the need to kill anymore.
  • April 30, 2012
    katiek
    I'm pretty sure that in The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror II, when Lisa wishes for world peace, there are a couple of sight gags of the Pentagon being turned into a playground and weapons being melted down to make something else, but I can't remember what it is.
  • April 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^In a different Treehouse Of Horror episode (XIII) all the guns in Springfield are melted down into playground equipment, but they still look like guns and apparently still have the bullets in them, since they go off as kids slide down the slide.
  • May 1, 2012
    mythbuster
    Sculpture: The Plowblade in Washington D.C. It's a plowshare made of guns.
  • May 1, 2012
    Generality
    If the weapons retain functionality, they may provide a Superweapon Surprise if invaders rear their heads.

    • Inverted in Starcraft II: Most of the new Protoss weapons are old work vehicles that have been repurposed.
  • May 1, 2012
    aurora369
    The Internet, period. Invented for military and scientific uses, now used mostly for porn and procrastination.
  • May 2, 2012
    Surenity
    In the 1939 animated short Peace On Earth, the debris of a terrible war that killed off the human species is converted into little houses made of soldier helmets and street posts made from bayonets by Woodland Creatures.
  • May 2, 2012
    BlackDragon
    The space-habitat of Credomar from Schlock Mercenary. A journalist even mentions that it was created by the 'Swords to Plowshears' project. Essentially, it's a Hyperspace Death Ray with enormous stategic value, which has been repurposed as a deep-space habitat. An Arc centers around the king of Credomar evacuating the entire population to a habitable moon somewhere in order to reactivate the weapon - not because he's looking to pick a fight with anyone, but because he's worried that The Federation - who BUILT the damn thing in the first place - may at some point declare a 'state of emergency' and fire the weapon without evacuating the population first...
  • May 2, 2012
    MarkThis
    " used mostly for porn and procrastination." Get some perspective please.
  • August 12, 2015
    kraas
    • This trope is mentioned in George RR Martin's "And Seven Times Never Kill Man", in the story describing the creation of the militant cult of the Children of Bakkalon, and it's portrayed as being a stupid idea and displeasing to their god, Bakkalon the Pale Child, who thinks Humans Are Warriors should be the norm and all other species should be under their heel:
      "And the pale child came and stood before them, with His great sword in His hand, and in a voice like thunder He rebuked them. 'You have been weak children,' He told them, 'for you have disobeyed. Where are your swords? Did I not set swords in your hands?'
      "And the children cried out, 'We have beaten them into plowshares, oh Bakkalon!'
      "And He was sore angry. 'With plowshares, then, shall you face the Sons of Hranga! With plowshares shall you slay the Horde of Fyndii!' And He left them, and heard no more their weeping, for the Heart of Bakkalon is a Heart of Fire."
  • August 12, 2015
    shimaspawn
    <Mod Hat>

    No New Stock Phrases

    Unfortunately, this phrase is a little too well known and widely dispersed and this trope is just going to end up a dumping ground of every time anyone references the parable. It's already starting to show in the examples you're attracting.

    Rename this before launching.
  • August 12, 2015
    Chabal2
    • Referenced in Night Watch, where Vimes sees the stuff the government ban on weapons has missed, like an old haldberd used to hold up a clothesline, a sword used to poke a fire... which is by far outstripped by the perfectly legal tools (billhooks, cleavers...) that are being repurposed into very efficient weapons.
    • Warhammer Fantasy: Several Steam Tanks exist in the Empire, one of which has been converted into a mobile kitchen by its halfling owners.
    • Inverted in Artemis Fowl, where a mining laser can be easily converted into an extremely powerful weapon.
  • August 12, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^^ Weapon Recycled For Peaceful Use? It's clunky, but it's clear.
  • August 12, 2015
    robbulldog
  • August 12, 2015
    shimaspawn
    ^ Decent as a working title, but I'd prefer something less clunky. Weapons To Tools maybe? It keeps the same juxtaposition and the parable but won't get the stock phrase misuse. That said, the inverse trope Tools To Weapons would probably be good to develop in conjunction with this one.
  • August 12, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ "That said, the inverse trope Tools To Weapons would probably be good to develop in conjunction with this one."

    Would Improvised Weapon cover that, or would this be more about making a weapon from improvised equipment?
  • August 12, 2015
    shimaspawn
    ^ Not quite. Improvised Weapon is just picking the tool and using it as a weapon. This is actually doing work and transforming those old tools into weapons.

    When you hit someone with a wrench, you're using an Improvised Weapon. When you rework the wrench in a forge into a spiked mace, you're changing Tools To Weapons. The difference is do you just grab it? Or do you turn it into something else.
  • August 12, 2015
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    Star Trek Voyager: Had a episode where a a missile guided by artificial intelligence could have been repurposed for terraforming but never got the chance.
  • August 12, 2015
    DragonQuestZ
    ^^ That is what I meant by the last part of my comment. Anyway that should be on ykttw.

    ^ And in First Contact a nuke missle was turned into the hull of the Phoenix, which was the first human warp ship.

    Could Peacefully Repurposed Weapon work as a trope name?
  • August 12, 2015
    Hodor2
    Would the Iron Throne from A Song Of Ice And Fire count? It was created by swords taken by Aegon the Conqueror from lords he had defeated, which were then melted down via dragonfire. Due to its origin, it originally doubled as a Monument Of Humiliation And Defeat.

    Also:

    • In The Grace Of Kings, one of these was planned by the Visionary Villain Emperor Mapidere but never came to fruition. After conquering a continent and subduing warring states, he wanted to confiscate all swords in the realm and then melt them down to make statutes of all of the deities in the pantheon as a monument to peace.
  • August 13, 2015
    robinjohnson
    • The Infocom text adventure game Nord And Bert Couldn't Make Head Or Tail Of It had a section called "Buying the Farm" where you had to perform certain metaphorical actions literally, one of which was to HAMMER SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES.
  • August 13, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    Would a picture of that sculpture near the UN Headquarters do as a page image?
  • August 13, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • One early Mighty Mouse cartoon shows a cheese factory making Swiss cheese by rolling wheels of regular cheese in front of a World War I Vickers machine gun, which shoots the distinctive holes in the cheese, making it Swiss.
  • August 13, 2015
    robinjohnson
    "Nuclear power itself is an example, because for over a decade the only use of nuclear power was to build bombs, and then later to power submarines."

    This reads at first like you're saying the "plowshare" is the submarines (which are military submarines and therefore still swords) - but I guess you mean the plowshare is nuclear plants for the civilian electricity supply? You should probably make that explicit.
  • August 13, 2015
    TonyG
    In defense of the current title, I feel the way it is worded doesn't sound like a stock phrase. Also, while it is well-known, I'm not sure how widely distributed it is.
  • August 19, 2015
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    snowcloneing still considered evil? Weapon Tool Turn might work.
  • August 19, 2015
    shimaspawn
    It's close enough to a stock phrase to have picked up stock phrase misuse already in this YKTTW. That's enough to say it's not allowed in the wild.
  • August 20, 2015
    aurora369
    This is a running theme in Russian Humour. The jokes are based either on how repurposed military hardware is ineffective and unergonomic, or how it is repurposed into the most improbable things (e.g. perambulators from machine gun parts, a worker steals the parts and can't get how to assemble something other than a machine gun from them), or how the repurposed hardware is still perfectly fit for military use (e.g. the "peaceful Soviet tractor" that can release a Macross Missile Massacre).
  • November 22, 2015
    alnair20aug93
    If I could broaden this regarding military clothing turned into everyday apparel, do trenchcoats count? Trenchcoats, for it's namesake, were originally worn by officers and soldiers in the trenches during World War One to protect them from rain and cold. Today, it's been adopted by civilians, and private detectives.
  • November 22, 2015
    Alucard
    Inverted by "Ashes In Your Mouth" by Megadeth, which references the biblical line.
    Melting down all metals, turning plows and shears to swords
    Shun words of the Bible, we need implements of war
  • November 22, 2015
    BKelly95
    Would the civilian versions of the Jeep and Hummer count as Real Life examples?
  • November 22, 2015
    eroock
    Music:
    • In the climax of the music video for Dire Straits' "Brothers In Arms", Mark Knopfler is shown holding an assault rifle in hands which then switches into a guitar for the final solo.
  • November 22, 2015
    acrobox
    It's not a stock phrase as much as it is an Idiom.

    Like how Lead Balloon means something that fails because its flawed by design
  • November 22, 2015
    Gatomon41

    Literature:

    • In in one Retief story, the CDT have re-purposed Bolo tanks (AI supertanks with megaton firepower) for farming and mining by attaching bulldozing blades. Subverted in that the Bolos are still more than capable of being used for weapons of war.

  • November 22, 2015
    DAN004
    There was a ykttw about "Tools to Weapons" before, and I grabbed it, but I then abandoned it because it then turns into dumping grounds of real life weapons that were once tools.

    This one looks more tropable to me.

    Compare Mundane Utility for when the weapons are still functioning as weapons; in this trope, the tools may be derived from those weapons' Mundane Utility.
  • February 10, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    Some more fashion items that came from military use:
    • Neckties: although it has always been a civilian article for centuries, it's ancestor, the cravat, were worn by Croatian mercenaries fighting for France during the Thirty Years War. France, being France, adopted the styles, and the rest is history;
    • Ray-Ban aviator glasses;
    • Cardigans and Bomber jackets;
    • Pants like khakis and cargo pants;
    • Footwear like Doc Martens and Wellington boots. And the aptly named combat boots;

    I can't describe most of the aforementioned examples, but here is the source I found: http://www.highsnobiety.com/2014/08/14/the-military-influence-on-fashion/
  • February 11, 2016
    DAN004
    Weapons To Tools plz.

    ^ Sadly I don't think that counts.
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