Alexander Pope wrote a long poem which he called Dunciad. He had no patience with the half learned and the ill-learned. He branded them all dunces and poetasters and made them the theme of his Dunciad. Like Iliad, it was not an epic but a satire wherein he said A little learning is a dangerous thing Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring. The problem with such people, said Pope, was not that they did not know much; but that they thought they knew everything. Therefore he advised them to master their subjects thoroughly or abjure them once for all.
To think that one knows everything is like living in a fool’s paradise. It is a comforting thought as far as it goes, if one can stop with it. But curiously enough one thought leads to another and that sets things moving. Satisfaction leads to arrogance and that opens the Pandora’s Box. Arrogance knows no fear, no second thoughts. Discrimination vanishes and with a foolish sense of confidence the arrogant will venture to do anything. Surely, fools tread where angels fear. We know man falls by pride; and therefore the moment he becomes swollen headed, his fall begins.
But he will not fall alone. He will cause a disaster; and many an innocent man will go down with him. Like a drowning man he drags with him anyone he can lay hands upon. When you think that you are Mr. Know – all, you will probably begin to act like a No – all. Many an innocent man will believe what you say. If they simply wonder like the rustics who stared at the village pedagogue and wondered how a small head could carry so much, no mischief is done. But if they also believe what you say, they are at once on the wrong side of the fence.
Some of the religious fanatics are guilty of such a sin. They do not know what actually a religion is for. They cannot realize that it is for man’s good – to bring comfort in moments of sorrow and distress, to guide him in times of illusion and indecision and to lead him out from darkness and ignorance. They harangue about the superiority of their god, decry the people of other faiths call them infidels and declare holy wars in the name of God and religion. The ignorant masses who believe them take to arms and cut the throats of innocent people. eligion which is expected to bring comfort and sunshine in the lives of people will spread distress and darkness. People who cannot understand that the essence of religion is understanding, tolerance, compassion and service will think that they are pundits and prophets. Pope rightly advises such false prophets ‘to drink deep’ or else ‘taste not the Pierian Spring’. People who believe in racial superiority are no better. They talk of blue blood, azure eyes, blonde hair and fair skin and look down upon others.
They too suffer from the limitations of little knowledge. They do not realize that we all belong to one race – the race of man, whether the colour of the skin is white or yellow, brown or black and that these variations are the ways of nature to add beauty and variety to its creation. Every artist knows that he needs to vary his colours, combine and recombine them, to produce the needed effect and make his creations look more and more beautiful. But these half learned people who do not know this much, practice racial discrimination and spell disaster.