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Know little little.

Posted by mynormas on January 29, 2018


false knowledge danger

Sometimes when I talk to people-in-charge, this thought comes to mind: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

You know who originally said that? I didn’t, so I did some research and found that it was actually part of a poem by Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744) but the exact word he used was ‘learning’ and not ‘knowledge’ but after a hundred or so years later, commentators were substituting it so often that everyone took for granted the original saying was ‘knowledge’.

Whatever the word was, what is implied by the sentence is that some people are so overconfident of their knowledge that they make bad conclusions. They talk based on what they know without considering what they don’t know.

They may have done something similar or worse – heard of someone doing something similar – and they assume that that knowledge covers it all. It is the end all and be all of the situation.

So, when they encounter the same situation again, they assume they know everything there is to know and apply the same solution. Which may happen to be the correct solution too, mind you and this perpetuates their assumption that they know everything there is to know.

But sometimes, they are not completely right and they don’t know why. And sometimes they know enough to break (or kill) something but not understand enough to fix it. Trouble is, when they broke it; they still have not learnt that there is more to be learnt.

Hey… I am guilty of it too. I am not a plant pathologist or an entomologist so I don’t know enough about how a fungicide or an insecticide works; I just know enough to apply and control the problems that I see. But sometimes my clients or my staff needs to see my confidence and therefore I play the part while researching for more info.

The difference is that I am mindful that I DON’T KNOW it all; that I know I can and should look it up or ask others for more info. As Lao Tzu says “To know yet to think that one does not know is best”.

To know more about pesticides I went to the Agriculture Department to learn more and found out that there is an exam for Pesticide Applicator’s Licence. No classes; they just give you a book, you study it and sit for an exam. I met someone who has sat for the exam three times and failed. I passed. I always thought that meant I had the licence until I saw the small print on the exam slip that says “This is not the licence”. Have you ever tried calling or emailing a government agency? I gave up on the licence but at least I have bragging rights on passing the exam.

The difficulty is when the person-in-charge, imbued by his confidence gives an order that may make things worse or just are not relevant at all to the situation. If it doesn’t work; he blames it on the implementer or the equipment. Never was it about him, his order or his knowledge.

That is not the worst part yet. There are two more worse kinds of people.

One is the guy (have yet to meet a lady like that) who is so super-confident and will not listen to others – at all. I find it hard to deal with them especially when they are in a high position to give orders. Reminds me of the Peter Principle; when someone is promoted and promoted until he reaches uh… beyond his maximum level. I am usually brought in to have a word with him; over lunch or drinks (he wouldn’t hire a consultant of course; its soooo easy to maintain a golf course).

Two is the guy who know enough to use his knowledge to mislead others. I once met a golf course owner who insisted on using a fertiliser I rarely find. I asked him “Why?” and he told me it was sold by a friend. When I met the supplier and asked him about it he told me – with a giggle – “I have too much of it in stock”.

I have this feeling that I may not get my message across because I dare not use titles or positions like GMs or Committee Chairman or golf pros or members or bosses but I suppose that will have to do, I wouldn’t want to offend anyone.

A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain
And drinking largely sobers us again.

Alexander Pope
An Essay on Criticism 1709.

Alright. I believe what Mr Pope is trying to say here is that learning only a little may give us a sense that we know so much but after learning more of it, we will realise that there is a lot more that we don’t know.

I pray to God that I belong to the second group.

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