Knowledge is power. This is true, whether the power which knowledge gives be used for good or for evil. By his medical knowledge, the doctor can cure disease and save his patient’s life. But the blackmailer, by his knowledge of some guilty secret, can bleed his victim white under the threat of disclosure. In general, the man who knows has an advantage over the man who does not know. In this way the educated classes have always been able to rule over the ignorant.
During the middle Ages in Europe, the only educated men were the priests. Great barons, brave knights, kings and ruling princes very often could not even read and write Kings had to appoint priests as their ministers. Unless the king was a man of very strong character, the power, nominally his, was in the hands of learned and clever priests.
The soldier, the man of the sword, thought he was the master; but he was really in the hands of the priest, the man of the pen. The pen was mightier than the sword. It was the same in ancient India. The learned Brahmins were for ages the real rulers of Indian States. They dominated the lower, ignorant castes; and their knowledge enabled them to manage the Rajas and Maharajas.
In the same way, and for the same reason, civilized nations can dominate ignorant savage races. A handful of cultured men can control hundreds of unlettered natives. It is their superior knowledge, and the weapons, organization and character which that knowledge has given them that give the cultured man power over these people who are physically, but not intellectually, their equals.
In Europe and America today, education is so widespread that even the working classes are educated people. As they have advanced in knowledge, the common people have advanced in power. So in the great democracies the people now rule themselves, and are no longer under the domination of priests and kings.
Physically, man is a comparatively weak animal. He cannot naturally run like the horse, nor fly like the birds. He is no match in strength for the elephant, the lion or the bear. He has no natural weapons of defense like the tiger’s fangs and claws. Yet he conquers all these strong and fierce beasts, and forces some of them to be his servants. It is his superior knowledge and intelligence that make him the master of creatures superior to him in physical strength.