Double-edged sword?

中国日报网 2017-05-16 11:08



Reader question:

Please explain this sentence, particularly “double-edged sword”: Teenagers need more space to rebel and reinvent, away from the double-edged sword of the adult gaze.

My comments:

This means parents perhaps shouldn’t pay too much attention and care to everything their teenage children do – perhaps they should let them grow on their own a bit more.

Too much attention might suffocate them, so much so that they wouldn’t be able to be and feel free – at that rebelling age, teens need not only the food to grow in height but the space to grow spiritually as well.

That’s, at any rate, what it means to say that the adult gaze is a double-edged sword.

A double-edged sword, as a sister saying goes, that cuts both ways.

A double-edged sword, you see, is sharp on the edge on both sides, unlike the common kitchen knife that is sharp on only one side.

If the kitchen knife is double-edged and sharp on both sides, well, the chance for inadvertent self-inflicted injury will increase, it is safe to say.

Safe to say, then, that the single-edged kitchen knife is safer to handle and work with.

Safe, sorry for sticking with the word safe when we are talking about knifes and blades but I do believe it safe to say that the double-edged sword is less safe to handle and work with. One has to be more careful with it.

Even though actual self-inflicted injuries by sword players are virtually unheard of, the metaphor remains widely used and often quoted – beware of the double-edge sword, beware that it cuts both ways.

Like a coin that has two sides, everything has the other side, the other side that may not be as positive and beneficial as this side.

Take the parental gaze for example. Without a mother’s care and stare, kids cannot live. With too much of it, however, kids may lose their way. They’re at a loss what to do.

In a lecture, the late philosopher Alan Watts once told of a mother who constantly urges her boy to go to the loo because she is afraid of the child retaining food for too long. She is always asking the boy “Have you been?” Over time, the child develops a dread for going to the loo because her mother’s attention makes him nervous and tense. As doctors will tell you, being nervous and tense is one of the reasons that lead to constipation directly.

All right, here are a variety of recent media examples of “double-edged sword”, and what it means in each particular situation:

1. It’s still very difficult for women to operate as professionals, because there are still some worlds women have no access to. No matter what you do, because you're a woman, you cannot enter. But I don’t believe that stereotype remains in architecture. In the last 15 years there’s been tremendous change. Half of architecture students are women, and you see respected, established female architects all the time.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the difficulties are incomprehensible. Architecture is a very tough profession.

In my case, I’m a woman and an Arab. Being an Arab woman and a modern architect certainly don't exclude each other – when I was growing up in Iraq, there were many women architects. You cannot believe the enormous resistance I’ve faced just for being an Arab, and a woman on top of that. It is like a double-edged sword. The moment my woman-ness is accepted, the Arab-ness seems to become a problem.

I’ve broken beyond the barrier, but it's been a very long struggle. It’s made me tougher and more precise – and maybe this is reflected in my architecture. I still experience resistance but I think this keeps you on the go.

- Zaha Hadid: ‘Being an Arab and a woman is a double-edged sword’,, November 14, 2012.

2. Even with today’s safer and more targeted anti-cancer drugs, scientists have been unable to satisfactorily explain the phenomenon of why treated cancers so often recur. The common theory is that the cancer cell develops “internal resistance to treatment,” and overrides the toxic effects of the drug.

Now, findings by a team of scientists led by Professor Yuval Shaked of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Faculty of Medicine and the Technion Integrated Cancer Center (TICC) could provide the key for reducing recurrence, and allowing anti-cancer drugs to do work as intended.

In their study published in The Journal of Pathology, the team shows that tumor relapse occurs when the body, in effect, mobilizes itself in favor of the tumor, causing recurrence of the disease, increasing its aggressiveness and creating metastases or tumor spread. Even selective, highly focused treatments that harm cancer cells almost exclusively lead to a similar response.

“The administration of an anti-cancer drug is very aggressive intervention in the body,” explains Prof. Shaked. “Therefore, the body responds to chemotherapy the way it responds to trauma. This creates the effect of a double-edged sword: although chemotherapy kills cancer cells, it also causes the secretion of substances that confer resistance to the tumor. Even more selective treatments, with fewer side effects, cause physiological reactions that increase the aggressiveness of the disease.”

In this specific study, among other studies the group has published in this area, mice with multiple myeloma -- a malignant disease of the plasma cells produced in bone marrow and spread throughout the body via the circulatory system -- were treated with the selective anti-cancer drug Velcade (bortezomib). (Velcade is based on the discovery of ubiquitin, for which Professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion Faculty of Medicine won the Nobel Prize.)

The researchers found that treatment with Velcade led to a physiological reaction that actually reinforced the intensity of the myeloma in the mice. According to Prof. Shaked, the drug caused inflammatory cells (macrophages) in the bone marrow to enhance the aggressiveness of the disease and provide the cancer cells with resistance to treatment.

“It is important to clarify that treatment with Velcade is essential and necessary,” says Prof. Shaked, “but its disadvantage is that along with the benefit there is damage.”

- Cancer treatment as a double-edged sword,, October 5, 2016.

3. Although US President Donald Trump presents “real opportunities,” his “unpredictability is a double-edged sword,” famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz told The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on Sunday.

On the positive side, Dershowitz argued that “there are real opportunities with this new administration to do something constructive in the Middle East. When the US has Israel’s back and Israel feels strong, it is willing to make compromises and concessions.”

On the negative side, he said, “President Trump is utterly unpredictable. We don’t know what he will do next. We don’t know what surprises” are next, and “we didn’t know what he would do with” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Unpredictability is a double-edged sword. It could drive people together, but it also produces uncertainty, so it could make it more difficult to come to a resolution,” Dershowitz said.

Overall, he suggested that Trump’s real Middle East policies will become more clear in the near future as he visits in the region in late May.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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