The dark ages?

中国日报网 2017-08-04 13:14



The dark ages?Reader question:

Please explain “dark ages” in this sentence: Many are still in the dark ages relying on pen, paper and fax machines.

My comments:

This is a way of saying that many people have not been making their life easier by using computers, e-mail and other up-to-date communications technologies.

Today, if you still write on paper instead of clicking away in front of a screen, well, you do appear backward – technologically speaking.

Indeed, the phrase “dark ages” represent backwardness, among other negative things.

You see, the dark ages or Dark Ages (in capital letters) refer to the middle ages of Europe, roughly between the 5th century and the 15th century, or again roughly speaking after the fall of the Roman Empire and before the Renaissance.

The Renaissance, of course, is synonymous with enlightenment, a period where art, culture and modern science began to bud, grow and flourish. In comparison, the dark ages were the exact opposite.

To give one example, most people in medieval Europe believed the Earth is flat.

That’s just one example but the long and short of it is the dark ages were perceived to be a time of ignorance and backwardness. And, today, when they say so-and-so still lives in the dark ages about something, they mean to say that he or she remains pretty backward in that particular regard and that they haven’t, as the Chinese like to say these days, advanced with the times – as they perhaps should.

In other words, they’re stuck in the past. It’s like saying they’re Neanderthals, extinct human relatives who lived in caves tens of thousands of years ago.

All right, no more ado. Let’s read a few recent media examples of people still living in dark ages in one way or another, metaphorically speaking:

1. The rise of touch-based payments on mobiles will provide a huge lift for e-commerce. Imagine not having to key in your personal details while expanding the phone screen as you bump along on the bus? But the growth of cognitive technology will also mean more people barking orders at their phones in public, a cacophony that many of us will dread. The relentless rise of smartphones doesn’t mean the imminent demise of the laptop; even millennials are still using PCs in large numbers, often as their favourite place to watch TV shows.

But in one respect we’re still in the dark ages. Across media, but especially in tech, women remain marginalised.

Last week I spoke to Gerard Grech, head of Tech City, the government-backed network of UK technology companies. Grech was at the South by SouthWest media festival in Texas, where misogyny in the tech sector was a major issue. He admitted we needed to do more to encourage female tech entrepreneurs. Only 18 per cent of IT jobs in the UK are held by women, compared to 24 per cent in the US.

- The Media Column: Print may become a thing of the past, but there’s a revolution in new technology,, March 20, 2016.

2. Have you realized the narrative modern culture likes to spin? There’s an undercurrent to our culture that somehow or other, through science and technology, humans have discovered the deepest truths of reality, have become masters of the universe and now live in a brilliant enlightened age.

This would be in comparison to the so-called “dark ages,” wherein humans were not particularly interested in learning and growth; that social systems remained rather fixed and oppressive; that life was on the whole quite miserable.

This description also seems to fit the modern ages pretty well. Currently, we call it the “Modern Era,” but I predict that historians of the future will call this era the “Slightly Brighter, but Still Pretty Dark Ages.”

Here are a few reasons why modern society, and particularly America, is still mired in darkness: According to Market Watch, we spend twice as much money on entertainment than personal education. According to the Center for Stray Pet Advocacy, we have near-universal support of a system that treats cattle, poultry and pigs in ways that would be classified as a felony if applied to horses, cats, or dogs.

We prefer to let potato chip bags sit in landfills than to put up with the loud noises of compostable packaging.

We maintain continued fixation on social status, as seen in our tendency to keep up (ahem) with celebrities.

We will more likely spend $5 on a milkshake than to give towards efforts to supply villages with clean water.

I do not mean to put myself on a pedestal here. I drive an SUV. I eat meat from factory farms. I rarely give to charity. I am not trying to shame anyone either. We are, as we should be, free to make our own choices in life.

However, it does not take a scientist to realize that this lifestyle of ours—of endless commuting, smoking cigarettes at bars and watching Netflix alone in bed—does not actually make a human being very happy. I mean, I hardly need to point to the skyrocketing suicide rate that The New York Times recently reported.

- America: are we still living in the dark ages? By Joseph Garland,, January 30, 2017.

3. In the meantime, there is certainly no harm in including fermented foods in your diet. Not only does it seem likely that the more varied your intake the better, but also they are easy to digest, as some of the work has already been done for you, and they tend to have a distinctive, complex and (sometimes) challenging flavour.

Live yoghurt is good, but kefir, a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus, is better – according to Spector, it contains at least five times as many microbial varieties. Kombucha is another decent source, as are raw milk cheeses, sauerkraut, pickles or kimchi. Natto, Japanese fermented soya beans, may be an acquired taste, but nutty Indonesian tempeh is just like tofu, but nicer. Just make sure none of it has been heat-treated to increase its shelf life.

In the long term, however, you might be better off preparing your own. Like many other ferments, kimchi is surprisingly easy to make at home with little more than a sturdy jar and a bit of patience. Mosley’s recent findings in an episode of BBC2’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor suggest that homemade ferments often contain a more diverse range of microbes than their shop-bought equivalents; some of the commercial products he looked at contained barely any. And, of course, doing it yourself means you can expand your range beyond cabbage, which may well be welcome after a few weeks of fragrant kimchi – I would recommend kefir as a foolproof place to start.

We are only just beginning to understand the influence of the trillions of tiny hitchhikers inside each of us, so the true importance, or otherwise, of live foods to our diets may be a while in coming. As Spector puts it: “We’re still in the dark ages as to how these amazing things work, but we know they do.”

- Do kimchi and other fermented foods give you more fizz? By Felicity Cloake, July 26, 2017.


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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