The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

America: are we still living in the dark ages?

Jenn McFadden | The Reflector
Dark Ages

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.

My purpose with this article is to highlight a fact: our seemingly innocent daily routines and preferences often have long-term consequences and create a lot of suffering in the world.

If we become aware of the ramifications of our behaviors, we will naturally tend to want to quit the things that hurt others and that don’t make ourselves happy anyway. At the same time, we want to increase the activities that help others and  ourselves. 

The day-to-day values of most Americans—of comfort, security, social status and entertainment—pale in comparison to the values of a truly enlightened society: truth, beauty, service, creativity and love. 

We have all experienced these higher values in little doses. But to imagine a society that embodies these on a daily basis—well, on one hand, it’s hard to do. On the other hand, it is ridiculously inspiring.

I hope this article rings some bells. I hope you’re looking around and realizing just how destructive the game that society is playing. 

However, furthermore, that many of your own daily habits are part and parcel of this materialistic mess. Maybe this society could be even better. We can all do something about it. And it starts with us.


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America: are we still living in the dark ages?