The world is on fire. Humanity is a disease infecting the Earth and all its creatures. There is something fundamentally wrong with the world today. There is something fundamentally wrong with us.
For many of us, these statements appear to be self-evident facts. “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” we say. “We’re not pessimists; we’re realists,” we claim.
Whether right or wrong, pessimistic or realistic, these are not facts. They are memes we’ve developed to make sense of the world around us. Together, they form a story that we as a society tell ourselves about ourselves. It’s one of many stories humanity tells itself about itself. That doesn’t mean they are wrong. It just means they are necessary simplifications of the vast complexity all around us.
This story in particular, one that has become increasingly pervasive over the last several decades, tells us that things were once good, but now they are bad and getting worse.
We might call this common narrative about humanity The Story of Decline. It has many different permutations and variations. And it is told by a wide range of humans with wildly different values, worldviews, and objectives. One common version goes something like this: