The Progress Problem

The Progress Problem

Over the last four years, I have observed that many of my friends, family and associates have become increasingly distressed and disheartened with the path that our world is following. It’s been going on much longer but I began paying more attention circa 2016. I should add that this problem is beyond the American scope, though all of my experience is as an American. 

The problem is progress and the fact that’s becoming increasingly clear to many people that it just isn’t happening anymore. Or if it is, it’s only happening for certain people in certain classes. 

Let’s break down the concept for a moment. 

Belief in progress, from a western perspective, might as well be considered a religion. Through the lens of our leaders and mass media, we should believe, above all else, that things should always be getting better. Any other path is unfathomable. For a few years, as I’ve really dug into this concept, I’m under the impression that progress, like civilization itself, is a trend that gradually rises, peaks, then gradually declines. We’re somewhere at the top of the roller coaster tracks, awaiting that drop sensation in our stomachs before the nose of the car tilts down. 

Regardless of political preferences, many still uphold the belief that if only their candidate was in office, things would be better. Every four years we play this game. We add more layers of bureaucracy, write more laws into the books and yet we’re all still looking around, waiting for better to show up. 

I have a radical, very unpopular position regarding this. I’ve studied the rise, peak and decline of civilizations and the western world, America in particular, has seen it’s peak and we ought to be considering what it might be like to live in a declining world. 

Oddly enough, however, I’m not disheartened about this. I’m not taking it personally. I didn’t build this system so I’m not responsible for its failure. I’m only responsible for myself and my household. When a person starts letting go of what we’re told we ought to care about (mainly the decisions about how another person conducts their lives) they may find lots of energy left over to tackle how they want to handle the coming changes. 

As the government and related systems become further corrupt, top heavy, inaccessible and disengaged with the average person, I’m building forms of resilience into my life that don’t require government assistance. This is why I’ve embraced a life of acquiring teachable skills. It’s why social capital and solid relationships are a valuable form of exchange. It’s why I’m downsizing my lifestyle and investing in tools and actions that have an assured return. 

It’s not the government’s job to save us. Yes, a bloated government and bureaucracy gets a lot of the blame for the state of the world, but we do have the option of steering around certain systems and minimizing our involvement as much as possible. We need to be asking ourselves what skills we can offer to our families and community. 

It’s a long process of accepting that progress isn’t assured. I still find myself reverting back to thinking that way, just out of sheer habit. Grappling with it may be like going through the stages of grief. That’s why I put so much emphasis on taking action steps. It’s hard to stall out when you’re planning the next project to further your freedom and resilience. 

The good news is that there’s a lot of people out there ready to help those who are ready to adapt to the changes. I’ve built a mental toolbox of actions, techniques and approaches that can be applied to a variety of situations. I’m happy to discuss these concepts with anyone. I extend the invitation to whoever would like to have that conversation.