Progress is, in many ways, a modern myth and a rhetorical device by which Modernity doesn’t have to give a reasonable account for its failures. Everything’s in progress so no matter how bad we’re doing, “we’re improving.” And, as we’ll see in an article I’m working on now, everything that doesn’t agree with this is simple “like something out of the Middle Ages…” That is, able to be dismissed as not even belonging to our own time period.
This technique was used repeatedly by the colonial powers in order to justify their wholesale rape of other cultures – and continues to justify the wholesale rape of many traditional cultural values in our own land. It should rightly (and accurately) be compared to the repeated 5-year Plan justifications of the Soviets, for whom wholesale slaughter and genocide could be justified by Marxist progress. The Brave New World has almost destroyed the inhabited earth several times within the last century.
We had plagues and infections. Now we have obesity, diabetes and cancer.
We had cripples and the lame. Now we have crippling debt and the overqualified unemployable.
We had slaves that we owned and had to feed and care for. Now we have indentured workers who have no ability to exercise their theoretical choice to stop working, that we have no responsibility for and can throw away at any time - rented from no lessor.
We had soldiers who would burn down and depopulate inconvenient villages for us and send the survivors into slavery. Now we have corporations and gentrifiers who enslave first, and backhoes and law enforcement to do the rest. (Admittedly, the killing is now kept to a minimum, or at least a reasonably slow trickle.)
We used to live at the mercy of the weather and the elements, which at any time may destroy all that we hold dear. Now we live at the mercy of stock prices, market forces and the politics of government regulation.
We used to live in regular dread of famine. Now we are in danger of the entire world becoming unable to produce food and we don't feel a thing.
And now an idea for that far-future thing:
ancient alien race lives for tens of billions of years fleeing dying star after dying star, with only survival in mind. they attack earth, and capture a saint for interrogation. they torture him to death over the course of a year trying to get "the truth" out of him, about what humanity "really" is, and the result drives the torturers insane in a reverse Lovecraft scenario. someone picks up the transcripts and disseminates them to all public channels, sending ruin among the stars as the ancients destroy themselves in a nihilistic orgy of violence. we take their ships and infrastructure, learn to replicate it and use our newfound habitable planet indices and FTL travel to colonize the galaxy. we never learn how the FTL actually works and after the initial wave there is a gradual deterioration until everyone is isolated again.