The great sadness of modernity could be that nothing is done for its own sake; everything is a means to an end. When we make the individual the highest order that we recognize, individuals view the world as a series of objects that they can use for the benefit of the individual alone.
This is the default state of humankind, but we beat it back for many years by convincing people to aspire toward an order larger than themselves — the good, the beautiful, and the true, if nothing else — and so they were able to make great societies because people made the societies themselves worth enjoying.
Then, in came the Enlightenment™ and the years of focus on the self. Democracy made truth optional; vote for what you want to believe is true. Civil Rights and feminism made culture, family, and good behavior optional. The core of this narcissism is our focus on the self as the purpose of our existence.
That in turn creates an abusive society. All of us, to others, are merely objects to be used; the more they insist we are not, the more we know they are in denial and that we actually are. When you have a bunch of people posting Instagram links about compassion and empathy, you know the little monkeys are hiding something.
Parents use their children as means to the end of creating an image of the parent. Even the helicopter parents who devote all their time to their offspring are doing so in order to manufacture an image about themselves. They treat their children as a problem which must be solved through control, or regulating the methods others use and not their goals as a means of forcing them to think a certain way. They control their children with money, with bullying, and with guilt, and then wonder why what once seemed like a family has fallen apart. It never was a family; it was a vehicle for the egotism of the parent.
At work, anyone with people working under them uses those people as a means of advancing the image of the boss. How do you get TPS reports? It makes whoever is in charge look industrious and useful; make-work and fake-work are better than no work, so the bosses generate nonsense projects in order to advance their own careers.
In society at large, people select friends and associates who make them look good, instead of sticking with the time-honored principle of choosing friends who you admire. This creates little cliqu&eacuate;s of yes-men and their controllers, and these groups then get into conflict so that their leaders can advance their own status.
We treat the environment like a landfill, make our cities into ugly advertising space, and trash anything good because it seems to rise above us and that challenges our egos. The future of humanity is not space travel, but millions of monkeys each trying to destroy all the rest in order to rise, consuming everything good and beautiful in the process and leaving behind a feces-strewn dystopian wasteland mostly occupied by garbage.
This can be reversed. If we see modern society as abusive, we can then find the principle of that abuse, which is the narcissism created by the Enlightenment™ and democracy. When we realize that egotism and individualism are the behaviors killing us, we can avoid those by choosing another goal other than the individual.
Already this process infiltrates the edges of the dead, ruined West. We are tired of living in a failed society. We want something more out of life. As a result, we are ready to leave behind a sacred cow — the self — and move on to the idea of a higher order than the individual. This, finally, is growth and health.