As our modern age spirals down into ruin, corruption, pollution, poverty and megalomania — typical conditions in the third world — we must ask ourselves: what makes this time modern?
The crowd pleaser answer, which is the surface or first glance analysis, which therefore makes everyone feel smart for having noticed the obvious and banished the actually threatening, is “technology.”
Looking deeper, we see that technology is a non-answer. Humans have always had technology; it differs only by degree. Even more, there are other distinguishing traits of the modern time.
Without going into excessive detail, we should look at modernity as a type of civilization design, or a set of assumptions about how humans live. Its root is externality: instead of seeking inner sanity, it seeks inner death and outward similarity, so that all of us can go through life without taking on existential or moral challenges.
The heart of the modern time is the urban gated community. One pulls into the parking garage in a fancy car, gets out and goes to an apartment, never contacting others. Food, wine and drugs are delivered. Work is the only requirement. Nothing that forces us to question our purpose or strive for something higher is present.
This is why the essence of modernity is quantity over quality. Quality requires toughening, a pushing of ourselves against challenges in the moral and metaphysical realm as well as ordinary mental and physical self-discipline. That in turn belittles us, and reminds us that we are mere mortals, and that offends and angers us.
So: the revenge. We blot out all that is not purely external. This means that all aspects of our society become one-dimensional and crassly simplistic, that commerce takes over culture and daily life, and that we will be ruled by whatever idiot flatters the other idiots with a shiny, flashy new idea that explains why our problems are not our problems, and we need to be looking elsewhere.
This is how all societies go out. It is a byproduct of success: as we grow, we enable those who could not have done this on their own, and they tend to breed by an r-strategy (many kids, low investment) and thus quickly flood our society with serfs, proles, plebs. Back in the day, we kept them in check by calling them those names and limiting their prospects.
But eventually, there are too many. They have a bright, shiny “new” idea: democracy, equality or some variant thereof. Basically, suspend standards; let the mob rule. At that point, the hand is reaching for the “flush” lever, and all comes undone. That is modernity.