Do you want to be happy, or even content? If you live in a dying civilization, even in the early stages, you have a binary choice: embrace the decline and be happy, or reject the decline and always be at odds with the world around you.
Decline takes a long time. At first, it consists of disagreement or a loss of agreement on goals. After that, the leaders decide on external motivation — rewards and punishments, usually monetary — as a means of keeping the society together.
With that, the goal shifts from achievement to unity, at which point any useless action can be argued as positive if it makes some plurality somewhere cheer. As a result, most actions become geared primarily toward maintaining the image of success so that the denial of decline can be maintained.
This forms a type of meta-religion where a fiction must be upheld in order to avoid the collapse people fear. They must believe that what is new is good and better than what came before in order to feel safe; if it is not better, then civilization is obviously declining, where if it is better, there is no risk of that.
Since your birth you have been gaslit and indoctrinated in the propaganda of modern success, based on a few leaps ahead in technology and medicine, so that you do not notice that despite this shining exterior, the core human structure of our society (culture, people, wisdom) is eroding and being replaced by an inferior version.
On the surface level, where everything is detail, life can be a process of churn. That is, someone does something and others react to it, jockeying for their own share of the attention, power, or money, and this drives forward the action like drama in the script of a bad soap opera.
Most people can handle surface detail, even with a fair amount of complexity. They find it harder to grasp details at a higher level of abstraction, where ideas must be windswept and streamlined to the type of simplicity that can be used as a repeated pattern in a complex design, such as (good) leaders must do.
Consequently, the decline goes mostly unnoticed for them except that pesky gut instinct which warns of threat and risk. They are drawn to those who appear to have no fear, so ignoring dangers in favor of asserting that all is good becomes the only way to succeed socially and by extension, in business.
At the same time, they experience a mounting dread which they cannot articulate because they cannot see where it applies in their world and explain that to others, so they remain in the grips of a formless anxiety which they compulsively assuage with media products and conversation that make the failing seem to be thriving.
Since the vast majority are in denial, this means that almost all information out there in public will be not just wrong but partially true in a misleading way, with selective choices for only the facts that seem to make for a happy future or at least issues we can solve easily.
Political correctness works the same way: it filters out anything but that which affirms the narrative. The press, taking a cue from that, accepts only certain sources and types of data to report on. Movies show us a world as portrayed in media, addressing only the token issues which are easily solved and portraying a possible Utopia.
And so the decline occurs slowly and invisibly. Each generation notes that something is missing, and feels less goodness in the world, but again, they find it hard to articulate and as a result lump it in with general nostalgia and isolation. What they know is forgotten and replaced by the current thing.
In a rush to be popular, successful, and influential people embrace the current thing and find a way to work with it. If jobs and houses are terrible, they look for the best of the terrible options and then consider themselves superior to others for having triumphed in such a disaster.
Almost all of them marry the cute girl or guy from their street or high school, paying no attention to social class, race, ethnicity, or culture. Consequently their children know nothing but the current thing and on the surface only, since they have no roots or connections to the past or future.
Institutions steadily decline in quality as the level of competence of the people in them declines. The newcomers take bribes or at least are easily influenced by gifts, and consequently, the function of these institutions too is inverted. Government becomes a tax collection agency that serves to squash dissenters and nonconformists.
Language decays as well, since finer nuance in meaning and historical antecedents become invisible to these new audiences. Knowledge decays because people lose interest in accumulating it unless it brings immediate financial reward. Quickly you end up with a society where it is easy to succeed only if you buy or con your way in.
At this point, leaders have become either self-serving rich people or con men who got ahead of everyone else. Public figures spout gibberish but include enough happy stuff about the success of our society and token, flag-waving issues like equality and anti-poverty which unite people against what seem like solvable programs.
A deep exhaustion settles in. Not just the daily routine of commute and job, pacifying others with lies, and staying abreast of the latest trends in order to seem relevant, but the emotional and mental task of pretending that all is well drain energy from anyone intelligent, inquisitive, and aware.
Slowly those people recede from the gene pool because they have been made obsolete. At this point, nature is close to its final goal, which as always is to push humanity back into hominid status so that we can no longer threaten any other species. If given a chance, nature will breed us into mixed-race, low IQ grey people and then, finally, into monkeys.
The ancient scriptures tell us that this has in fact happened many times before. Civilizations rise, lose sight of their goals at the same time they swell from the bottom, and then gradually decay into irrelevance, leaving behind third-world ruins full of criminally opportunistic people.
Plato pointed out long ago that the problem with democracy was not so much that it was insane, but that a narcissistic role like individualism gradually turns all of the population into vapid narcissists on the edge of mental breakdown.
Hollywood movies show us The End as disaster of an external nature, like fires, floods, climate change, famine, alien invasion, and war. In reality, the decline of society just goes on forevermore until some day we are back to being furry upright monkeys like Bonobos or Chimpanzees, unlikely to ever invent dangerous technology.
We have been in decline for a long time. Every precious myth of our society — religious wars, The Enlightenment,™ the Magna Carta, Civil Rights, the world wars — in fact are nodes on the mesh of our decline. In each case, the denial of decline narrative was affirmed at the expense of reality and therefore decay intensified.
The question upon us now is whether we want to bounce back or not. For us to bounce back, we have to first admit the decline, and then recognize that this is the biggest issue — since it is paired to avoiding The Ecocide — which we must address in order to guarantee our survival.
One can only hope that there are enough people capable of thinking of more than their personal drama who can do this. If not, the end has come, and gone, and we are merely living as remnants of a once-great past, awaiting our mortality so that we can be forgotten by history and the hominids to come.