Our present age is the final act of the modern obsession with the promise of more.
The desire for increase was the impulse at the heart of Caesar Augustus, the Mongol conquest of Asia, the Bantu migration in Central Africa, the rise of the Aztec and Inca kingdoms in the Americas, the British Empire and the current American and Chinese century. At the end of every battle was the promise of pillage. Battle now, get paid later. This makes empire financially possible.
It is the identical philosophy of the “buy now, pay later” and “zero-percent-down” schemes so ubiquitous throughout the West. The relationship between empire and pillage has changed little, save for the fact that the ability to exploit nature has now outpaced humanity’s ability to exploit one another (though it hasn't replaced it).
Where there is a center, there must also be a frontier to feed the center. This translates into a new set of mutually dependent entities: where there is a shopping mall, there must be a factory; where there is energy, there must be ecocide; where there is health, there must be sickness; where there is consumption, there must be waste; where there is pristine, there must be polluted; where there is progress, there must be regression and desire.
This material reality has a mental parallel. Within each of us there is also an insatiable thirst for increase and abundance. This is fuelled by advertising, propaganda and, increasingly, self-delusion.
This internalized graph of progress, one that points exponentially up, governs our relationships, our careers, our sex lives, our friendships, our families, our waste lines, our jobs, our purchasing, our houses, our cars, our travels … everything.
According to this way of thinking, satisfaction is a sign of weakness. Poverty is a sign of laziness and ineptitude. Wealth is a sign of attraction and prowess.
This new moral compass of modernity, the consciousness of our world today, is dependent on a single paradoxical truth: infinite growth.