Liberty wanted poster


Wanted “American Dream” – Dead or Alive?

July 4th celebration of all things red, white and blue today and at the heart of all the fireworks is an enthusiasm for the American Dream. With “death of dreams” as a sub-topic to embracing failure, I’ve looked at this question a few times. In typical skeptic style, I present two alternative perspectives.

The first is a report from NBC asserting that Americans doth protest too much titled “American Dream Lives, but Few People Recognize It”…

  • “2014 Life Style Study, found that only 40 percent of American adults over the age of 18 believed they were ‘living the American Dream.’ That same 7,015-person study also found that sizable majorities reported owning a home, receiving a good education,’ finding a ‘decent job’ and giving their children better lives than they themselves had. Denise Delahorne, senior vice president at DDB, who worked closely with the survey, theorized that many people do not see themselves as having attained the traditional American Dream because of a shifting definition of the term. ‘If you’re new to this country, then life seems pretty good here,’ Delahorne said. ‘But for many people who have lived here a long time, they’ve started to think of the American Dream less as the traditional elements, and more relative to wealth.’"

On the contrarian side is the piece “Is America experiencing a failure cascade?” (thanks Chris). It’s not well written and sort of a laments American decline, but I include it here not just for thematic consistency, but also for its quite handy taxonomy of “failure cascades”…

  • “A cascading failure is a horrific mode of collapse. Engineers describe it as… a failure in a system of interconnected parts in which the failure of a part can trigger the failure of successive parts. Such a failure may happen in many types of systems, including power transmission, computer networking, finance and bridges. Cascading failures usually begin when one part of the system fails. When this happens, nearby nodes must then take up the slack for the failed component. This overloads these nodes, causing them to fail as well, prompting additional nodes to fail in a vicious cycle”

Failure cascades follow a predictable five-stage causal chain:…

  • Phase 1: Sustained Adversity – Adversity can take many forms, all of which amount to “bad things happening”. … Rather than relying on shocking incidents, adversity must be sustained and mundane to the point of being banal. … Unglamorous, everyday loss. … Adversity must also be inescapable.
  • Phase 2: Failure of Rationalization – Rationalization is a critical psychological defense…It is in this stage of the cascade that the propaganda war takes a deeper significance to all parties.
  • Phase 3: Collective Helplessness – Helplessness is a state where a pilot comes to believe that his actions on behalf of the alliance are pointless, impotent, or irrelevant in the face of adversity.
  • Phase 4: Change in Pilot Identification – A change in pilot identification is the primary method people use to escape helplessness in a failure cascade.
  • Phase 5: Collapse – the collapse of an alliance at the terminus of a failure cascade resembles an avalanche.