The Fault Lines
I’m intending to write a series of regular entries as to why I believe the “Great Experiment” of the United States of America is at risk of systemic failure within the next decade or two at most. Happy Monday!
I coined the term “Survival Economy” two years ago, when I was asked to give a presentation on what drives a lot of my angel investing, and came to realize that a lot of what has compelled me to invest are in companies that can empower people and communities in such a way to be more able to thrive and survive in more self-sustaining ways. It was only in putting my thoughts together for the presentation, did I realize that this investing thesis was built on the belief that America will look very different by the time my children are adults.
In my industry, disruption is the operative word. Never do we talk about destruction. And I feel it’s absolutely critical that we acknowledge the “harmful emissions” of any new innovation.
In the same way that it took decades for there to be broad enough consensus to look for better energy alternatives, I’m hoping that posts and conversations from here lead to an accelerated timeline for us to reach broad enough consensus that if the American Dream is what keeps the States United, we must work urgently to find the fault lines in the American Dream that can break us all apart.
This past weekend, Chris Blattman’s reaction to a speech by Paul Ryan offered the perfect response to the Speaker’s own mention of the American Dream.
The most successful people I’ve met in America can be neatly divided into two types of people: The first group are sure to emphasize the amount of good luck and fortune that contributed significantly to their success. The other group remember their path to success primarily by their own actions and decisions, willfully lifting themselves up against impossible odds.
And likewise, there are two ways to understand the American Dream. One in which, all that is required is for “hard-working people to lift themselves up by their bootstraps” and the other is where the role of a responsible and compassionate society is to ensure that each person has at least one pair of boots.
I believe that the vast majority of Americans have long known that hard-work isn’t enough for them to get their share of the American Dream. The 45th President of the United States built his campaign on targeting one of the most vulnerable groups of Americans: Those who had achieved some significant advancement up their own ladder of economic development, only to feel their grasp slipping.
The emotional reaction to misfortune is always despair, and so often resentment meets despair in the darkest of our moments. Resentment offers a needed escape from despair, it’s own form of pain medication. It distracts us just enough from the reality pf what we can’t actually understand and control to believe there is a specific cause for our misfortune.
It wasn’t anything that we did but rather, something did to us. And whomever can give you this narrative in a way that feels emotionally satisfying to you has you well on your path to becoming a junkie.
The United States of America feels to be at it’s highest point of despair that I’ve ever lived through. We (and I include myself, one of your legal aliens) the People must not allow ourselves to give in to resentment and to the political and social isolation that it produces.
My first ever visit to a Genocide museum in Rwanda had a hauntingly-efficient timeline of how years of an “us versus them” narrative accepted by the majority of Rwandans, and fomented and radicalized by media outlets led to the genocidal mass slaughter of as many as 70% of the Tutsi population. It had me remember something Neil Postman had written a decade earlier about how quickly and efficiently Germany had been transformed by hateful propaganda.
I will do my best to post once a week in service of a singular purpose: To increase compassion for and amongst Americans. I believe that compassion is the greatest and most powerful antidote to hate and ignorance. Because the most wonderful byproduct of compassion is understanding. And one thing I’m sure of, there is no greater nation that, time and again, has demonstrated that it’s collective power - when unified in common and noble cause — can overcome any evil.