Motives Behind Madness

                       As humans, we are faced with infinite choices and it’s natural for us to judge the choices of others especially when they don’t align with what we believe to be best.  The Turner House sheds light on the true motives behind what drives our choices as people whereas The Big Short revealed the motives behind those who pursued justice or the truth. Even though both works read like novels, we shouldn’t mistake that life reads the same way. Better understanding the motives behind people’s choices, good or bad, can bring us closer to better understanding our own humanity and that of others whom we have otherwise dismissed as just “bad people.” After all, humans are born with the ability to make choices, not with the ability to make only good choices. 

           In The Turner House, Flournoy explores the lives of the Turner children focused on throughout the novel and how they grew up influenced decisions they make now. The family is a small-scale view, the individual Turners on an even smaller scale, of a financial crisis that in its largest scale affected the world’s economy in some way or another. Even though this novel takes place during the housing crisis, it feels as though it is only an underlying current while we delve deeper into the lives of the individual Turners and what has shaped them. Throughout the novel, we explore the Turners’ motivation to their actions and even though we have special insight as readers we are left wondering what Tina also wonders when hearing about Cha-Cha and Alice: “Can a human being ever truly know another person’s heart?” (Flournoy 290). Cha-Cha’s actions are largely shaped by his haunting father and the fact that due to all of the weight on his shoulders, he doesn’t feel like he’s being listened to. What drives him to pursue a relationship with Alice is that there is someone who he feels finally is listening and validating the good and bad of him. Lelah acknowledges her addiction to gambling as the possibility of victory rather than the possibility of a fortune: “The exact amount wasn’t as important to her while in the thick of the game as much as the feel of her stack of chips” (Flournoy 49). It’s easy to see a person who gambles and question why they would continue with large money at stake rather than look for what they really are getting out of it such as the chance to actually succeed at something. Often the truth behind our actions may not be known to others or even ourselves. As Francis Turner puts it: “It took courage to let a woman in on one’s disappointment, one’s fear” (Flournoy 278). Sometimes it’s difficult to be vulnerable in why we make our choices to other people, so we instead don’t offer an explanation or don’t expect one we’ll receive to justify the judgments we cast on the action.

           In The Big Short, Lewis explores actual people’s lives and while he discloses what went on behind the curtain of those uncovering the crisis from beginning to burst. Lewis focuses on bringing the understanding of the reader from the viewpoint of those working against CDOs. After reading the book, you had very real humans exploring a version of the same side through the lens created by their own lives. It also becomes apparent that money was a big motivator for both sides of the equation, not just those who were screwing people over but also those betting against them. However, we still get their backstory and how their circumstances have shaped who they are. Steve Eisman was known for his blunt personality and we learn that although it may not directly correlate with his financial decisions, his son’s death played a big part in his life thereon after. As Eisman puts it, “’From the point of view of the history of the universe, Max’s death was not a big deal,’ said Eisman. ‘It was just my big deal’” (Lewis 12). Our experiences may not seem to matter in the grand scheme of things, but the ripple they can take on in our own actions unto others are infinite. Burry always believed himself to be defined by his glass eye until he later discovered that he has Asperger’s. Both parts of him were viewed both negatively by himself and others but they are part of what drove him to make important life decisions. With Vinny Daniel, he was motivated to be inclined to see the darker nature of humanity that we tend to overlook because of his experiences: “Maybe it was Queens, maybe it was what had happened to his father, or maybe it was just the way Vincent Daniel was wired, but he viewed his fellow man with the most intense suspicion” (Lewis 10). Lewis gave us these insights into why these people were motivated to look for and/or bet against Wall Street, but his lack of exposing the deeper motivation behind those at Wall Street leads us to just take their unethical choices as purely villainous.

           Although The Turner House is a novel, The Big Short also abides by storytelling elements especially when introducing the “characters.” As mentioned by Sandy in class, The TurnerHouse appears to humanize the villains we see in The Big Short. However, I believe we feel like this because The Turner House works to expose the real human motives behind what we may gauge as bad choices. When telling a story, the “why” is something we search for to explain the characters’ decisions, actions, and words. This was only delved into from the point of view of those working “against” the unethical practices of Wall Street while those in higher positions seemed to only be ruled by ignorance or greed. To me, the people in these positions aren’t painted as not human, but rather they only represent the worst in humanity itself. This is a part of humanity we willingly turn a blind eye to or cast under the label of the classical villain. I am also eager to do so when initially reading The Big Short, however, this part of humanity is very real and needs to be understood if hope to better understand ourselves and the choices we’re inclined to make. Maybe this knowledge will also help us think twice about the why before we carry through with the do.

           Understanding people’s motives and better understanding our own may help us think twice when passing judgment on the choices of others. It’s easy to pass judgment as if the world was painted like a movie: there are only people driven by greed or desire who seek to hurt others and there is everyone else who either falls under the heels of the former or rises to challenge them. The reality is that the world is grey, and the worst of the best of what makes us human exists in all of us. In the words of Flournoy, “Here is the truth about self-discovery: it is never without cost” (Flournoy 106). We are influenced by our past, our current environment, our desire, our morals, and our experiences. One decision doesn’t dictate who we are, but the motives behind these decisions and how we deal with the consequences can say a lot about us as people. I think, given at a time like this, exploring motives is key especially when shuffling though all the fake/false news we are being faced with. Right now, fear is behind many people’s actions. Fear is driving a lot of media as well whether the information is instigated by fear or meant to spread it. I hope we can all respect each other’s humanity, the good and the bad, even if we disagree with other people’s choices. In retaliation spread facts and kindness rather than hate since we are all human and we are all in this together. 

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