In Order to Move Forward, You Have to Look Back

We begin the semester with the intent of taking an English course with Dr. McCoy about expulsion and the 2008 housing crisis. On this first day of class we were asked to write down everything we knew about the housing crisis. Many people were not yet knowledgeable about the subject. For example, I thought the crisis had to do with unemployed families being unable to make payments towards their houses and getting them taken away. However, following a semester-long course about it, I can explain it to you. The 2008 recession was tragic for many people and families across the country. The expulsion of these people from their homes caused by a lot of different factors but one of the main components was the carelessness of the businessmen on Wall Street. As seen in Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, big banks felt they were protected by the government when it came to getting money that people could not pay back from loans, creating a moral hazard. Due to this moral hazard, these big banks took more risks by giving loans to clients who were clearly unable to pay it back. Their clients were acting in good faith because they believed they could trust the banks and companies to have their best interest in mind. These banks and companies exploited their clients’ good faith by loaning them money they could not afford to pay back for personal gain. This caused these people to be unable to buy or sell houses which inevitably led to the biggest recession since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, the effects of this recession are still seen in the present day, many issues caused by it were left unresolved. 

Everyone has their own motivations for taking the class; whether that be to fulfill a requirement, learn about something that interests them, take a self-assessed course, or a combination of reasons. In the grand scheme of things, the explanation as to WHY everyone is here ends up being to be learning and thinkING about the housing crisis. First reading the prompt, it was quite difficult for me to put things into perspective; in order to do this I allowed myself to travel back in time to the first day of class. Key course concepts, moral hazard, foreclosure, good and bad faith, expulsion, trust, the life preserves for this course, what everything we learn ends up circling back to. 

From there, we watched a documentary titled “The Old Man and the Storm”. This was the film that got me hooked on this class. The documentary followed an Old Man, Mr. Gettridge, on his quest to rebuild his house that was demolished by hurricane Katrina and the struggles that came along with it. One may ask themselves, “what does a hurricane have to do with the 2008 housing crisis?”. The short answer is, the expulsion of people from their homes. Mr. Gettridge was one of very few people who stayed to rebuild their homes, the rest fled the city since their homes were completely destroyed. Most people could not afford to fix their destroyed houses just as most people could not afford to pay off the unfair mortgages set by big companies. 

After going through the course with the 2008 housing crisis in mind with everything we read, we began to dissect “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia E. Butler. This is a dystopian novel set in the Los Angeles area in 2024. The story follows a young girl named Lauren who grows up in a city surrounded by walls for protection. Over time, the city gets destroyed by people on drugs and she is forced to run away into the north. She meets many people along her journey who all impact her both as a person and as a leader. Lauren describes her goals to the group when traveling north, she tells them about “Earthseed” which is the idea that a society on Earth is possible and that it will eventually spread to other planets. Octavia writes, “That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times”. This quote demonstrates the connection between expulsion and survival. Lauren being expelled from her home caused her to think about how she was going to keep living. Those expelled from their homes during the 2008 housing crisis experienced this need for survival after being left homeless. Since it was one of the biggest  recessions since the Great Depression, many people were really struggling just to make ends meet.  

Throughout this book there is a clear theme which has been present across the course of the semester in this course which is the idea of expulsion. Lauren had experienced being expelled from her home and forced to travel up north in order to survive. This is very similar to the concept of expulsion from the 2008 housing crisis. Octavia says, “Cities controlled by big companies are old hat in science fiction. My grandmother left a whole bookcase of old science fiction novels. The company-city subgenre always seemed to star a hero who outsmarted, overthrew, or escaped ‘the company.’ I’ve never seen one where the hero fought like hell to get taken in and underpaid by the company. In real life, that’s the way it will be. That’s the way it always is.” This quote continues to show the clear connection between “Parable of the Sower” and the 2008 housing crisis because it allows the reader to relate Lauren’s experience of being mistreated by companies to the poor treatment of clients of big companies and banks. The theme in which people are being forced from their homes is both constant and present. Those who were unable to pay their mortgages were expelled from their homes which made them look for somewhere else to live. After running away from Los Angeles, Lauren ventured north to find a new place to live for her and her new friends. Just like in the 2008 housing crisis, people were moving around because it was necessary for them to build a new foundation elsewhere. The idea that people can be forced out of their homes and made to look for new ones, being lost, searching, and having hope, can connect these two concepts that may not have been thought could be connected before. This course really opens your eyes to thinking about connections in places that one may not have thought about beforehand. The idea that everything can be intertwined and connected is so true and mind blowing. Additionally, this is all still relevant today because the effects of the 2008 housing crisis are still causing issues with people and families across the country. The expulsion caused by these mistakes from big companies and banks have ruined lives just so they could make a profit and exploit those who trusted them. 

I think that by taking this course I have grown a lot as a student, a writer, and a person. I have been able to better my time management, communication, and self drive. Taking courses in regards to GLOBE’s insistence that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time” is vital for the success of a student. I feel that each student across the country and even the world should use a template such that we look back at history’s mistakes and use those lessons to better ourselves and our futures. The ideas behind this course matter, moral hazard, foreclosure, good and bad faith, expulsion, and trust can be seen in almost everything in one way or another. This provides context and relevance to the world which we so desperately need. I am ever so grateful for this course and what it has taught me. I genuinely feel that I was meant to take this course and I was meant to become a better person because of it. So for that, thank you Professor McCoy for helping me open my eyes and start thinkING.

Nina Avallone-Serra, Engl 111 Final Self-Reflective Essay

In my very first semester of college, using Beth McCoy’s ENGL 111 Expulsion & Housing Crisis course as a guide, I took my first ever dive into one of the defining events of my generation: the housing market crash of 2008. Coming from a family fortunate enough to avoid the fallout of this crisis, I grew up with no knowledge of it at all. In fact, I only found out about it in my mid-teens when I caught a showing of the film adaptation of The Big Short which did little to improve my understanding as I struggled to keep up with the large cast, the fast pace, and the head-spinning financial jargon. 

But at the end of the semester I am marginally older and wiser and can explain with some certainty what The Big Short was trying to communicate. The housing crisis (or the subprime mortgage crisis) was a devastating market crash which resulted from the offering of loans to unqualified applicants by predatory lenders. These loans were high-risk, meaning that those who received them had poor credit and were unlikely to pay back the lended money, but investment in these loans was encouraged and even launched a secondary market for repackaging and selling these bad loans to large Wall Street banks. This caused a “bubble”, with homeownership reaching a “saturation point” in 2006 according to Investopedia. After this point, the value of houses purchased with these bad mortgages plummeted, leaving millions indebted to their lenders, unable to pay back mortgages they should have never been able to afford and unable to sell the homes purchased with these mortgages without losing money. This triggered the worst recession seen since the Great Depression, the effects of which can still be felt over a decade later.

Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, the final text of the course, as a dystopian novel written about the effects of an impending climate crisis on the nation in future decades, may not immediately bring to mind the 2008 housing market crash. What does a science fiction novel written in 1993 about the socioeconomic and climate disasters of the distant 2020s have to do with the subprime mortgage crisis of the early 2000s? The surface similarities don’t seem to go very far, but placing Butler’s novel in the context of the crash, broadens the conversation about the 2008 crisis. 

Some of the most striking similarities between the two include patterns of expulsion, lack of access to housing, and extreme wealth disparities. Both the real life event of the housing crisis and the conditions described in Parable of the Sower forced millions out of homes, leaving many homeless and entirely without basic needs. The events of Parable of the Sower, when used as a lens through which to view the housing crisis, adds another dimension to it. In my own reading, I used Butler’s novel as a peek into a nightmarish world in which the outcome of the market crash was truly dystopian, using the similarities between the novel and the crash as a way of magnifying the fallout experienced by those who lost their homes and livelihoods in 2008. 

In our study of the subprime mortgage crisis, one of the aspects that I found most striking was the isolation of rich and poor from one another and the extreme wealth disparity between the two. I learned from Michael Lewis’s The Big Short and articles like Joe Nocera’s “What the Costumes Reveal” just how insular the world of investment banks and mortgage servicers is. In the firm of Stephen J. Baum (who represents multiple large mortgage lenders), the office culture revolves around the mockery and degradation of those who are faced with the loss of their homes. There is a shocking lack of empathy and so little regulation that businesses like this were allowed to cut corners everywhere, free to terrorize homeowners as they pleased. The main players in The Big Short were similarly contained, enjoying lavish Las Vegas lifestyles and protected from the consequences of their business. Lewis writes about the aftermath of the crisis: “A few wall street CEOs had been fired for their roles in the subprime mortgage catastrophe, but most remained in their jobs, and they, of all people, became important characters operating behind closed doors, trying to figure out what to do next.” (pg 260, The Big Short)

This aspect of the market crash is shared by Parable of the Sower. Large corporations like KSF have a large background presence in the novel, buying up towns like Olivar and controlling the market for water. We see stark contrasts in access to wealth and resources between racial and ethnic groups in particular, the wealthy and prosperous town of Olivar offering residency only to white families. There exists, as in the case of the 2008 crisis, an insular characteristic to the wealthiest class in Parable of the Sower, their status enabling them to ignore the veritable apocalypse unfolding before their eyes. A great example of this is our protagonist Lauren’s fascination with the locals in Los Angeles who were able to enjoy a day at the beach simply for leisure despite the chaos around them. With the funding to acquire transportation, self-defense, food, water, and housing, rich people in Parable of the Sower were able to stave off a crisis and preserve their way of life in a manner reminiscent of the way in which corporate bailouts enabled elites on Wall Street to preserve their own jobs, resources, and wealth. Both the rich in the fictitious world of The Sower and in reality occupied a bubble untouched by the realities of the poor and middle class world.

A theme of expulsion represents another strong tie between Parable of the Sower and the housing crisis. The most significant outcome of the housing market crash (as the name would have one believe) is the massive amount of foreclosures on houses across the country, causing millions to be suddenly cast out of their homes. Houses were left abandoned and demolished in the wake of the mass exodus caused by the 2008 crisis. Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House, another one of our texts, offers great insight into the effects of the crisis on middle and working classes. Flournoy describes the  abandoned homes and vacant lots, plummeting home values, and rising poverty and crime experienced in the months leading up to and in the months following the collapse of the housing market. 

The conditions in Parable of the Sower felt eerily similar to this. As I read further into Butler’s novel, mental images of burnt-out ruins in the world of Parable of the Sower started to mirror the depictions of streets lined with demolished and abandoned homes in Detroit in The Turner House. The characters in both books even responded to challenges in similar ways: the walls of Lauren’s home Robledo reminded me of the makeshift garage constructed by the Turner family to keep out thieves and intruders and the emphasis on building community and family in order to survive. The conditions of both novels demanded their characters adopt a strong sense of survival and resourcefulness in order to support themselves and their loved ones and this echoes an important message about the hardships real-life individuals had to overcome during the crisis of 2008. 

  The Turner House and Parable of the Sower also share similar themes about family, addiction, and faith. The internal familial tensions in both books act as a driving force for the development of the protagonists’ actions and beliefs going forward. In Parable of the Sower, Lauren forms many of the foundational tenets of Earthseed around discrepancies between her own beliefs and those of her father. Many of the practical aspects of Earthseed, however, she adopts from the training she received from her father, emphasizing self-defense, vigilance, community, and leadership. We see a similar dynamic in The Turner House, also with the patriarch of the family. Francis Turner’s own beliefs and fears (particularly in regards to the phenomenon of the haint) played a large part in shaping Cha-Cha’s convictions and his role as the leader of his family. His refusal to acknowledge Cha-Cha’s haint, his alcoholism, and his detachment from his children all became defining points in his children’s lives, either empowering their own beliefs, or wearing them down. These family dynamics, though fictional, reflect the real-life significance of family and community, particularly in times of hardship. The people around us are a huge determining factor in laying the groundwork for the beliefs that will carry us through life and in developing our ability to deal with difficult situations. These facts take on an even greater importance when family and community are threatened, and they certainly were in the housing crisis – with this mass expulsion occurring, families and communities were broken up in large numbers, harming these bonds and causing an even greater social and psychological impact on those affected. 

Diving into themes about addiction in both novels continues to broaden the discussion about the 2008 crisis. Addiction would exist with or without a housing crisis or an apocalyptic disaster, but exploring this particular issue and how it interplays with the poverty and crime resulting from events like these gives us a deeper view into their effect on the broader population. The Pyro drug in Parable of the Sower is the clearest example of this issue. The drug worked as both a form of salvation, either by abusing it for pleasure or by selling it for financial relief, and as an agent of destruction. This dynamic works similarly in The Turner House, addiction linking with poverty, crime, and housing instability. Using these novels as a reflection of the housing crisis, addiction becomes an important part of the context of the crisis and creates a clearer picture of how widely the effects of the crash reached. Using Parable of the Sower as window into the 2008 housing crisis, though it may not seem like the obvious choice out of all the texts in our ENGL 111 course, brings a depth to the matter that one may not get if they interpret it through strictly informative sources like The Big Short or “The Giant Pool of Money”. The effects of an event so devastating and transformative can be explored on a more precise and personal level, accounting for family, faith, addiction, poverty and can hit even harder when using Parable of the Sower as a magnifier. Using Octavia Butler’s work in concert with my own newfound knowledge of the nitty gritty of the housing crisis (CDOs, credit default swaps, big banks, etc.) added an element of humanity to my view and helped me to identify the 2008 housing crisis as something apocalyptic in its own right.

Final Self-Reflective Essay, ‘Parable of The Sower’ and The 2008 Expulsion and Housing Crisis

After engaging with ‘Parable of the Sower’ by Octavia Butler, and with the knowledge of the 2008 global financial crisis in mind whilst reading, I have found that many course concepts connect in different ways to this novel as well as the others we have read in the class. Concepts like trust and expulsion especially stuck out throughout the course. While many believe the 2008 expulsion and housing crisis to be caused by homeowners who “did not read the paperwork”, there are truths that lay beyond this. In Michael Lewis’s novel ‘The Big Short’, wealthy investors are seen playing a sick game with the homes and mortgages of many during this time. Grown men are seen betting against subprime mortgage loans and profiting off the little guys, homeowners. “The subprime mortgage machine roared on. The loans that were being made to actual human beings only grew crappier, but, bizarrely, the price of insuring them the price of buying credit default swaps fell. By April 2006 Lippmann’s superiors at Deutsche Bank were asking him to defend his quixotic gamble.” (page 90 of The Big Short). After encountering ‘The Big Short’, it’s clear to see where trust was broken for homeowners who were eventually expelled from their homes because of the corruption on Wall Street that directly affected the lives of real people. 

While it is not easy to see right away that the contents of ‘Parable of The Sower’ has much to do with the expulsion and housing crisis of 2008, themes and concepts are clear to pick out of this dystopian read. Expulsion is one concept I find not only the main character can relate to, but also those who reside outside of walled communities like the one Lauren has lived in. Early on in the novel, the picture is painted clearly of how life was for individuals who did not have the protection of walls and a tight-knit community with, apart from robberies, a reliable food supply. While out with her brothers, father, and four other kids, Lauren describes what and who she sees outside her walled community. “Crazy to live without a wall to protect you, Even in Robledo, most of the street poor- squatters, winos, junkies, homeless people in general- are dangerous. They’re desperate or crazy or both. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous.” (page 10). It’s clear in Lauren’s world that if you don’t have a safe home (walled community), it is near impossible to survive, much like how it is in our own world. “Then there were the pitiful, unwalled residential areas. A lot of the houses were trashed burned, vandalized, infested with drunks or druggies, or squatted in by homeless families with their filthy, gaunt, half-naked children.” (page 10). The people Lauren encounters outside of her community walls have been expelled from “luxury living” even though Lauren doesn’t consider her way of living a luxury, home is not something that is accessible for those stuck on the outside. During the expulsion and housing crisis of 2008, millions lost their homes, their source of safety and comfort. Much like how it’s difficult to place blame on the characters in ‘Parable of the Sower’ struggling to survive, the homeowners that took what loans they were offered in 2008 were merely trying to hold on to shelter and stability, and trying to keep their families generational homes. Many who were expelled from their family homes had to disperse, and with family living in different states, the feeling of expulsion was present in not being around those who have always been around. Lauren went through a similar expulsion when she had to leave her home behind. “It had occurred to me, though, that I should get back to my garage before someone else settled there. I wasn’t thinking very well It was as though that garage was home now, and all I wanted in the world was to be there.” (page 166).

After reading anything, it’s common to gain a better understanding by relating their own personal experiences to these stories. For me, when I read ‘Parable of the Sower’ it became clear that I could relate to the main character in a religious sense and, in a less severe case, her hyper empathy. After identifying this connection, I was able to see that I could understand, on some level, the expulsion Lauren had to feel and face. In the book, we get to know a lot about our main character, Lauren. We find how she has struggled with a disorder that came from prenatal exposure to a drug her mom used at the time. Lauren finds it difficult to travel outside the walls of her home because of the sickness, pain, and drug epidemic that affects the people outside. This is especially difficult for Lauren because through her hyper empathy she can feel what those who are suffering do just by looking at them. Although I don’t suffer from a prenatal birth defect, I have found that I tend to put others needs over my own, which is something that. A quote from ‘Parable of the Sower’ that stuck with me in this sense was when Lauren found out about her brother’s death, and how he was killed. “​​If hyper empathy syndrome were a more common complaint, people-couldn’t do such things. They could kill if they had to, and bear the pain of it or be destroyed by it. But if everyone could feel everyone else’s pain, who would torture? Who would cause anyone unnecessary pain? I’ve never thought of my problem as something that might do some good before, but the way things are, I think it would help. I wish I could give it to people.” (page 115). I suppose this quote puts into words the philosophy I stand behind when it comes to how I interact with those around me. As for how Lauren feels about religion I feel I can especially relate. Coming from a very religious family I’ve struggled with a lot of things that have to do with my faith, every day I am tested with questions that push me in every direction, just one example is wondering whether I should base my actions on what I think God would want or what I know people would want. It’s funny because in The Bible we (Christians) are told not to be of this world yet here we are. Circling back, I feel Lauren’s father and I share the same God, I also think her father and mine would get along great because of the similarities I see between them wanting to protect and prepare family for troubles to come. Although I can’t say I have experienced the trauma Lauren has, I do know that because of the religion I was brought up in, and the way I have always put others’ feelings before mine, I am influenced in a way that has made me feel expelled to some degree. I have found it difficult to gain my own understanding of having a “relationship with God” because of all that I have been conditioned to understand about Him from the congregation and from my family. This plays a big part in my need to please people, especially my parents, if I don’t stick to the moral obligation my religion demands from me, I’m not who they want me to be. All this makes it hard to feel a sense of security, in a way, I am expelled.

Because I feel somewhat of a personal connection to Lauren and the expulsion she has come to face throughout the novel, I am able to understand the concepts that are presented between the lines of Parable of the Sower’. The common theme of expulsion is one not to take lightly, how we understand the concept of being expelled will prepare us in truly recognizing the reason for the 2008 expulsion and housing crisis.

Final Self-Reflective Essay

Bailey Foster/ Dr. Beth McCoy/ English 111-01 / 14 December 2022

Literature is very subjective and can be viewed from many points of view, and some texts can have a similar interpretation around a core concept. King Lear, The Big Short, The Turner House, A Mercy, and Parable of the Sower all have one concept in common; expulsion. This commonality can in turn relate all of these texts to the 2008 housing crisis, and whether the books were written long before or after the crisis; they can all be analyzed in terms of a financial crisis.

“On Sept. 29, 2008, the stock market fell 777.68 points in intraday trading. It was at the time the biggest point drop in history (Investopedia).” This fall in the stock market was due to a bubble bursting that held billions of dollars of worthless investments in subprime mortgages. Many involved in the stock market started to lax the qualifications of getting a mortgage, to the point where many, who had no idea what was going on, were given major mortgages and were not able to pay them back. Even those involved in the fast money-making scheme had no idea what was going on at some points during the building of the bubble, and this, unfortunately, led to many getting expelled from their home that they could never afford in the first place. In The Big Short, Michael Lewis writes, “…Goldman Sachs created a security so opaque and complex that it would remain forever misunderstood by investors and rating agencies…(page 72)” This quote shows that many just went along with Goldman Sachs’s idea with no investigation because it was making money, so there was no point in questioning a system that was so complicated but worked so well. When the system was finally considered though; it was realized why many did not understand the system that was making them millions, because it wasn’t supposed to work. On page 127 of The Big Short it says, “”In the course of trying to figure it out, we realize that there’s a reason why it doesn’t quite make sense to us. It’s because it doesn’t quite make sense.”” All of these events led to what is known as the Great Recession, and the 2008 housing crisis because so many were expelled and left with no place to live. The bursting of the bubble was a monumental event for not only Wall Street and the lower class, but also the U.S. government (who bailed out Wall Street with no consequences because they had to). 

In Parable of the Sower, the community is already in the middle of a financial crisis where basic needs are barely being met. This novel, though written before the 2008 housing crisis, is relevant in terms of topics that are associated with the crisis. There is growing pressure from the outside world that Lauren is worried about. Though some important people in her life do not feel this pressure that she is trying to warn others about. This is like in The Big Short when Dr. Micheal Burry was worried about the longevity and credibility of some tactics that some were using to make quick money. He was subsequently shunned from Wall Street for this. Lauren’s family did not shun her, but they did not heed her warnings and died because of it. Lauren and a few others are expelled from their original home that is Robledo when ‘pyros’ break in and set fire to everything. Though before this happens Lauren’s brother, Keith, leaves on multiple occasions and returns just as much; it is revealed that he joined a group of killing criminals. This is similar to how Lelah in The Turner House gambled an unhealthy amount during times of financial crisis for the Turner family. This compensates for the fact that during times of crisis, financial or not, people can turn to some very bad habits to cope with or counterbalance all the chaos that is going on in one’s life. If the U.S. did not bail out Wall Street when the market crashed; the story that is the Parable of the Sower could have been the reality for many. Little to no food, water, money, or necessities that many take for granted in this day and age. 

This course is all about seeing literature through financial and housing crises, yet it teaches more than just financial terms and the stock market. It teaches one to be able to see literature through lenses that may not be visible to the reader at first glance. GLOBE wants Geneseo students to, “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time” and this course helps students do just that. I had already read King Lear before the start of this semester through the lens of analyzing it based on common core literary devices. I had never seen the play having anything to do with finance, but it became very easy to pick out all the connections to finances and property. For example when Lear divides all of his land between his daughters; this is a great example of liquidity because the land is an easily transferable asset, and Lear easily gives his land to his daughters with just a statement. This quote from Lear, “Nothing will come of nothing…(King Lear, Act 1 Scene 1, line 89)” I had never thought about being important. Though after reflecting on it, it had so much significance in terms of the course as a whole, and how the quote came up every time we read a new text. This practice of looking for examples of financial terms and expulsion in different kinds of texts, over a broad range of topics; has changed how I analyze and look at literary topics from now on. For example, Parable of the Sower could easily be compared to the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 in the sense that both books could be possible futures of the U.S. Another example could be that A Mercy is seen through the context of historical fiction, and young girl forced into slavery, and how she escaped it. Instead, through this class, it was seen how this girl, Florens, was expelled multiple times throughout her life. In the future I might not be looking for housing crises or expulsion, I can now focus on seeing different interpretations of one or more texts.

Many taking this class was only four to eight years old and probably have very little recollection of the event occurring unless their family was a victim of being expelled during this time. I was only four and had no idea this major event occurred until I took economics. My family has never moved in my entire life, but I have known that my family has struggled financially through the years. I had asked my Father about the 2008 housing crisis and if we were affected by it over Thanksgiving break because I was just so curious. He said that we were not directly because we had already bought our current home with a mortgage for a better part of a decade before the market even crashed. Then he explained that he and my Mother worked very hard to get their credit scores back to a better number because they had made some bad choices before they bought our current home. He further explained that we probably have a smaller home and we could have had a bigger mortgage, but they did not want to risk their credit score if they were unable to pay it back. I know that I was not affected by the Great Recession, and other than that I know no one that was affected by it. I am very grateful for that. I am excited to go home for the intersession so that I can talk with my former high school economics teacher about all that I know about the 2008 housing crisis, and have riveting discussions with him to further understand its impact.

Final Self-Reflective Essay

Throughout the semester we have focused a lot on the crisis that has been coined the “Housing Market Crash,” the “Global Financial Crisis,” and many other similar names relating to the events which took place in 2008. The crisis which took place in 2008 was caused by many different factors but the most prevalent was that people were receiving loans that they could not afford to pay back, along with the risky subprime mortgage bonds as well. This, along with many other factors was the ultimate recipe for potential disaster, and this potential disaster would soon become a nightmare for millions of people all across the nation. Throughout the book, The Big Short by Michael Lewis, we are given an inside perspective on those who were well aware and responsible for the situation that was going to unravel in 2008. In the book, Ben Rick Rickert says, “‘I’d come home at midnight and try to talk to my brother-in-law about our children’s future,” said Ben. “I asked everyone in the house to make sure their accounts at HSBC were insured. I told them to keep some cash on hand, as we might face some disruptions. But it was hard to explain’” (pg. 222 Lewis). In this particular instance, Ben Rickert begins to become concerned with the future and the pressure building around the subprime mortgages, and the result it may have on his family. Lewis does an excellent job showing the build up of pressure throughout the book that would later lead the bubble, the economy and housing market, to pop. Once all chaos broke loose, many people lost their jobs and were expelled from their homes as well, ultimately hitting rock bottom. 

When comparing the Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler back to the 2008 Housing Crisis, the similarities between the two are quite evident. Throughout the course of the Parable of the Sower we see the pressure that begins to build around the little, gated community located in Robledo. Lauren, the main character, does an excellent job at journaling the struggles which her family and herself endured while living in the gated community and the growing fears she had of the community not being as safe as it once was. Despite Lauren’s growing concerns for the well-being of the community, not everyone in the community felt the “pressure” growing like Lauren did and if they did, they didn’t want to discuss the topic. In the novel Lauren’s dad, Reverend Olamina, remarks to Lauren, “‘You don’t really understand what’s going on here. The problems we have now have been building since long before you were born’” (Butler pg. 63). In this instance, Reverend Olamina is telling Lauren that despite her fears and how she would like to warn the community about the potential danger that awaits, these things have been going on for years before Lauren was even a part of the community. This exhibits that Reverend Olamina is fully aware of the growing pressure from outside of the gated community but would rather keep the peace within the community then get everyone riled up and worried. Similar to the 2008 Housing Crisis, we can see the pressure that was beginning to build and the events leading up to the potential disaster, which would later become an unfortunate reality for many. 

As the pressure continues to pick up and Lauren’s fears continue to grow, more and more people within the gated community are either killed in and outside of the community, including her father, Reverend Olamina. After the disappearance or assumed death of the Reverend, the gated community as a whole begins to become more fearful and shortly after that, all mayhem breaks loose within the community. The thieves and pyros had finally permeated the walls of the community and this place was unfortunately no longer a safe place to be. In the novel, Lauren journals, “I got up, felt for my pack, found it, and ran. I tried not to see what was happening around me. Hearing the gunfire and the scream’s didn’t stop me. A dead body—Edwin Dunn—didn’t stop me. I bent, snatched up his gun, and kept running” (Butler pg. 154). The bubble around the once gated community had finally imploded and no one within the community was safe from the intruders, who didn’t care about anyone other than themselves. Many innocent people of all ages within the community were brutally murdered before their friends and families own eyes. This forced Lauren along with the rest of the members who were still alive to flee the community and ultimately being expelled from the place they once called home. Similar to the Housing Crisis, the pressure that had been building up finally led to the bubble popping and in result both the characters within the Parable of the Sower and millions of Americans across the country, were both expelled from their homes and were forced to set out on a new journey. 

When comparing and contrasting the Parable of the Sower to The Big Short, the similarities between the two are evident and I believe that this does matter, given GLOBE’s insistence that students should gain practice in the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time.” The way I interpret this is that GLOBE desires students to have the ability to make connections with their current coursework, to content which they have learned in the past. In this instance, I’ve been focusing on connecting what we had learned and covered throughout The Big Short, earlier in the semester, to what we had come across throughout the course of the Parable of the Sower. Since we had just read the Parable of the Sower, the sequence of events are much more fresh in my mind but once I took a look back into The Big Short, I can definitely see the significance of having the ability to connect past learnings to what we may currently be working on. For example, throughout The Big Short, we were able to see the pressure building leading up to the 2008 Housing Crisis and then we were able to see a similar type of pressure within the Parable of the Sower, when Lauren began to have growing concerns about her little, gated community and the dangers that lurk outside the gates. Then once the pressure began to build in each of these books, we eventually saw the hypothetical bubble pop and this resulted in semi-similar results. Once the Housing Crisis erupted, millions of people were expelled from their homes and similar to that, once the thieves had infiltrated the gated community in the Parable of the Sower, Lauren and her family, along with the other families living in the community were expelled from their homes as well and some even killed. The parallels between these two readings are definitely apparent; groups of individuals not fully aware of the growing dangers, which would result in them ultimately losing the place they once called home. When touching back on GLOBE’s insistence of making sure students have the ability to reflect upon changes throughout their learning, I believe the reason that this is so important is because if you are able to show the ability to connect past readings, course concepts, etc., to new materials, then you are truly displaying that you have learned something. When engaging The Big Short and the 2008 Housing Crisis, to the events that take place in the Parable of the Sower, not only was I able to make connections between the two books, I was also able to make connections between these books and my own life.

When I was growing up, I lived in a household with two parents and one sister but eventually the family dynamic I was once so used to would be altered. My parents were always good at getting along in front of my sister and I, however I still was able to pick up on some tension between the two. As the tension continued to grow, there was almost a type of pressure that began to build up in the house, similar to the pressure which we saw in the Parable of the Sower and in The Big Short. As the pressure continued to grow greater within my household, eventually the hypothetical bubble would pop. My parents had a talk with my sister and I about how they’d be getting separated and how my sister and I would spend some time at my dad’s place and some time at my mom’s place. At this time, my sister and I were still pretty young so it was difficult for us to really understand the entire situation but this would ultimately result in our family being expelled from my first, true childhood home. Similar to Lauren and her family, and along with millions of Americans during the 2008 Housing Crisis, I too shared a similar experience by being expelled from the place I once called home. Obviously one can argue that my situation wasn’t as dire as Lauren and her family’s was in The Parable of the Sower or of those who lost their home and jobs in 2008 but I can definitely say it had a big impact on my life. As someone who was once expelled from the place they once called home, it can be a life altering experience but I believe it’s the way you react to the situation is the part that can truly be life altering. When my parents split up, I could have easily just complained about how things were and the new challenges that arose from my parents splitting up but instead I faced reality and was able to figure out how to adapt to my new family dynamic. In Lauren’s case, she was not only expelled from her home but her family was also killed in the same instance, so it is definitely hard to compare our two situationsHowever, one similarity I can make out between our two situations is that both of us were expelled from our homes and were forced to learn how to not only survive but attempt to thrive in our new situations. Despite Lauren never truly reaching her desired destination, her growth as an individual is extremely apparent and I feel that throughout my “journey”, or my life, I have also been able to grow in ways that I would have never expected. To this day, it is easy to look back and think about how things could have been different… but if it wasn’t for that experience, I may not be the person I am today, and I am proud of the person which I have become.

Final Self-Reflective Essay

Mackenzie Gillen

This semester was my very first college semester, and I did not know what to expect. When I first learned that this class was all about the 2008 housing crisis, I thought how could a whole class be about one specific topic that I have never even heard of before. We started reading many different books, and I did not know what these books had to do with the 2008 crisis. The books we read ranged from many different periods of time and various genres. We were given many course concepts to help us navigate these readings and to connect them to each other. As we read these books we noticed a common theme of expulsion, which we can then relate back to how the homeowners of 2008 were also expelled. By the end of this course I was surprised to learn that I could actually connect all of these stories to one topic when I took the time and thought carefully. 

The 2008 Housing crisis began with cheap credit and loose lending standards. Loans were given out that required little documentation and featured various interest rates to help people to buy their houses. These loans ended up being more than people could afford with their incomes. When the housing market crashed it caused a great recession which cost many people their jobs, homes, and savings. The citizens did not believe that these big corporations would act in bad faith and provide them with contracts with terms they did not understand. This is demonstrated in The Big Short, “We took them through our trade but I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand it.” These CEOs and banks knew they were acting in bad faith but had no issue in doing so which in the end resulted in an abundance of people being expelled from their homes. The lenders hold the responsibility of the global financial crisis because they were the ones who lended out the loans to people with a high risk and poor credit because they were only thinking of themselves. 

One of the first books that was presented to us was The Big Short by Michael Lewis. This book focuses primarily on those who were potentially benefiting from the 2008 Housing Crisis. This provided us an inside perspective on the financial crisis and the creation of the credit default swap market. The Big Short takes place mainly in a corporate setting and involves characters who are employees of the financial institutions. This shows us the business side of the crash, going in-depth of how it occurred and discussing how risky the subprime mortgage bonds could potentially be, and the eventual result it had on the economy and millions of people across the country. This book does not involve the personal aspects in which the effects of this event had on families. This book was more difficult for me to read and understand because The Big Short is written by an economist about business aspects, using terminology and phrases that most readers would not be familiar with. This makes the situation feel more distant from us, while in reality the 2008 Housing Crisis was one of the most devastating events that hit the American Economy within the last few decades. 

The next book we read was The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, which is a fictional book about a Detroit family with 13 children and how they respond to the economic downfalls of their city. This novel sheds light on a more personal perspective on how people were affected by the financial crisis. It also depicts how each sibling is affected in different ways and individually shows their thoughts and feelings. The Turner House shows the reader how the issues presented are applicable in real-world scenarios.There is a large amount of siblings within this reading, and many of them hold different views on what should be done with their childhood home while living through the 2008 recession. While discussing what they should do with their childhood home, the fifth Turner child, she states, “If you sell the house I will never forgive you… do this and you break my heart” (198). This quote provides an example of the emotions that come along with the idea of selling the house caused by the recession. This issue causes emotional conflict for siblings making the decision much more difficult. I enjoyed reading The Turner House as it was a more understandable and relatable story, which made the book itself more effective. The book provided a clearer understanding of the situation for readers who didn’t have a firsthand experience with the crisis.

The next book A Mercy is one text that helped shift our understanding and viewpoint of the 2008 housing crisis. We can see that a story written in a setting from hundreds of years ago with fictional characters relates back to the housing crisis of 2008. Florens represent those who were affected by the housing crisis. Even though Florens had the physical ability to read and interpret text, she was unable to read and understand specific situations that ultimately ended in her being expelled more than once, just like those who were expelled by the 2008 housing crisis. During that time period, many people signed contracts and mortgages not knowing what lies in the fine print. These people did not understand and interpret how people would offer contracts to them in bad faith, so they did not understand the severity of the situation. One article we read in class shows a situation where a, “Baltimore resident says he missed in the fine print was that by accepting the cash, he was granting the company, MV Realty of Maryland, LLC, the long-term exclusive right to list his modest Park Heights row home. If he sells with someone else, he stands to owe the company thousands of dollars.” This quote shows how one of many people who were unfortunately reeled into contracts that they could never understand on their own, and the consequences of this were pricey. We can see that oftentimes, we put our trust and good faith in people, just like Florens did, but may end up in a disadvantage by those who worked in bad faith.

The most recent book we have read is Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. This book is a science fiction that was written in 1993, but takes place in the future, 2024 to 2027. While reading this book I immediately saw expulsion and could relate this story back to the 2008 crisis and how the homeowners were also expelled. The novel follows a young girl, Lauren, whose mother abused drugs while pregnant to cause Lauren to be born with hyperempathy, an abnormally strong and visceral response to others’ feelings, and also died while giving birth. Lauren also frequently writes about God, developing statements of her own beliefs, the main idea being that God is power, but he is also change. God cannot be resisted, but he can be “shaped and focused” by human action. She then creates her own religion called Earthseed. Lauren’s neighborhood is blocked in by walls, but soon turns to chaos. There is an outbreak of a drug called “pyro” which makes the feeling of setting things on fire euphoric. Lauren has to escape her town to remain safe with a few others and states, “I’m going north. I planned to go anyway once my family was back on its feet. Now I have no family, and I’m going” (169). As she travels up north she meets more people on the way to add to their group. Along the way they persevere through many battles, shootings, fires, and earthquakes, and they even lose a few members. Lauren finds a love interest within her group, and they decide that they will travel to his land to live. When they arrive Lauren has seeds that they plant, in honor of the ones that they have lost, and they build the start of a community called Acorn. 

Reading many different texts we have been able to find many common patterns of how people may become expelled. One of the main key concepts I have taken away from this course is that even though I put my trust in someone in good faith, they may still act in bad faith which can lead to expulsion. Recently, I have worked on various group projects for my other classes. I have trusted my colleagues in good faith in that they will contribute to the project and work as hard as I am for a good grade. I have found that some of my group members have worked in bad faith, not helping with the workload and just being dragged along by the rest of us. Although I have still got good grades on my various projects, the group members working in bad faith can lead us to expulsion by allowing us to drown in the work and receive a bad grade, which affects our overall grade and can lead to failing the class. 

We can reflect upon and learn from the many books throughout this course, which connects to Geneseo’s GLOBE. This is a new curriculum for an education of a connected world. It allows us to find perspectives and skills to engage in the complexities and possibilities of the connected world. We will encounter many areas of knowledge to develop habits of critical thinking, reflection on our learning, and to explore the diversities in the world. From this course we have read texts from many different time periods and cultures, and I have been able to connect these books to each other, reflect them upon myself, and learn from them.

Self Reflective Essay

The 2008 Housing Crisis was a traumatic event and hurt so many people. Many borrowers previously would have difficulty getting mortgages, which both contributed to and was facilitated by rapidly rising home prices. Many featured variable rates helped people buy homes they didn’t have the income to afford.​​ This financial crisis offered cheap credit and low lending standards. This fueled the housing bubble and eventual housing crisis. This event can relate back to “The Big Short “The pivotal characters involved are the “higher-ups” in corporations and sneaky CEOs on Wall Street. There were consequences and many effects on people in the financial lower classes. Many banks manipulated and took advantage of these groups of people without discussing the long-term effects of their actions. “…How do you make poor people feel wealthy when their wages are stagnant? You give them cheap loans.” (Lewis, page 14). This quote shows how the banks were giving mortgage loans to the people who could not afford them. They afford low introductory rates and minimal or no down payment. Banks would do this just to cash in big money and become rich. The lower-class people involved in this crisis lost everything. This was a destruction of a whole group of people when they were given free mortgages which they could not afford to repay. These banks were left holding trillions of dollars of worthless investments in subprime mortgages. This costs many people their jobs, their savings, and their homes. The Big Short tells about the housing boom that caused banks to give out even more mortgages. 

They even gave them to people who had no jobs, no income, and no assistance. The lenders were not verifying that the people borrowing the money to buy the house could afford to pay it back. Wall Street investment institutions were borrowing heavily to invest in them. This causes them to inflate their value. The lenders offered adjustable mortgage rates that started out very low. People thought they might be able to afford these mortgage rates. Then as the housing market got saturated with too many homes for sale the real estate prices of homes dropped dramatically. In The Turner House, the real-life consequences and damage that Wall Street did are apparent through the unpayable loans and mortgages. For example, on page 77 it reads, “The banks are being extra predatory right now. I saw it on the news. They know people can’t pay their mortgages, they knew it when they gave them the loans or let them refinance, but they refuse to renegotiate.” The banks did not care for the lower-class people whatsoever. All they wanted was money and this was a great way to take advantage of someone who wasn’t able to do anything about it. “Basically, because you know how these banks are, running through your whole family tree trying to get their money…” (Flournoy page 66). The quote shows how in real life the banks would go through family ties in some cases to get the money they wanted. Some people even resorted to gambling to try and pay off the ridiculous loans and mortgages. Lelah is a prime example of this; even though her gambling was not necessarily related to paying off the family home mortgage, she still suffered the same consequences as a chronic gambler. 

The Parable of the Sower is a symbolic example of a whole society in trouble. It is science fiction but seems to be coming true today. It is a story of a post-apocalyptic society that has been adversely affected by climate change. Lauren, a girl of color, is the main character. The story begins in Los Angeles, California. Society is different. To live and be safe from the “bad” people, Lauren and her family live in a walled community. She lives with a minister’s father, whom she really respects, a stepmother, and three brothers. Her father is deeply respected in their community. Living in this walled “safe” but closed off to the world community, they seem to be free of arsonists, rapists, thieves, and killers. They knew they were better off than the people living outside their community. Eventually, her community is attacked and set on fire. The pyro people had set it on fire. Her family is dead. She is now on her own and must leave. As she grew up she was taught to read and write. Her father had the family practice survival skills every day. They learned how to use a weapon, grow food and protect themselves in their tiny space in the world. She kept a journal called Earthseed. She read many books about seeds and planting. She knew this was a way to survive. A seed is a hope, it takes time to grow but can produce and survive. When she left her burning community she gathered the survival pack she had stored away and the cash she had hidden for such a day. She asked two friends to join her and head North. Choices now are important. Lauren was at a crisis point. She thought about her philosophy of life, her Earthseed. She had a plan and it was a healthy choice. She knew God’s word and would not allow herself to be distracted. She knew she had the option to be the “right kind of seed” and build and grow a new, strong, self-sustainable community. She had the ability to convince others to join her group. Each one offered something to help them survive. People can change themselves. People can learn and grow. In a world where there are few choices, Lauren had the vision to cope with the disaster and change. She made it to the north with people she trusted and could work with. They slowly developed a new community. Plant a seed and let it grow. Time was what they needed ad they had to survive until their crops start to grow.

In the Big Short and the Parable of the Sower, we see society in trouble. In the Big Short, the lenders and borrowers made the wrong choices. The low-income people took a seed (their home) and tried to make it their home but their foundation was poor and the hope of the home was a failure. The banks planted their seeds among the poor with little hope of success. The people accepted the “seed” mortgage with no foundation to pay it back. In the Parable of the Sower Lauren, the main character has the vision that she follows her dreams and plants her seeds by picking the right people who can contribute to the community by planting them in rich soil. People have options in their life so if you have a foundation, education, and understanding of people you have the ability to find success. If we plan the seed in good soil it will take time to grow. The banks planted their seeds among the poor with little hope of success. The people accepted the “seed” mortgage with no foundation to pay it back.

Geneseo students are in a solid college to succeed and find success. Freshman year good seeds are planted. I see these students finishing their four years successfully. They have learned how to overcome adversity and deal with changes. I believe this is what makes a person successful, not being afraid to fail is super important. Working hard will lead you to the path of success and greatness. I personally have dealt with many new changes and hardships throughout my first semester here at Geneseo. I never gave up and kept pushing through tough times. The start of the semester wasn’t the way I wanted it to be but in the end, I grew as a person and student. I am now an overall stronger person and I believe I will continue to find success and grow throughout life. 

Final Self-Reflective Essay

The Parable of the Sower was a dramatically written novel that shared Octavia E. Butler’s belief that “God is change.”  We read of a world in trouble, serious trouble. There seems to be little choice for people.  It is her vision of the future in 2024. Society has disintegrated. Climate change affected the world. The story begins explaining how to be safe a person needs to live in a strongly walled community, protected by its inhabitants, to have a chance to survive. The wall keeps them safe from the dangerous world outside of their walls. The people living inside the walls are free from rape, arson, thieves and killings. As the story develops the main character, Lauren, finds her community is destroyed by fire. Her family is dead. Lauren and two friends decide they must escape and travel north. Lauren had been curious while growing up and read her father’s books. He was a Baptist minister and the leader of their community. He had a positive affect on Lauren. He also had the family practice survival skills every week. She didn’t agree with all his religious beliefs but she kept her thoughts to herself.  She had a vision and her philosophy did help her to survive. Lauren loved to write. This foundation of knowledge was her choice. She read them in privacy, again her choice. She often wrote verses in her Earthseed.  Lauren’s mindset was that God can change. As the novel develops Lauren and her friends head north. She took her emergency  pack and the money she had put away.  She talks with her friends about seeds and life.  She sees seeds as a symbol of growth, survival and a new beginning.

In 2008 we saw the destruction of a whole group of people when they were approved for subprime mortgages which they could not afford to qualify for or repay.  This was a devastating time for society and its people. This time period was known as the 2008 Housing Crisis. “The subprime mortgage crisis was the collective creation of the world’s central banks, homeowners, lenders, credit rating agencies, underwriters and investors.” (Investopedia) Lots of people were left homeless. The housing boom had caused banks to give out lots and lots of mortgages. They even gave them to people who did not have a job, no income, and no assistance. The lenders were not verifying that people were qualified to borrow the money to buy a home. Many of these people knew they could not afford the home but the lenders convinced them that if they bought now, the home would go up in value and they could refinance it. They sold them on this idea. People loved the idea of owning their own home. This United States subprime mortgage crisis was a multinational financial crisis between 2007 and 2010 that contributed to the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. The housing crisis left the banks holding trillions of dollars of worthless investments in subprime mortgages. This crisis caused banks to foreclose on mortgages leaving the people with no home, many with no job, and no savings. They were destitute. People were crushed by this and they didn’t know how to react or what to do.  The United States government stepped in.  Congress bailed out the banks with a “Bailout Bill” in September 2008.  It was approved for $700 BILLION!  dollars in aid. Things got better for the banks and investors, the poor people who lost their homes had to find a new way to go forward. Their wall came tumbling down when they lost their home. They had to figure out how to rebuild their life and overcome this financial crisis. 

The Big Short was a discussion of minorities and the effects the housing crisis and the 2008 banking crisis had on their community. Minorities, essentially people of color, made up most of this lower financial class. Banks manipulated and took advantage of this group of people without discussing the long term effects of their actions: “…How do you make poor people feel wealthy when their wages are stagnant? You give them cheap loans.” (Lewis, page 14). This quote shows how the banks were giving mortgage loans to the people who could not afford them. The people did not have to have a down payment for the home and many didn’t even have to have closing costs. If you can’t afford the down payment you can’t afford the house. They would do this just to cash in for big money and become rich. Investors were hungry to make large returns. They bought mortgage backed securities at ridiculously low premiums. This made for a demand for more subprime mortgages. The banks launched this mortgage opportunity hoping it would grow. All they wanted to do was to make money as fast as possible. The problem is when this bubble broke the banks were left with worthless subprime mortgages, they were in trouble. “In early October 2008, after the U.S. government had stepped in to say it would, in effect, absorb all the losses in the financial system and prevent any big Wall Street firm from failing…” (Lewis page 247). This quote shows that the “higher-ups” in the financial district of New York City faced no real consequences when their fast money making scheme failed. The U.S. government was there to bail them out when they needed to face the reality of their situation. Unfortunately the people who were tricked into this mortgage crisis lost everything. 

When engaging the Parable of the Sower there are many things talked about that can relate to the 2008 housing crisis. Butler highlights the housing crisis a lot in this novel and it is a very important topic. An example I can touch on is when Lauren is forced to leave Robledo with Zahra Moss and Harry Balter. She comes to the realization that she must change, she must move forward with her life. After her community is destroyed she is homeless. She says “Unless I meet someone from the neighborhood, there’s no one I can afford to trust.” The Parable talks about the complete destruction of our society. It is about rebirth and renewal. Lauren dreams and writes about in her Earthseed. Lauren even incorporates the idea of the Phoenix, which dies and is reborn. Lauren knows the value of seeds. She knows and takes time to plant a seed. Once it is planted in good soil we must give it time to grow. In the 2008 Housing Crisis people were distracted and planted their seeds in rocky soil. Their dream of owning a home was not realistic. In the end we see they lost everything. In the Parable we read about a world of little choice. It gives us insight into how to cope with our life in a changing  world. Lauren made the right choices by planting herb seeds in rich soil, following her vision with people she trusted and finding a positive road for survival. The people involved in the Housing Crisis got distracted by the lies of the banking world and bailed. 

Geneseo students have planted their seed in a rich educational setting. Given four years for this education to grow, I see Geneseo students in a world where they have choices, can cope, and adapt to changes in their world and end up with a good career, success, and a happy life. With good determination and a hard work ethic a Geneseo student can have lots of opportunities in their time here. Working hard and being nice to peers will go a long way in life. This semester was a new change for me personally as I had to adjust dramatically. I got off to a slow start but kept good faith and worked much harder because I wanted to succeed not only at this college but in life as well.

The Housing Crisis: A Review by Riley Weaver

The desire to create more, to be more, is one that has driven human civilization toward an ever-flourishing era of enlightenment: a source of fulfillment from developing centuries of new ideas. As William Shakespeare once stated, however, “Nothing will come of nothing” and once we have reaped all that the world has to sow, this years-long development must inevitably come to a halt. This concept and the idea of a metaphorical ceiling that we have spoken about in class exists to allow the United States economy to ebb and flow as it usually does is what led to the economic collapse and housing crisis that consumed many US citizens in 2008 and years following. During this catastrophe, the floor dropped and, with that, the walls buckled, causing the ceiling to collapse. The mighty dollar that our forefathers had built this country off of went up in flames and our financial system crumbled. No one could afford to live like they once did, and so, as prices rose, so did foreclosure signs, wiping the housing market clean of capable buyers and leaving many houses to be claimed by the wood-rotting capabilities of time. It was much easier to see that this series of events was bound to occur from the top of the totem pole, as money lenders signed away loans to people with little-to-no credit history and gave credit with outrageous interest rates. Corporate America was able to “hide the risk by complicating it” , as this top-heavy economic system failed due to manipulation from those who were fortunate enough to hold a certain expertise in the financial sector toward those who weren’t as lucky (Lewis 74). This divide in knowledge was caused by years of inequality based on a variety of unchangeable factors, such as race, gender and socio-economic status. At the end of it all, the least affected was the white, upper class man, with a government ever in his favor and the rest, especially low-SES people of color, were left to scrape by, many unsuccessfully. Though everyone was affected by this plunge in our economic system, those swimming in Benjamins found it less beneficial to cry over couch change. While the upper class had to cut luxuries, everybody else was cutting how they spent on necessities like gas, groceries, and housing. This crisis was entirely avoidable had those who had the knowledge had spoken up instead of bottom-feeding off of the already suffering lower class of the United States.

This same misfortune claimed many lives and future generations in Octavia Butler’s science-fiction novel Parable of the Sower, where the reader follows the main character, Lauren, through a future world where the United States fell into crisis. The dollar held almost no value and chaos burned in the souls of every human on the west coast. Though this story is quite exaggerated, it does paint an accurate picture of how fragile the “American Dream” became in such a short period of time: A glass bubble that inevitably burst. Lauren is heading into her early teenage years and is arriving at her own point of identity foreclosure, a term coined in psychology to signify the point in a pre-teen/teenagers life where they begin to draw from the personalities and beliefs of people around them to start to form their own sense of being, as they don’t yet have a specified definition of self. Lauren struggles to define herself outside of her parents, with her father holding a position of power within the church and her mother leaving her with the only thing she knows true: she can feel everything. As she is exposed to the world outside their walls, she is able to expand on her idea of Earthseed, both as a religion and a band of people. She takes note of characteristics that hold a heavier sense of importance, such as independence and unwavering stubbornness, and, with this, starts to become her own person. She is even able to leave behind this “safe” masculine persona that she embodied to make it when she first left home in order to pursue a sexual relationship with her partner, Bankole. This loss of identity is also what struck many households during the 2008 housing crisis, as jobs became sparse and people who once worked in fields that they enjoyed scraped by on paychecks from dead end jobs. Because of this, they took out loans, and as Michael Lewis states in his book The Big Short, the best way to make poor people wealthy is to “give them cheap loans” (14) These cheap loans came with astronomically large interests rates that stuck the everyday worker in a cycle of repayment and indebtedness to their lenders.

Another parallel within the real world and Parable of the Sower is the idea of the metaphorical bubble that kept the people within it naively safe. The things with bubbles are man-made: someone put it there to make things falsely glisten and shine, when, in reality, what’s outside of the bubble is crumbling. Lauren and her community felt safe. They had the wall and their community support group to keep watch, but things started to fail. People on the outside started to get the sense that this place with all of the things they needed wasn’t as safeguarded as one would have hoped. Simultaneously, those on the inside were getting restless. Keith runs away and is eventually brutally murdered Curtis climbs to the extreme of marrying Lauren and running away to a safer, or at least more promising, future. It took only a single vehicle to make it through those seemingly impenetrable walls and destroy the false sense of security those people held. People knew it was gonna happen, though, didn’t they? The Olivar’s left to go to another community and Lauren’s father put together safety bags for a quick emergency exit. If these precautions were being established, why wasn’t this fear brought up to the broader community then? This is because the human condition leads us to reach for this quicker satisfaction: this immediate sense of security. Sure there is going to be an attack eventually, just as the market was going to crash eventually, but that is the future generations problem. Better fortifications could have been built and the community could have been better educated. The same applies for the housing crisis; Better “fortifications”, in this case more loan denial and decreased unemployment, combined with a better understanding of even the bare bones of the crisis would have softened its blow.

In all honesty, there isn’t anything that blatantly connects Parable of the Sower to what we learned throughout the semester, but we were able to adjust our lens and “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time”, as is stated in GLOBE’s expectations for Geneseo students. Words like bubble and faith hold much different meanings now than they did back in September, allowing us to surmount this learned apophenia (see what I did there). I am rather grateful for this course and all that it taught me, both directly and indirectly.

Final Self-Reflective Essay, India Roundtree, Eng 111

I remember the 2008 housing crisis being a short chapter in a binder of history notes I had to go over in the sixth grade. To me at that time, it had nothing to do with me, I was 11 years old and could not change the past, and could not see how I was going to change the future in housing because I wanted to be a doctor. “Doctors don’t sell houses or work with the banks”, I thought to myself and  I was somewhat right. Doctors do not sell houses or work directly with banks but that did not mean I could not take what I learned and change the future. I did not choose this course, like many others, it was chosen for me as a mandatory general education class, but it turned out to be one of my favorites and one of the only ones that I walked away from with a real expansion of my knowledge. The 2008 housing crisis may not have directly affected me in 2008 but it did affect many families around me and friends. Thanks to this course and especially the connections that the books we read allowed us to make (my favorite being Parable of The Sower), I can understand the real impact of the crisis.

One of the largest drastic events in American history: The 2008 housing crisis. The housing crisis was a major man-made disaster that occurred in the U.S. where people were sold homes under the impression that they could buy without having to deal with major debt, except that the rise in demand for houses led to an increase in bypassing by banks, so anyone could get a home no matter their ability to maintain it. Alex Blumberg, producer of “This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money”, a podcast addressing real-world issues met with NPR’s international business and economics correspondent, Adam Davidson, and Jim Finkel, managing director in the Expert Services practice and creator of a CDO, to give the background story of the 2008 housing crisis. Blumberg explains a NINA loan and its play in this crisis: “someone will lend you a bunch of money without first checking to see if you have any income or any assets… there were lots of loans like this, where the bank didn’t actually check your income”. This global financial crisis was run by greed. This was shown with the acceptance of the NINA loan, which allowed for people who were not fit to meet the demands of a mortgage to get access to one which mostly ended poorly for the people in their newfound homes, who ended up homeless due to foreclosure. Alongside the people losing their homes was the widespread debt that the banks and the US had to deal with because a decision was made to give without knowing the chances of a return, which were very slim to none.

My understanding of the 2008 housing crisis was greatly impacted by the reading of the novel, Parable of The Sower by Octavia Butler. It is written following the storyline of a girl by the age of 16, Lauren Oya Olamina, who escapes her dystopian community to find safety, security, and herself. In many ways, Parable of The Sower does not blatantly show a connection to the 2008 housing crisis, but there are similarities in their storylines that make them slightly adjacent to each other.

The connection between Parable of The Sower and the 2008 housing crisis runs on a very fine line but for me, that line opened my mind up way more than any video or book we read before that. The connections built were strongly based on the key concepts we went over throughout the course that were important to the 2008 housing crisis in its entirety.

To start off, expulsion is “the act of forcing someone or being forced to leave” (Cambridge dictionary). Expulsion has been one of the main concepts shared across all texts and it is one of the most available parts of the 2008 housing crisis. With businesses and banks not being able to get residents that they were giving mortgages to pay, they pretty much had to kick these people out of their homes. This is where the crisis kicks in because the banks that allowed these people to take out payments for mortgages without checking their backgrounds and whether they were able to keep up the payments had no money coming back to them, which put the banks out and into debt. This I was able to connect back to Parable of The Sower because the residents of Robledo were expelled from their own homes by people that they forbid from their town with the wall that they built for protection. At the beginning of the novel, it is made clear that the people on the other side of the wall were dangerous to the Robledo community with robberies, break-ins, and murders that started to occur whenever some made it into the city, which kept the residents living in fear. As Lauren, her family, and a few others travel to church one morning, Lauren states, “I think if there were only one or two of us, or if they couldn’t see our guns, they might try to pull us down and steal our bikes, our clothes, our shoes, whatever. Then what? Rape? Murder?” (pg. 9). There were people that lived on the streets of the Robledo community that were not as reactive, especially during the day as Lauren saw it, but at any moment could snap and choose that the people they are seeing are the perfect targets. As time moved on, the town of Robledo was in danger at practically all times of the day as the “pyro” drug began to circle the people of the less fortunate community and they began burning everything due to their thirst for fire, which they described as “better than sex”. Fire is a reoccurring path of destruction in the text, even in Laurens’ dreams, in one where she learns to fly, Lauren explains, “The wall before me is burning. Fire has sprung from nowhere, has eaten in through the wall, has begun to reach towards, reach for me. The fire spreads” (pg. 4). Fire is not only shown in Robledo, but it is also happening all around California, naturally though through droughts, storms, and heat waves. The expulsion of the people of Robledo from the community was due to the pressure, another key concept of ours that is continuously shown, brought on by the pyros but their city was well on its way to destruction before that with the natural disasters that were getting closer to home. The natural disasters and the pyros slowly creeping into the city relate to how the tables slowly turned for the people and the banks in America and the pressure slowly started to increase, as they began dealing with the effects of the 2008 housing crisis. Banks made the original plan to increase the outreach of the subprime mortgage market in 1999, and they did, they reached millions of people. Millions of people who were once excited, finally able to invest in a home because it had become the cheapest and easiest thing to do, and succeeded in about 9 years of comfortability, end up having everything taken away from them, and received growing debts, specifically consumer debt (Investopedia).

In bringing the pressure back for another connection, in Parable of The Sower, Lauren has no choice but to escape and make her way North, which she does so pretending to be a man alongside her friends Zhara and Harry. Along their journey, the violence and natural disasters follow them, and the pressure for succeeding in their efforts to escape and survive grows larger. When noticing a fire spreading in a town nearby as they travel North with their new additions, Lauren states, “So many people hoping for so much up where it still rains every year, and an uneducated person might still get a job that pays in money…” (pg. 177). The pressure and hopes for better relate to the 2008 housing crisis because after everything began to fail, the government began trying to find ways to save the country from a dangerous space that would have been way worse to get out of, which is when they began bailouts, which is when the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) began where they would be able to contribute as much as $1 trillion to buy up toxic debt (Investopedia). Alongside the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), which “initiated a temporary ban on short-selling the stocks of financial companies” to stabilize markets.  

I think it does matter for us to be taught about such events and their effects on the country given GLOBE’s purpose for Geneseo students because it helps that we’re educated. It helps us in our lives so that we don’t undergo the same experiences that people from past times had and reading about it in different contexts helps us to better understand the realness of it. I feel like this because Parable of the Sower is set in an already dystopian society, as in everything is already at its worse so it kind of brings that severity into play and opens our eyes when we begin to make those connections.