Apophenia Between the 2008 Housing Crisis, Parable of the Sower, and My Fall 2022 Semester

Apophenia is the ability to see connections between ideas and objects that may seem unrelated. The 2008 housing crisis, Parable of the Sower, and my academic journey this Fall 2022 semester are all different topics, but when closely analyzed they all share a connection. The housing crisis of 2008 was the mass expulsion of millions of Americans from their houses and neighborhoods. During this time, there was a rise in unemployment, which led to people not being able to pay their mortgages and ultimately resulted in mass foreclosures. The cause of the housing crisis can be attributed to the following terms: mortgage bonds, subprime loans, documentation, moral hazard, bad faith, trust, corruption, fraud, accountability, pressure, and bubble. According to Michael Lewis (2010) in The Big Short, “a mortgage bond was a claim in the cash flows from a pool of thousands of individual home mortgages” (pg 7). Creators of the mortgage bond market had a solution that ensured they would get their money back when they wanted: “they took giant pools of home loans and carved up the payments made by homeowners into pieces, called tranches” (pg 7). This relates to subprime loans because subprime loans had high-interest rates and were given to those who couldn’t afford such rates so they would be more likely to default on the loan. Documentation is any communicable material that is used to describe, explain or instruct regarding some attributes of an object, system, or procedure.

 During the housing crisis, faulty loans were given to homeowners requiring very little documentation to prove they could afford such loans. According to Oxford Languages, “A moral hazard is the lack of incentive to guard against risk where one is protected from its consequence”. In terms of the housing crisis, bankers and lenders were behaving in a moral hazard by providing and encouraging the sales and trades on risky loans because they knew that they would not face any major consequences from it. Lewis (2010) states: “the industry was fraught with moral hazard. “It was a fast-buck business,” says Jacobs. “Any business where you can sell a product and make money without having to worry how the product performs is going to attract sleazy people” (pg 9). When they were found out about their role in the matter, they still did not face any significant backlash; they were able to keep their jobs or resign with huge payouts. The bankers and lenders had no reason to proceed with caution because either way, they knew that they would be protected in the end. This relates to bad faith, as it is the intent to deceive. The bankers and mortgage lenders knew that they were selling risky and faulty loans to their customers, but they proceeded to mask the loans as a good business deal. They had the intent to deceive their clients because they knew they were gaining lots of revenue from the bad deal. 

All of this coincides with trust, fraud, and corruption. Americans believed that they could trust their banks to protect their money and their assets when really the banks and the lenders were abusing the American people’s trust by committing fraud, which is the wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. By assuring the American people that they would be in good hands with these loans, they were deceiving them to receive huge payouts. This connects to corruption because the bankers and lenders were behaving in dishonest and fraudulent conduct as they were the ones in power. At the height of the housing crisis, the pressure was increasing as Wall Street bankers were continually conning people into taking out bad loans. When there is too much pressure, an implosion occurs. The housing crisis was a big bubble building pressure from the rise of bad loans being sold and by a certain point it became too much and it finally burst. The bursting of the housing bubble resulted in a recession where millions of people were without homes and jobs. The Wall Street bankers and lenders knew their role in the matter but refused to take accountability for their actions by pretending to not know what was going on and that they did not foresee this crisis happening, and by trying to place blame on the common people by saying that it was their responsibility to fully understand the documents and loans they were signing and agreeing to. 

Similar to the actual housing crisis of 2008, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower also emulates the same concepts that lead to expulsion. Although this book was written in 1993 about the future, we see how the book produces a story that is not that far off from reality today. In Parable of the Sower, we meet the main character Lauren Olamina, who at the start of the novel is fifteen years old in the year 2024. She has a condition called hyper empathy where she can feel other people’s pain and pleasure, a result of her mother’s abuse of the drug paraceto. Lauren’s family consists of her father, a Baptist minister who also teaches at a nearby college; his second wife, Cory; and Lauren’s four younger half-brothers: Keith, Marcus, Bennett, and Gregory. They live in the fictional town of Robledo, California where water is scarce and expensive, there are few jobs, and climate change has produced massive rains followed by years of drought. In her neighborhood, there is also social inequality, which is the unequal distribution and access to resources. In Robledo, the neighborhood is surrounded by walls fortified with lazor wire and supposed to be bulletproof to repel attacks from intruders. This creates pressure outside the walls and pressure from inside the neighborhood. There is pressure brewing outside and inside the walls because to the less fortunate on the outside of the walls, families like the Olaminas seem very wealthy to them since they have access to food and money. There is also pressure within the family because Lauren is adamant about learning survival skills and tactics because she believes that the neighborhood will not be safe anymore. Her dad is too stubborn to realize this, and Lauren makes the statement that she won’t be able to grow if she remains under her parents. In her Earthseed notebook, she writes: “A tree cannot grow in its parents’ shadows” (pg 82). This comes from the frustration of being told that she is too young to fully understand the world around her, when in fact she is very wise for her age and more practical and realistic than her parents, who want to remain naive in their bubble and think that nothing can get worse in their neighborhood. 

In addition to the internal and external pressures Lauren faces, she also faces another kind of personal force- multiple forms of foreclosure. First, Lauren faces what is known as identity foreclosure. According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, identity foreclosure, or premature commitment to an identity, is “the unquestioning acceptance by individuals (usually adolescents) of the role, values, and goals that others (e.g., parents, close friends, teachers, athletic coaches) have chosen for them”. Lauren experiences this by accepting her father’s religion although she doesn’t believe in it. She states, “at least three years ago, my father’s God stopped being my God. his church stopped being my church. And yet, today, because I’m a coward, I let myself be initiated into that church. I let my father baptize me in all three names of that God who isn’t mine any more” (pg 7). As her story progresses, we see that Lauren fights to establish her own identity with her own thoughts and ideals, which often gets a lot of pushback from her father. This is why establishing Earthseed as her self-created religion is important to her because this is something that no one can take away from her. Next, foreclosures are generally talked about in the sense of someone’s home being seized because of missed payments. Although the government didn’t seize Lauren’s home, it was seized, taken over, and destroyed by pyro drug addicts who burned down her house. In relation to this, Lauren has to come to terms with the narrative foreclosures of her family members- the premature conviction that one’s life story has come to an end. Since she was the only one who escaped her house alive she has to assume that the rest of her family is dead.

Overall, Lauren’s journey was turbulent. Life as she knew it used to be normal until it got turned upside down due to the actions of others. Water is privatized, there’s pressure to grow food, drugs have infiltrated the community, and company towns are beginning to take over. Even though Lauren was semi-prepared for the worst to occur, it is still a devastating tragedy to lose her family and everything she once knew. Similarly, the same can be said for those affected during the housing crisis- they thought they were living normal lives until their homes and jobs got ripped from underneath them. The life that they once knew, they were unable to upkeep now. Both the housing crisis and Parable of the Sower reveal how tragedies bring on a change in perspective. For Lauren, the only thing she could do was to keep moving forward and keep moving north to find better shelter. Once settled, she named it acorn, a homage to her family, and she held a tribute for all the lives that were lost along the way. For those affected by the housing crisis, although it must’ve been hard, they found a way to rebuild their lives back from the ground up. 

This matters because given GLOBE’s insistence that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time”, I can use the housing crisis and Parable of the Sower as guides for what to do when faced with adversity. College is not easy and it is never an easy ride. Although my journey this year wasn’t as devastating compared to those in the housing crisis or in Parable of the Sower, it still is something I can be proud of. Before this semester, the last semester that I completed was the Fall of 2021 and it was horrible. Academically, I was at my lowest. Spring 2022 was my initial graduation date, but I had to take a medical leave of absence. Coming back for this semester, I was registered for six classes, and I was faced with a huge bill because I lost student aid due to poor grades. I’ve already been placed on academic probation before, so the pressure to not fall back into old patterns was high. Similarly to Lauren and those from the housing crisis, I could be facing my own expulsion- expulsion from financial aid and from the college, I knew that I had to make a rebound this semester- other semesters may have been poor academically, but that does not define who I am as a person and as a student. Everyone is allowed setbacks, what matters is how they make a comeback. 

Specifically in this English 111 course, my performance at the beginning of the semester started off fine. Towards the middle of the semester, it got rocky because my attendance was declining. At this point, I wasn’t behaving in good faith: I was not communicating with Dr. McCoy about my absences and I was also missing class to do other assignments for other classes. I had let this English course fall down on my list of priorities. After having a meeting with Dr. McCoy, I vowed to change my behavior and to also start behaving in good faith so I could finish the semester strong. Since then, I’ve only missed about two classes due to sickness instead of randomly disappearing to do work for other classes. I started to be present in class more and in my work. I was doing the readings more often and that was evident in my ability to answer the reading quizzes and what I add to small group discussions when we have group essays. Compared to previous semesters, my academic performance has greatly improved in all of my classes. I am very confident that I will pass all six of my classes with A’s and B’s. As for financial aid, after two long months, I was able to appeal to regain my aid based on how well I am currently doing this semester. And it was granted. In the past, I faced personal troubles that led me towards facing expulsion from school. For instance, I had a lack of motivation to even be in school and it affected my attendance in classes and my consistency with assignments. I was put on academic probation more than once and I had to complete a semester of academic boot camp to be back in good standing. Coming back this semester, I knew that the pressure to not fall back into old habits was high. I had to fight against forces that would have otherwise led me down the same path as before. I had to find the motivation to do well this semester. It was overwhelming, as there were many times I could have given up and even wanted to, but I had to remember the end goal. I needed to prove to not only just myself but also others such as financial aid that I can be academically successful. My journey this semester has been nothing short of easy. Similarly to Lauren, she knew that she wanted to spread Earthseed with others so that one day it “could take root among the stars” (pg 77). By being persistent, and never losing sight of her goal despite the tragedies along the way she was able to make great strides toward her goal. I can say the same for myself because my main goal is to finish college and graduate with my degree. I have come too far and too close to give up or to let things inconvenience me and I also cannot be an inconvenience to myself. This relates to Geneseo’s GLOBE because by reflecting on past actions, I can make better changes to ensure myself a different outlook for the future. The ability to do this is important for anyone no matter their background, discipline, or path in life. 

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