Riley Griffin: ENGL 111 – Final Self-Reflective Essay

Throughout the semester, the concept of expulsion occurred multiple times within the different literatures. While the 2008 housing crisis began with cheap credit and relaxed mortgage lending, the economic crisis became a predominant global issue that cost many people their livelihoods. According to Investopedia, Singh Manoj shared that the housing bubble burst due to immense pressure, leaving banks with worthless investments in subprime mortgages. Additionally, Singh mentioned that the Great Recession followed the crisis and cost many people their jobs, their savings, and even their homes. The housing crisis and moral hazard revealed the significance of expulsion, especially for the middle class. While learning about specific key concepts in the course, we can see how working in bad faith results from a lack of accountability or trust within oneself or in an organization. 

In The Big Short, Michael Lewis focuses on the 2008 global market crash and highlights the factors that lead up to said crash. The text explores the lives of the people who were involved, which mainly includes the individuals and CEOs on Wall Street. Throughout the book, readers are able to identify with the people who were taken advantage of because similarly enough, no one had a clear idea about the mortgage crisis. It was explained that “the more egregious the rating agencies’ mistakes, the bigger the opportunity for the Wall Street trading desks”, and “Eisman and his partners knew none of this” (Lewis 101). The evidence provided refers to the professionals’ lack of knowledge of their effect on society and within the businesses. If these professionals were unaware of what happened on Wall Street, then how was the public supposed to understand and make sense of all this? According to Lewis, the book conveys how CEOs on Wall Street made decisions that affected the rest of the population. Ignorance was a contributing factor to the lack of accountability shown with the members on Wall Street. This theme portrays how the companies and investors saw the general public as inferiors. Many people were expelled from their homes due to the businessmen’s careless behavior towards their clients. The Big Short exemplified a moral hazard because the banks knew it was risky to loan a surplus amount of money to people with the knowledge that they would not get the money back. They felt that with their power and protection by the US government, that they could not be hurt. This thinking, however, explains how the economic structure at that time was similar to a ticking time bomb, in that it would all eventually explode and lead to chaos. The book identifies that CEOs were caught short-selling mortgages on Wall Street in order to personally benefit and gain wealth from others’ downfalls. “The CEOs of every major Wall Street firm were also on the wrong end of the gamble. All of them, without exception, either ran their public corporations into bankruptcy or were saved from bankruptcy by the United States government. They all got rich, too” (Lewis 256). This quote conveys the fraudulent and toxic practices that some companies emulated. No one stepped up and tried to prevent or help minimize the effects of the economic crisis. People were left vulnerable to these mortgages and were blindly allowing the banks and powerful officials to influence their decisions. After reading this book, I found a deeper understanding of the housing crisis and how it fits into a society that I am now a part of. It was only 14 years ago that this housing crisis occurred, and people who were my current age are now having to understand mortgages for themselves and share their stories to prevent a future global financial crisis.   

As Michael Lewis provided specific commentary regarding the housing crisis, Octavia E. Butler focused on the aftermath of the economic crisis in the early 2020s with her novel Parable of the Sower. Even though the novel was written well in advance from the 2008 housing crisis, Butler’s work connects to the economic issue by explaining how the unaffordability of housing placed pressure and financial restraints on people who owned homes. As explained throughout the novel with the displacement of Lauren and her other neighbors, the housing crisis also led to an increase in homelessness. “There are too many poor people–illiterate, jobless, homeless, without decent sanitation or clean water” (Butler 53). The novel follows fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina, a young African American woman who suffers from hyperempathy. Lauren can often feel the pain of others around her as hyperempathy is a debilitating sensitivity to other people’s emotions. Lauren can be seen as someone who has lived through feeling out of place her whole life. Lauren spoke about learning how to take a lot of pain without falling apart. However, as she rode past some poor people, she “couldn’t help seeing–collecting–some of their general misery”, which made her feel much worse (11). While Lauren lives in a gated community with her father who is a preacher, their vulnerability to the outside world allows for the overwhelming social issues to lead to expulsion. As explained in the novel, there was both the spread of a cholera drug and the constant threat of tornadoes in the South, along with a blizzard in the Midwest and a measles epidemic on the East Coast (53). Lauren believed that they must take action in order to prepare for the worst in the coming future. Lauren insists that life in the neighborhood is not sustainable, and that one day people will “blast the gate open” (55). The economic and social instability is prevalent in today’s time, as people recover from a pandemic and now encounter inflation. Although there is societal instability, the novel warns readers that the uncertainty and inequality can intensify in the near future. 

Parable of the Sower highlights that most houses in the gated community were overcrowded with people. The overcrowded homes were a result of expulsion and homelessness. Throughout the novel, readers see an increase in violent attacks and deaths within the gated community that connect to the “junkies” and “crazies” who live in the real world beyond the gate. After three year old Amy was shot dead, an undeniable truth was revealed. Lauren said that Amy’s death is a wake-up call to the fate of the rest of the neighborhood. “Amy was the first of us to be killed like that. She won’t be the last” (Butler 53). The community began to fall apart and become destroyed as a result of the rise in incidents. While Lauren and others wanted to escape, they had nowhere to go as they could not afford to move out. Lauren is self-sufficient, as she believes that nothing will save the neighborhood except themselves. She wants to learn everything she can while she still can because she finds that “we learn to survive” (60). Even at such a young age, Lauren is a fighter as she said “I intend to survive” (58). She often questions the world around her and her curiosity fuels her ambition. If more people questioned the societal issues around them, then there could have been a greater chance that the 2008 housing crisis would have been less destructive on families and their livelihoods. The turning point in the novel came in chapter 14 when Lauren faced expulsion. The night she had “escaped from the neighborhood, it was burning. The houses, the trees, the people: Burning” (153). Lauren witnessed her home burn because of  intruders. Her brothers were killed, along with many others. Lauren was alone with no family, no home, and no way out of the misery. Although she was consumed with anger, she was driven to make it out of the gated community. She said “I mean to survive”, a thought that connects back to her commenting “I intend to survive” in a previous chapter. Throughout the novel, Lauren develops as a character despite her hyperempathy and the loss of her family. Her persistent nature and dauntless attitude is portrayed through her determination to survive. In the end, Lauren finds that there is hope in acknowledging the truth of the universe and trying to “shape” God. She shares that the “essentials” of Earthseed are learning to shape God with forethought, care, and work, educating and supporting oneself, one’s family, and the community, and contributing to the fulfillment of the Destiny. These “essentials” of Earthseed are to create a unifying, purposeful life on Earth (261). After becoming displaced, Lauren learned to find value in her new faith and wanted to share the recurring message of ‘God is Change’ by referring to Earth as a god. Butler showed through her novel that even in difficult situations, there is always a place for hope and change. 

In an environment sought to enact change and to engage in a globally connected world, the Geneseo community allows students to encounter broad areas of knowledge. Through this English course, I have been able to capture a more profound understanding of the 2008 housing crisis and its connection within literature. Subsequently, I have developed habits of critical inquiry and civic engagement, as participation with my fellow peers was a necessary and helpful tool when crafting the different papers. I have not only reflected on my learning about the 2008 housing crisis, but also explored the different experiences and viewpoints that the works of literature offered in regards to the economic crisis. The different works of literature allow readers to see how concepts discussed in this course, along with the skills learned, can then be applied in other courses and in other situations outside of the classroom. Within the novel Parable of the Sower, Lauren shared that her dad is the best person she knows, but that “even he has blind spots” (Butler 57). As a preacher, Lauren’s dad follows his religion, but he is often blinded by the negative crimes that happen in the gated community. The religion prevents him from seeing the truth about the people and the society outside of the gates, and he does not want to scare the community about the increase in incidents. The Big Short conveys how many middle class citizens were unaware of the subprime mortgages, which often left them with mortgage prices too sizable for them to pay. Consumers’ inability to understand and the banks and businesses’ arrogant exploitation of eager homeowners caused the unstainable mortgage market. In relation to the housing crisis, the idea of “blind spots” connects to an area where a person’s view is obstructed by a lack of knowledge on the crisis. Many banks would take advantage of the uneducated people, ultimately leading to the housing crisis and a lingering effect on the global economy. Subsequently, people should engage in courses on social and economic injustices in order to be more knowledgeable and informed. Students will learn methods of collaboration that allow for analyzing situations and taking into account various perspectives and commentary. 

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