Final-Self Reflective Essay: How a housing crisis can be interpreted in many ways

In 2008 there was a huge problem related to housing and it was labeled a crisis. Many factors led to the 2008 housing crash such as loans that were given out with little documentation or variable interest rate to help people buy their homes that didn’t have the income to afford it. The problem with this is that those said people were unable to pay back these loans (banks already knew they weren’t gonna be able to but gave it to them anyway) which essentially forced them to leave their homes and find shelter elsewhere. Americans faced financial disaster as the value of their homes dropped well below the amount they had borrowed, and subprime interest rates spiked. Many people relied on these loans to pay for their houses but had no idea the banks/ sellers knew they couldn’t pay it back as a way to get more money or expel them for their housing, “His job was to be a CDO “expert,” but he actually didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what was in CDOs. His goal, he explained, was to maximize the dollars in his care” (Lewis, page 151). This just shows the greed of bankers and their only goal was to make more money. Over the course of the semester we have focused on this crisis in various forms through various books. One of them being The Big Short, as well as Parable of the Sower. These books correspond with each other in the way that the people of the books have been forced out and expelled from their homes. But, the way this happens seems to be different for them. 

The Big Short focuses on the financial aspect of the housing crisis. How lenders and banks knew exactly what they were doing and had the people tricked, which essentially led to the fall of the housing market and left people without a place to stay. Shadiness is one way to describe the leading to this awful event. In the early 2000s, an obscure but well-respected investor named Michael Burry makes a shocking discovery: the U.S. housing market is about to collapse. Over the past two decades, the big banks have made it a habit to bundle together Americans’ home mortgages into bonds known as “CDOs,” which they trade amongst themselves for higher and higher prices. The quality of those loans has been declining in recent years, making it likely that many CDOs will go bad. These bad loans are known as “subprime mortgages.” Banks are targeting immigrants and other members of the working class and suckering them in with low interest rates, only to jack up the prices after a two-year grace period. This is only the first problem. The second is these people with bad loans can’t actually pay them back. One prime example of this stated in the book is, “They’d phone up an originator and say, “Don’t tell anybody, but if you bring me a pool of loans teeming with high thin-file FICO scores I’ll pay you more for it than anyone else.” (Lewis, page 46). As the subprime market grows, it becomes advantageous for banks to find people who they know won’t be able to pay them back, because then they’ll make a killing off of jacked-up interest prices and fees. This scheme ends up impacting working-class immigrants more than anyone else, essentially screwing them over and forcing them to be expelled. 

The narrator and protagonist, Lauren Olamina in Parable of the Sower gives us an insight into her world about how she, as well as many others, had to flee their homes due to a crisis. Now, unlike The Big Short, Parable of the Sower sheds light onto a different issue, drug use. People labeled “Pyros” were using a drug of this name. This drug makes the experience of watching a fire burn “better than sex” and thus encourages addicts to burn everything in sight (Butler, pages 143-144). Not only are there major consequences of this drug affiliated gang activity such as the burning of  houses, but also people are dying. No one is safe in their own home anymore. Everyone is on edge. The summer shortly after her 18th birthday, Laurens community is overrun by pyros, burning, raping, killing all its inhabitants. Lauren has this idea to think ahead. She wants to go North and escape it all. She had returned to her neighborhood to look for survivors and recover what she could from her former home. She finds people digging through the rubble, one survivor she finds is named Harry Butler and another named Zahra Moss. Laren, as well as Harry, want to go North. Zahra agrees as well. So they start their journey. Along their journey they find many others similar to them and they become a group trying to find shelter. There are about 12 of them. They all are following Lauren and her self- made religion, Earthseed. One of her followers she met along the way is Bankole. Like everyone else, Bankole says, he’s just making his way north to start a new life someplace safe. Lauren suspects that he has a definite destination in mind—the home of a relative or friend, perhaps. Later, she finds out she is correct. Bankole owns three hundred acres of land on which his younger sister and her husband have built a house. Eventually Lauren and all her disciples agree to start a new life together in this area. They Mourn and put to rest the ones who they have lost and have passed due to this tragedy. They have named their new community Acorn, a symbol of new life, hope, and possibility. 

Throughout this process of learning about the housing crisis and using background knowledge of that to expand on other topics and books, there has been tremendous growth in my education. Firstly, if I had not been put in this class I would not have learned about the 2008 housing crisis. When I was first introduced to this class I thought it was only gonna be about this crisis. But instead we read books surrounding the topic and we got to see different perspectives. Not only did I learn about the housing crisis but I also learned that it can be labeled a housing crisis not just because of financials and mortgages, but as well as other facts. For reference, Parable of the Sower talks about how they were forced out due to drug use and thieves who set fire to housing. This can be labeled a housing crisis that had nothing to do with finance rather than havoc. My interpretation of things supports the idea that Geneseo students should gain practice in the ability to “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time.” As soon as I was put into this class I thought I was going to hate it because it involved finance and mortgages which I despised, but as the semester went on I feel like I actually learned a lot of useful information and my learning has since expanded. Connections were made that would never have been possible if I wasn’t introduced to the subjects of this class and learning is a process which will always keep growing. 

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