The 2008 housing crisis had around 6 million citizens lose their homes to foreclosure, due to big companies and banks, for example JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, gambling with their customers’ money. It was an unregulated market and system, fueled by predatory mortgage lenders and business’. There toxic mindset believed the US economy and government was too big to fail, and boy were they wrong. Their actions would facilitate a recession for the entire world, not solely the United States, and ignorance being essential for all of it. Ignorance is a big theme throughout the crisis, the companies and investors egos believing customers are “less than” and viewing them as fungible, or replaceable. Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, gives the prime point of view of those in charge on Wall Street, and the process of making the decisions that would begin the snowball effect constructing the 2008 housing crisis. “Yet not only had he failed to grasp what his traders were up to, back when they were still up to it; he couldn’t even fully explain what they had done after they had lost $9 billion” (219). A recurring issue seen in The Big Short is that the companies and workers seemed to have no idea what they were doing, exemplified by the previous quote. This can go hand and hand with ignorance as they would act very confidently in front of customers and know that they had little knowledge on what they were actually doing with the client’s money. Another example is “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. That was the seamy underbelly of the good idea…” (9). This indicates that a lot of people had the wrong mindset going into this profession and would make poor decisions on behalf of the clients not thinking real consequences would affect them. Overall the financial bubble of 2008 was a supreme kind of bubble, that when it burst, it harmed an entire economy filled with millions of innocent people, many who did not know what was actually happening to their money.
Although the 2008 financial crisis and Parable of the Sower (1993) were created and happened in two very different times, we can still see many connections between the two. Parable of the Sower was published in 1993 but takes place during 2024-2027, you could say it was ahead of its time, but with where we are in society today some of the events portrayed could be possible in the next 15-20 years. Depictions of ignorance in the novel lead to chaos and dysphoria, which our main character Lauren always seems to face. She is 15 years old and lives in a fortified cul-de-sac, where she and her neighbors are safe from the criminals and junkies that run rampant outside the walls. Well, at least they believe they are protected, they’re in less danger but the danger remains present. Eventually the “safety” of their bubble pops, which similarly during the 2008 financial crisis the housing bubble popped. There is an addictive drug called pyro that makes setting fires feel indescribable, leading to arson attacks on Robledo and surrounding neighborhoods. “Last night someone set fire to the Payne-Parrish house. While the community tried to put out the fire, and then tried to keep it from spreading, three other houses were robbed” (155). The climate crisis took over, which resulted in water shortages, and inflation, with the world perceived as an apocalyptic time. Our main character Lauren knows of the struggles and chaos happening around the nation, and is trying to warn the people in her community, but no one understands the severity of the issue in the beginning, showing ignorance. One of the early examples of ignorance is “None of us knows very much. But we can all learn more. Then we can teach one another. We can stop denying reality or hoping it will go away by magic.” (24). This is when Lauren is talking to her friend Joanna and is describing how she reads survival books and has begun preparing herself for if the wall is penetrated. Joanna looks at her like she’s crazy, acting that Lauren is a pessimist, and the actuality of what they’re going through during their formative years is not happening. Due to these circumstances Lauren has a maturity about her that makes her read and interpret her surroundings in depth, a quality she needed to survive.
Along with ignorance another common theme is corruption. Whether it be by a government bailout, or futuristic governmental collapse, there are nefarious acts in both. In The Big Short the financial system is portrayed as being fairly corrupt, and under regulated. “They called Eisman from Orlando and said, ” However corrupt you think this industry is, it’s worse”(21) These banks and companies did not care about their middle-lower class clients, and made it known. In a New York Times article “What the Costumes Reveal” by Joe Nocera, we see Steven J. Baum, a foreclosure firm staff having a Halloween party, with not so cute or funny costumes. They decided to dress up as the people they foreclose, pretending to be poor or squatters. A lot of effort was put in to ridicule these people, with garbage and decorations about, you can tell they have no remorse or respect for the people affected. Employees were reveling in others’ misery, and taking mindless pleasure in it, showing that all they have motivation for is money, no matter how they get it. The firm is of the wealthier class in society, unknowing of what it feels like to have your property ripped away from you, and are amoral. Finally, the most corrupt thing I believe to happen during the 2008 financial crisis was that the government ended up bailing a majority of the banks and companies who contributed to the crash in the first place. Congress passed the “Bailout Bill” in September of 2008 which gave $700 billion to add liquidity to the markets. Then through the Troubled Asset Relief Program the U.S Treasury added more to stabilize the financial markets. Some people faced consequences or lost their jobs, but most remained fine, especially once the government stepped in to help, almost showing that the decisions and actions of the contributors were okay.
As for the government in Parable of the Sower, they do not have the means to help out their citizens. In a similar way there is a hierarchy for class, the very rich, the middle class just trying to get by, and the very poor that try to survive on the streets. Their society and government is crumbling pretty rapidly throughout the novel leading to many forms of corruption. According to Parable of the Sower “The street poor will be back, and they won’t love us for sicking the cops on them. It’s illegal to camp out on the street the way they do—the way they must—so the cops knock them around, rob them if they have anything worth stealing, then order them away or jail them.”. Seen here the cops are using excessive force, which we are led to believe is because of the higher crime rate. Our final example is the novel’s President, Christopher Charles Morpeth Donner, who does not know how to appropriately address the issues occurring in his country. He wants to create a new government, which includes eliminating laws that he finds “overly restrictive”. Minimum wage, environmental protection and worker protection laws are abolished, he continues to give more power to big companies, and lets them treat the workers however they want to. “Is that the future: Large numbers of people stuck in either President-elect Donner’s version of slavery or Richard Moss’s.”(). With all these changes it creates debt slaves, where workers are only permitted to purchase goods with company scrips and are barely paid enough to survive, putting them further and further into debt slavery.
While reading and analyzing books like The Big Short and Parable of the Sower, I have found a new appreciation for learning. This semester has really helped me excel in ways I never knew I could. With the skills and tools I have learned from this class I am so confident in my ability to construct good writing pieces. I always had a difficult time with getting my thoughts together in a composed, organized format, but when using the course concepts and having template resources available I have impressed myself a lot with the work I have produced. It was a hard transition, going from community college to Geneseo, especially in the beginning. Finding where all my classes were, the new workload, and after the first month I thought I wouldn’t be up for the challenge. Comparably this is how Lauren Olamina felt when traveling north and needing to survive the conditions outside the wall. Over time, both me and Lauren, conquered these challenges. With the help of this class, I made positive changes in my day-day schedule and time management, really proud of the work I was presenting and enjoying the process. It was the 180° I needed on my attitude to really start to feel prepared and like I belonged in the Geneseo classes. This course definitely was an essential part of helping me transition smoothly into the Geneseo curriculum, and has given me the chance to reflect upon how my learning and outlook have changed over time.