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.