Eudaimonia Sabotaged: The Predatory Society

Eudaimonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯mo’níaː]), sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia /juːdɪˈmoʊniə/, is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation.

sea-of-despair-ilona-flores

Sea of Despair by IIona Flores

 

By R. Sterling Braxton

This is a rant about American social decay, foreclosure and the decline of the America you once knew.  I stumbled upon strategic innovator and author Umair Haque and instantly was intrigued.  He eloquently captured and framed the modern American experience in ways that transformed my thinking and confirmed my fears.

Haque writes extensively about why America is collapsing in his posts on http://www.eand.com and in the Harvard Business Review- but more importantly what can be done to correct and survive the American decline. Bear with me- because I am going to go on a tangent but you will eventually grasp why a decade later-  Neil Garfield is still writing about foreclosure at LivingLies, and not a thing has changed over a decade except for our understanding of the fraud perpetrated against millions of homeowners.

Umair Haque writes about the the “new pathologies” that have contributed to the World’s first “rich failed state”, the United States.   These new social pathologies are dystopic and have contributed to shrinking incomes, social inequality, overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.  These social pathologies don’t happen in other developed countries to this extent, but are unique to the United States.

Haque reflects on new social ills including why American children not only are killing each other in unprecedented numbers, but are killing themselves in large numbers- because they have given up on their future and lives.

The opioid epidemic is especially troubling.   “In many countries in the world — most of Asia and Africa — one can buy all the opioids one wants from any local pharmacy, without a prescription.”  But despite these opioids being illegal in America, millions of Americans abuse these drugs.  The use of opioids to escape every day living is unique to America.   “Why would people abuse opioids en masse unlike anywhere else in the world? They must be living genuinely traumatic and desperate lives…… so they have to self-medicate the terror away. ” Haque believes this epidemic of drug abuse is fueled by absolute powerlessness and complete indignity.

He describes the number of retired Americans who are not able to save enough money to live on, and live in their cars with no family to care for them.  People are isolated and living hand to mouth.  He asks, “How did America’s elderly end up cheated of dignity?” After all, even poor countries have “informal social support systems” — otherwise known as families and communities.  In America, social bonds have collapsed as extreme capitalism and profits above people have become the only priority.  Haque refers to social bonds and close relationships as “unaffordable luxuries” in America that even third-world countries possess.

Sadly, he says that Americans appear to be quite happy simply watching one another die and suffer.  “They just don’t appear to be too disturbed, moved, or even affected by the four pathologies above: their kids killing each other, their social bonds collapsing, being powerless to live with dignity, or having to numb the pain of it all away.”

Haque is spot-on.  America may be monetarily wealthy, but it is morally bankrupt.  The average American lives in a state of perpetual fear, living from paycheck to paycheck, with no safety-net if things go wrong.  And when things go wrong- where do people turn?  They have no where to turn for relief or a remedy because the courts grant justice to only those who can afford justice, pricing most Americans out of the justice market.

Justice and due-process must be purchased.  Ask anyone who has sued a large bank for fraudulently foreclosing on their home with strong evidence of fraudulent tactics.  Most homeowners eventually give up because they have exhausted their limited financial resources while the bank executes its procedural playbook backed by a billion-dollar budget.  Why bother with the battle when the judicial bias against the homeowner is palatable.

In a civilized society, there would be built in safeties for homeowners, where a home and all of its equity could not be taken for several missed payments once or twice over the history of a thirty-year mortgage.  Instead, the missed payment would but rolled into the principal due at the end of the loan and interest would be charged- as it should be.  The banks have designed a system where Servicers are financially rewarded by deliberately causing a default to occur.

I am not condoning missing a house payment, and the homeowner is obligated to payback the missed payment with interest (if there is a holder in due course somewhere)- but life happens- and people are imperfect. If the consumer had any power in the market, the banks would not be permitted to implement such a drastically punitive system where homeowners must be perfect or risk being homeless.

A homeowner must make 360 payments perfectly ON TIME with no hiccups.  If you are in the hospital, temporarily out of the country, or lose your job- and your payment is more than 5 days late- an avalanche of penalties and charges will start to accrue.  If you call your loan servicer for assistance to correct the problem you will find that they have no incentive to help you bring your loan current- when they can try to confuse and trick you into default.  The servicing industry is designed to be predatory to maximize bank profit- not to ensure the homeowner remains current.

 

If these pathologies happened in any other rich country — even in most poor ones — people would be aghast, shocked, and stunned, and certainly moved to make them not happen. But in America, they are, well, not even resigned. They are indifferent, mostly.

 

Haque states we live in a predatory society. A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially (which they do). “It means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbors, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves”- or standing by why banks steal homes with fabricated documents.

Hague astutely points out that, “The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich — but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about.”  The banks are this invisible and insatiable predatory force that will strip all wealth from middle class homeowners.

In any other country in the world, people would revolt over the theft of homes by the presentation and filing of fabricated and forged documents, empty trusts and false securitizations.  The courthouses would be mobbed, and the populace would refuse to pay their taxes if their leaders failed to meet the social contract.

When the banks, and the courts collude to steal homes- there is no justice.  The banks have received a clear message they will not be prosecuted or punished for illegal activity if they can create a complex, convoluted, multi-tiered process of moving and undetectable parties.  In fact, the move to e-mortgages and notes will virtually strip away transparency and allow the banks to manufacture the papertrail on-demand and perfect their criminal enterprise with a keystroke, thus circumventing hundreds of years of recording and UCC law.  All accountability blurred.

The predators will soon control everything about you through databases.  Your health records, your biometrics, your bank accounts, your purchases, your computer records, the GPS coordinates for your phone and new car- and have almost complete knowledge of your movement, contacts, income and social contacts.

You are witnessing the American decline and a nation suffering from pathological illnesses.  This illness is caused by the American model of “extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, and the perversion of everyday virtue” according to Haque.  Our own demise is reinforced by the “junk media, junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk — that America has fed upon for too long.”  The foreclosure machine is a microcosm of everything that is wrong in America- where corruption is the norm, the rules are bent to accomodate the wealthy, and where profit at all costs matters than the lives of our fellow man.

 

The LivingLies blog is viewed by middle class readers who typically have been violated in some way by their lender when they had a temporary setback and sought assistance from their servicer. Not because they thought they had a right to miss payments or wanted a “free house”.  The readers are suffering terribly from the actions of the bank (revoked modification, misapplied payments, etc) and unable to gain traction or get any relief.

A home is often the largest asset most people have, and when it is foreclosed upon all equity built over years is stripped away. Lives are decimated.   Combined with low wages that have been stagnant for decades, the once stable and secure middle class now live in a perpetual state of vulnerability and insecurity without precedent.  The middle class is now a demographic minority and life expectancy for white people has declined for the first time in a century.

The middle class are the new poor, while the ultra rich have become drastically wealthier with every economic downturn or market surge.  Both corporations and government have failed America.  Last week, the biggest perpetrators of the greatest swindle ever, the economic collapse of 2008, were fined 35.1 million dollars for servicing violations.  That money will never trickle down to the homeowners who were harmed.  Instead, the bank will write-off the penalties on their taxes and are now released from supervision- free to offend again. The government will pocket the penalties and funnel the monies to special interests that benefit their cronies.

No meaningful law or regulation was passed to prevent banks from doing the same thing again.  The banks are more powerful than before the collapse and control every facet of American life.  There was absolutely NO consequence for the crimes perpetrated against homeowners who almost exclusively wanted to do whatever necessary to keep their homes and acted in good faith to correct any default.

The American dream is based on home-ownership because it provides stability, safety and security.  Americans also need good jobs — jobs that pay a living wage, provide decent benefits and allow people to care and educate their children, and live quality lives.  Meanwhile corporations and government operate from a revenue at all costs mentality.  Harming its workers, the environment, and the community in which it operates makes no difference to American capitalists.  Corporations are allowed to operate from a profit at all costs philosophy that is literally destroying American culture.

When the next financial crisis rolls around, when unemployed, education-debt-burdened young people reach their breaking point, and people discover there is no rule of law and no social contract there will come a point when those who have suffered from predation are willing to burn the entire system to the ground so it can once again be level.

Prices and profits are the only thing that matters to predators.

The Predators rule our corporations and institutions.

 

Haque warns that America  has spent decades “deliberately destroying its own institutions — its educational, legal, healthcare, and financial systems (“drowning them in the bathtub”).”  How can a society that destroys its own institutions be anything but  broken and defective?  The FBI, CIA, legislature and judiciary have been politicized and cannot be trusted to to their jobs.

Institutions are the muscles of the body social and politic, and a society that destroys its own institutions is like a drug abuser who is trading a quick fix for long term health.

Our government and corporations are no longer focused on providing the highest quality public goods it can deliver.  Instead, they are looking to provide a substandard product at the highest cost the consumer will tolerate.  Public goods- like access to equitable and just courts are vital to a well functioning society. Extreme capitalism where banks are hailed as above the law always lead to social unrest.

After the financial crisis people became angry, afraid and enraged.  Do you even remember a time when you were happy, secure, fulfilled, optimistic and comfortable? America is in the beginning stages of a collapse. Not a dystopian collapse, but a nation where the law of the jungle becomes the norm.  It is now every man (or women) for themselves because we have evolved from a republic to a democracy to a kleptocracy.

Homeowners who have been subjected to the tactics of predatory servicers no longer believe in the rule of law, or their leaders.  They stopped believing in the social bonds and constructs that encourage Americans to act collectively, and withdrew.  Because the banks have not been held accountable and the laws weren’t changed, servicers continue to offer predatory modifications they have no intention of honoring and other default services that benefit the bank to the detriment of the homeowner (like loan mods with grossly inflated balloon payments at the end of the 40-year mortgage).

For the past decade, since the financial collapse, the banks have controlled the courts and politicians with bribes, access, and favors where due process is actually now bought and sold. The state and federal governments allow the banks to shakedown homeowners without consequence.

At this point, America might as well privatize the court system since the banks already control the courts and legislatures. Courts are a public utility that homeowners pay taxes to maintain, but the courts now conspire with the banks to strip the homeowner of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.  A poor and vulnerable populace with little security is much easier to control than a wealthy and robust populace who demands equitable treatment.  America has gotten itself into a tail-spin it won’t be able to pull out of without massive social revolt and changes being made.  And yet, Americans appear apathetic, because they have little time to raise hell about policy or find a collective voice- because they are preoccupied with merely surviving.

How will we survive the American decline? How do homeowners who have already lost their homes cope?  The emotional toll of foreclosure has contributed to the feelings of apathy and learned helplessness.  I, for one, live an existence of daily panic, anxiety, irrational fears and absolute rage about what my servicer has done to me for 15 long, arduous years- and I know that there are millions of Americans who feel the same way.  We live with the trauma of being raped corporately and revictimized by the courts we looked to for relief.

Here are the textbook signs of trauma:

Haque believes that the majority of Americans are feeling this trauma, not just those who have been abused by a loan servicer, and it is eradicating life quality.

Haque points out that in periods of decline fascism increases and societies break down.  He observes that societies become more tribalistic as an expression of communal rage as a “cry for closeness”. A leader is often elected to correct this pain but unfortunately the leader is often the abuser who harms and scapegoats society’s most weak who are also the most powerless.  We saw this with the bank settlements.  The banks were found guilty of massive fraud, sanctioned billions of dollars and were allowed not to admit fault.  The settlements met the appearance of a punishment but were merely an inconvenience.

The homeowners saw NO RELIEF for the damage sustained by the banks and no laws with teeth were passed to discourage the predatory servicing behavior.  On a daily basis the banks continue to fabricate documents, deceive homeowners (and courts), and foreclose on homes they can’t demonstrate they own.

 

“Thus, the by preying on the powerless, the strong man creates the impression of power, which the insecure masses flock to. That much is the story of America — whether the strong man is Trump, his allies, or his challengers,” Haque says.  Americans will NOT be saved by those elected into power- we will be saved by the thinking few who believe in human decency.  Haque states that we must orient ourselves “towards the common good, from Aristotle through Augustine through Mill to Rawls.”

This is a tall-order when our leaders, governments and corporations act with greed and contempt, and societal norms and values have broken down.  The new norms are forgery and counterfeiting mortgage notes, school shootings, election hackings, and cheating on your wife with strippers named Stormy.  There are no functioning norms in our society and therefore little decency.

We must return to a time of decency, peace, sanity and yet with the transgressions and abuses of of every day life it becomes more difficult to act with decency.  Our leaders rely on our mental and physical exhaustion to keep us in check and allow corruption to thrive.  They have succeeded in becoming a dictatorship and completely ignoring what the majority of Americans want- not corporate profits at any cost, but happiness, security and life quality.

 

Haque proposes a solution to this decline.  The first is to empower yourself and all the lives you meet in your daily travels.  By empowering others you contribute to their success, creativity, empathy and grace and in the process expand your potential. By being a kinder, more gentle society people will stop isolating themselves because they are fearful.  When people stop hiding, they become empowered.  Haque says that decency should become a presence, not an action, so that we can embrace our own humanity we have lost as our country has plummeted into decline.

We must, as a society, stop seeing everyone as a rival, and every event as an obstacle to conquer and defeat.  We must look at those around us as equals, suffering the same challenges we do, in our search for meaning.  We must return to being a country of laws, and consequences for violating our norms must be enforced.  In America, a bank can steal a home it didn’t pay for, break into that home and destroy the contents, and law enforcement will take no action calling burglary a ‘civil’ not ‘criminal’ matter.  Don’t believe me?  See here.

We must do this despite the “impossible, endless, fruitless work of punishing” what is indecent around us, and instead focus on what we can do to help our fellow American.  Neil Garfield encourages each reader to provide support to other readers by replying to their blog posts.  A new LivingLies forum is being created that will allow readers to share documents, exchange contact information and create a support network in order to empower one another in their quest to defend against fraudulent foreclosure.

At the end of the day, according the Haque, the economic crisis was not a market failure or even a financial crisis, but an institutional one.   Haque’s central argument revolves around the observation that current capitalistic practices lead to what is called ‘thin’ value. Thin from the perspective that the value created relies on exploitation — not in the Marxist sense — but in the environmental sense. Resources depleted without an incentive to return them or replace them with something better.

In contrast, Haque encourages companies to create ‘thick’ value, which is described as generating profits by activities that create value for sustainability, authentically to people and build up rather than tear down people, communities and resources.   Most importantly, Haque points out that the the system that created these issues is perhaps not the best system to fix them.


As a society we have now
reached a state of diminishing returns—though we work harder and harder, we never seem to get anywhere. This has led to a diminishing of the common wealth: wage stagnation, widening economic inequality, the depletion of the natural world, and a corrupt government and judiciary. 

To get out of this funk, we need to rethink the future of human exchange and the institutions that define us- or we will suffer under their totalitarian injustice for the duration of our lives.  I don’t think I have the time to wait for the correction.  As soon as my lawsuit is finished (one way or the other), and if the battle doesn’t kill me, I will be expatriating.  I am sure those who can afford to do so will be joining me.  Worst case scenario- there are always opiates to numb the reality of my oppression.

 

Umair Haque is the Director of the London-based Havas Media Lab and heads Bubblegeneration, a strategy lab that helps discover strategic innovation. He studies the economics of the future: the impact that new technologies, management innovations, and shifting consumer preferences will exert tomorrow on the industries and markets of today.

10 Responses

  1. Not only did millions suffer through foreclosure, but when they resort to the Bankruptcy court, they were again victimized.. Debtors who had made all their mtg pmts on time, had their home stolen away by the BK court, greedy trustee and unscrupulous servicer when the servicer offered the court a hefty “carve out” of what was supposedly owed to the lender to have the court order the home sold, in order for the court and all the other bottom feeders could make a commission.

  2. Excellent article, and the truths are indeed self evident.

  3. This is an excellent post. Sad…but true.

  4. Hi Garfield, what you state here is true not only in America but all over the world. If there emerges a leader that might attempt to “go against the bank” for whatever reason they get destroyed like Dilma, Zuma and many more.

    Here in darkest Africa we are looking to bypass money and a system has been built – basic – that in principle will work if traction is achieved. Please look at it for comment at http://www.payapp.co.za. w Oh and thank you for your diligence in fighting these buggers!

  5. Thank you very much for such detailed analyzes of decay of America, real pure undiluted true. The madness of reality is so enormous that people even afraid to think about. The tragedy of collapsing society. I have been a victim of fraudulent foreclosure by JP Morgan Chase Bank. It was shocking to learn that every level of judicial system is completely corrupt, judges have lost their human side became like wolfs taking from poor people everything to the marrow bone.

  6. Reblogged this on California freelance paralegal and commented:
    I could not agree more with this excellent article. The issues that are discussed in this article are a major reason that the number of individuals expatriating from the United States and even renouncing their citizenship are at record levels.

  7. Mr. Braxton. First, I want to thank you for posting this and letting those less articulate see their own concerns put into such precise wording. Your words describing the injustice and the banks forgeries and lies being supported by the courts is what is spot on. The last 10 years have given me an education that I could have done without. There is something to be said for “ignorance is bliss”. If I did not have a family to keep a roof over I would have been gone a few months after they started. We live with the illusion that the law is for everyone but we are not a country of laws when they are not applied equally to us all and when they can be manipulated by the judiciary. And even be supported and directed by the “person” on the bench. It is plain that the banks are in charge and all the rest is just a show. Soon we will have all resources needed for life controlled and sold back to us by those in power and if we can not pay….. what then?

  8. A breath of fresh air, in all the pollution. I’m pleased someone is finally saying it, “out loud”…Let’s not forget the “degradation” of our food supply. The garbage that is being portrayed as food, when filled with pathogens, toxins and chemicals. Each day we push products in our system that make us sick and cannot be properly digested or processed through our organs. No oversight over corporations is a “deadly” problem, not just in our justice system, but in every facet of our lives. The disconnect between the haves and have not’s (now the middle class), is toxic and deadly. How do you educate the masses? The foreclosure problem is just a symptom of this underlying “cancer” destroying every bit of humanity left, particularly in the United States. Our “elected representatives”, whom are our “employees”, don’t even try to hide the corruption, these days. They are empowered, bold and arrogant, while getting filthy rich, at our expense. Unfortunately, without anarchy, change will not occur, sadly it has come to this.

  9. Umair Haque, Neil Garfield courageous brave! Hope u stay safe! So strong info.
    I’ve been currying bandana against swells Fargo Bank infront of the bank they sent me security with gun kicking me out!
    Every single word u mentioned just hit the spot

  10. Amazing! Please continue! Stay the course! Thank you!

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