The Moneychanger by Rembrandt, 1627
Writing on Medium, Hanna Brooks Olsen explores millennial poverty as driven by education debt, and questions if there really is a viable path to financial stability in modern America.
Olsen challenges stereotypes of poverty, relating how her financial situation has deteriorated as a result of collegiate debt, moving her deeper into poverty over time, and noting that most Americans don’t favor government assistance for the impoverished, probably because of cultural views that equate poverty with poor character.
Olsen attacks predatory lending, referencing a recent study by Crittenton Women’s Union which found that most debt resulted from cyclical unemployment, medical costs, and student loans, and was further compounded by high-interest, punitive loans.
From the essay:
“What if we acknowledged that there are more poor people than we realize and that even doing literally everything prescribed by those with wealth does not guarantee wealth?”
Olsen’s points about high-interest loans and the punitive nature of debt were also recently made by cultural critic and philosopher Slavoj Žižek, writing in The New Statesmen, where he explores the ‘different types of debtors’ in an essay on Greece and the European Union.
From the article:
Imagine a vicious teacher who gives to his pupils impossible tasks, and then sadistically jeers when he sees their anxiety and panic. The true goal of lending money to the debtor is not to get the debt reimbursed with a profit, but the indefinite continuation of the debt, keeping the debtor in permanent dependency and subordination. For most of the debtors – for there are debtors and debtors. Not only Greece but also the US will not be able even theoretically to repay its debt, as is now publicly recognised. So there are debtors who can blackmail their creditors because they cannot be allowed to fail (big banks), debtors who can control the conditions of their repayment (the US government) and, finally, debtors who can be pushed around and humiliated (Greece).
Do you see debt and lending as theological issues? Have you preached on these topics?
Posted by David Streever