Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Abject Patience

Aldous Huxley says, "The abject patience of the oppressed is perhaps the most inexplicable, as it is also the most important, fact in all history."

I thought of that today when I came across this story, which really must be read to be believed. And if you read the fantastic work that Mike Konczal and a few other left bloggers are doing on the foreclosure crisis, it's clear that what happened here is shocking and horrifying but not especially unusual. All over the country, people's homes are quite simply being stolen from them by banks and other creatures from the financial sector.

But the most disturbing part isn't the mortgage servicers evicting people from their homes with no clear title or other legal basis. It is the homeowners themselves. The "good" ones most of all.

Tina Kimmel was told by Citi, her lender, that she qualified for a trial loan modification under HAMP. Then after seven months of paying the lower amount as instructed, she was told without explanation she did not qualify and would be considered in default if she didn't make all the back payments with interest and penalties. She paid them. Then Citi said they wouldn't accept her money, she was being foreclosed. She kept paying. Without informing her they sold her mortgage to Carrington Mortgage Services, which told her that all they knew was she was in foreclosure and it was up to her, not Citi, to give them documentation on anything else regarding her loan. She gave it. And that while they were deciding whether to evict her, she'd have to keep paying. She paid. Next thing she heard was a sheriff's notice on her door, announcing the house would be auctioned in three weeks. At the last minute, she paid the $13,000 -- borrowed from family and friends -- that Carrington was demanding for her nonexistent missed payments, and was allowed to keep her house.

She did everything the banks told her to. She's proud of that. Shouldn't she be ashamed?

I don't know that much about mortgages or mortgage fraud. But one thing I do know is that the Citis and the Carringtons will keep stealing houses as long as the victims think it's their duty to do whatever it takes to satisfy them, and to peacefully move out if they fail.

One can't help wondering how many houses would have to end up mysteriously burned a few days after an eviction, to make the banks find loan modifications suddenly quite attractive. But instead we get Tina Kimmel, stakhanovite bill-payer.


  1. As for the virtuous poor, one can pity them, of course, but one cannot possibly admire them

  2. That's good! I was also thinking of Brecht's Galileo, on the peasants of the Campagna: "I can see their divine patience, but where is their divine fury?"

  3. Re: your last paragraph, I dimly a recall a story from when I was living in Oxford during the property slump at the end of the 1980s. It involved a bloke who'd burned his old house down and was on trial for the offence. I can't recall the details, but I do seem to remember that there had been something quite outrageous about it, with the bank more or less kicking him out as a matter of principle even though they would lose a great deal more money by repossessing than they would be letting him stay.

    Anyway, he took offence and burned it down. There was considerable public sympathy for him, and I seem to recall this contributing to a rather shorter sentence than one might have expected.

    [* or possibly building society, at the time]