“There are many ways to foreclose the future. Here’s one: the ‘intergenerational’ mortgage, a relatively new lending practice in the U.K.—and an image for our times. Described as ‘the debt that never dies,’ the idea is that the children take over the mortgage after the death of their parents. The dead hand of the past, the invisible hand of the market in an economic afterlife, holds the child’s head underwater until the debt is paid.
For young people in Britain and the States, the future is being foreclosed through unaffordable house prices, the introduction of steep student loans, an economy that privileges a wealthy minority, and, back behind all of these, the terrible foreclosure of the world’s climate. “We have no future” was a frequent statement given by the predominantly young people taking part in the U.K.’s street riots in the summer of 2011, unable to see how they will live, how they will dwell, in all senses of the word.
To dwell well is to be who we truly are: to know a place that shelters the best of our humanity, a place from which to see the future with tranquility. So intrinsic is dwelling to the human condition that philosopher Martin Heidegger drew parallels: As the root of the German verb ‘to be’ is cognate with ‘to dwell,’ so a human being is a human dwelling. The old High German word meaning ‘to dwell,’ buan, also means to cherish and protect what surrounds you: your environment, in other words. In Heidegger’s analysis, dwelling involves caring for the ‘fourfold:’ earth, the divine, other humans, and sky.
• The house as a dwelling place for the body: the earth.
• Education as a dwelling place for the mind: the divine.
• The economy as a dwelling place for the other 99 percent of humanity.
• The climate as a dwelling place for all, like the unownable sky.
Now, as the intergenerational mortgage is applied in all categories, young people are demanding their rights to every kind of dwelling: through the student protests of 2010 against loans, the youth riots of 2011, the climate change protests, and, most recently, the Occupy movement. This well-named movement took its protest to Chase Bank, which occupies a leading position in foreclosures in the U.S. and is under investigation for allegedly fraudulent foreclosures. What is happening to the younger generation is a fraudulent foreclosure; it is unfair and oddly unnatural, a reversal of the normal flow of things according to which the older generation bestows many forms of dwelling on the younger.”