The Mendicant Classes

 Posted by on August 26, 2009  Add comments
Aug 262009

There was a time in Ireland when it was normal to be excluded. It was usual, if you weren’t among the privileged, to be outside the loop if your circumstances were wrong and you were trapped in the middle.  Neither rich nor poor.

You might be an honest, hard-working Joe, well able to feed your family, whose children never wanted for clothes or Christmas presents or a week at the seaside, but you didn’t know the bank manager on first-name terms, or the doctor. You were afraid of your own lawyer, who instructed you what to do. You didn’t play golf with the local auctioneer. If you went to hospital, you weren’t looked after by the consultant — you were “under” him.

There was another class of people too. People who expected and got everything they demanded, from healthcare to housing, because they were perceived to belong to the mendicant classes, who for generations had thrown themselves on the State to support them in all their needs.

You didn’t expect to receive anything, even when you were entitled to it, and most of the time you didn’t ask, because you were brought up to pay your way. When times got hard, you didn’t understand the system. You thought the Services would step in and rescue you, but you found out the hard way that there were no Services for people of your sort. You learned to stand in line and wait, to hand in your form and sit down until you were summoned. To call to some politician’s house after work and tell him your story of desperation in the hope he’d fix it for you. The house you needed from the council. The operation you couldn’t afford. The academically-gifted daughter you couldn’t educate because your factory-worker’s wages placed you above the earnings threshold for a university grant.

You knew nothing of investments or shares. Stock-market reports on the radio had as much meaning for you as the shipping forecast. You didn’t put money into anything in the hope of a high return because you didn’t have any money, but your children were warm, and well-fed, and you worked yourself to the bone so that your daughter or son could get the education you didn’t have.  They’d do better than you, if you had anything to do with it.

You despised the mendicant classes with their swagger and their sense of entitlement, their feckless, irresponsible waste of money, their gambling, their drinking and their sheer vulgarity, but you worked hard and you got on all right in the end. Your children made it through university, alongside the children of rich farmers and businessmen who were able to reduce their paper earnings so that their kids got the grant.  Kids with cars.

In the end, you got on ok, and now you have a nice home, grown-up kids and a good life. You’re retired and you have grandchildren. Maybe a great grandchild on the way.

And suddenly, they’re back, the mendicant classes. They still have that sense of entitlement, the belief that the government should pick up the tab for their gambling, and their overspending, their vulgarity, their drinking, their partying and their drug-taking.

You despise them. Why? you want to know. Why after all these years of hard work, should my money support these gambling wasters?  I didn’t buy shares in banks and I didn’t buy bonds, because they were too risky.  So why the hell should I have to pay for the gambling debts of the bank manager and the auctioneer and the consultant surgeon?

You don’t care about the poor any more.  These days you have eyes only for the insider classes.  The new beggars.  The people who expect the government to step in and rescue them from their ill-judged gambles, using your money. The people who can’t believe anyone would question their right to suck your country dry.

You remember how they made you stand in line all those years ago but not this time.

Not this time.

  16 Responses to “The Mendicant Classes”

Comments (16)

    Ah shur Bock, your lad will be sorted as an arm at the Rose of Tralee.


    Well written, as usual, Bock.


    You’re very kind. The usual €10 fee is on the way.


    You have made a very good point but it’s very very generalised and it’s just not that simple, I do agree with you on the pathetic ” picking up the tab ” But the divide neither was or is that simple or clear cut.


    Norma — Could you elaborate on that point? I’m not quite picking up what you say.


    I’ll try…….i’m as pissed off as anyone else here regarding NAMA and just about everything else this present Government is enacting to sell us down the swanee, my difficulty lies with the rich/poor debate more, i just don’t see it that way, There are many sectors of society taking entitlements for as long as i can recall, i won’t hone in on the wording “mendicant classes ” because i appreciate your use of irony.
    But when you refer to” rich farmers and businessmen who reduced their paper assets to get grants ” i’m sure some may have done that but definitly not all, its generalising and potentially divisive.
    There are many decent hard working farmers, businessmen, even the odd professional ie Doctor, Lawyer,Architect who engaged in a decent life and helped the less financially fortunate, and never sought or expected the assistance you describe, granted they may have been the minority of the section of society you describe but they did and do exist.
    I just don’t believe that it’s a class issue, i believe it’s a mind set and value issue, one is either possessed of a decent value system and a mindful attitude toward others, i don’t believe it has anything to do with money and i think class is redundant and irrelevant.
    Still not sure if i have explained properly, just tried, might do better when i’m less tired.


    Where did you notice me saying “all farmers and businessmen”?


    no your right you did’nt say “all” i may have taken that as an inference. Does that mean that less rich or poor farmers and businessmen belong to a different section ?
    do you really believe though that there is a class issue ? i’m not asking this in a naive way i would genuinly like to know.
    I do think that this country has been very affected by ” class ” and money divisions and i think it worked both ways, we were as infected by inverted views as we were by the intolerance of religious groups and those that held fast to the belief that they were superior, with or without financial strength.


    I made no mention of class one way or the other, except in a general sense of classification. If I was talking about people who like to restore vintage cars, I might refer to them as a class of people. I might also use the word to describe people who grow lettuce or people who make their own jam, or people who go fishing on rivers.

    The idea of working class and middle class is nonsense, especially in Ireland.

    The class-divide idea is something in your own mind, I think, and anyway, to concentrate on that is to miss the point.


    Of course class divide is a non issue, as i said initially it is redundant and irrelevant, it’s not something in my mind thats unfair of you, but you don’t need to be fair.
    And where did i mention “middle class ” or ” working class ”
    might that be in your mind ?
    are you being deliberatly obtuse ? i’m tired time for sleep, must not get cranky !


    Let’s not get hung up on it. The point is different.


    Bock, fantastic reading.
    If the media made it as easy as you to understand NAMA and the Lisbon treaty etc then we would all be much better off, after reading your posts every day I think, wow he has an opinion which he clearly shows but he shows two sides to every story so that you can make your own mind up.


    The usual €10 fee is on its way to you as we speak.


    Back in the 1930’s we went through something similar with the annuities to the UK. 50 years earlier a frenzy much like what we went through, pushed the price of Land through the roof. Through to the point where the only time it made any sense was when the UK was at war. Agri land at the moment is about E20,000 per acre when the return per acre is about E100 in terms of profit. So, 200 years. Now to my mind a realistic price would be 2/3000. But when the idiot banks were on about the fundamentals being sound this was part of it.
    Now to NAMA, if as seems about to happen 70% of the face will be payed for the paper, when Jess my hound knows IF 30%, and I really mean if. So why this insistence on paying vastly over the odds, twice. What on earth is the point of doing this. Well it comes down to the 20,000 mentioned above. All value, as calculated, is done in land value and returns. If both measures were to drop, then the loan to value would vanish, causing a recall of the loan. If one were to drop below a certain amount, in normal circumstances would demand a recall. This is what the Yanks are terrified about, and why so much is being pumped into the system over there. You see the bet was not just on land but also on the return, so double leveraging of each and every asset. But Jess knows if I want to buy, then my offer would be between 20/30%. And if Jess knows then every moneyman in the world knows also. So expect, if NAMA goes through, a return to the economic stagnation of 1930s to the 1960s. Or until that gap between 30% and 70% disappears.


    The explanation of paying 60% of the 90 billion instead of somewhere between 20% and 30% is that they are paying a projected market value to be realised in 6/7 years !
    Firstly, if it is suggested they pay market value, that is impossible to establish when there is no market, Who precisly is establishing the percentage of 60%. Are we now going to accept that GUESSWORK is the fact finding mission to base the future of the country on, As Vincent stated Jess would pay between 20/30% because thats the closest figure, given the guesswork.
    Agricultural land may have a tag price of 20,000 per acre but nobody is paying that, it isn’t a market value, suddenly facts, figures, stats are irrelevant.
    They state that in 6/7 years we will return to that value, not in 20/30 years will we retun to it.
    No foreign bank will touch Ireland with a barge pole for the foreseeable future, if the IMF wade in, they will cut public service pay by 25%, recovery can be seen elsewhere, so now that we are in the entrenched position at the bottom of the barrel, the payment by NAMA of double the value of a non existant market value is most decidedly the most insane step an Irish Government has ever taken, it will set us back 100 years overnight. We are currently lying in a state of stagnation, where do we go from here ?


    perhaps swine flu could be the solution to all our problems? if we got a serious dose of it, we may see a drastic reduction in the numbers of civil servants in this country. this would result in a reduction in the wage bill if a recruitment freeze is implemented as well . out unemployment levels are likely to fall as well, resulting in even more savings. i sugest that the government forget NAMA and buy a real pig in a poke for every family in the country. if it fails, at least we’ll all have bacon for christmas

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