We are all Germans now
Deaglán de Bréadún
We have had crises before and recessions which resulted in mass lay-offs. But as Social Protection Minister Joan Burton pointed out to me this week, in an interview, we have never had the level of personal debt that abounds in this State.
Looking back to my parents’ time, I don’t think they even knew what a credit card was – such exotic items did not exist at the time except in barely-noticed advertisements in Life magazine.
In more recent times, it seemed on occasion that credit-cards were being forced down our throats. It is now apparent that many citizens went over the top with this “free money” and now they are paying the price, or, worse still, are unable to pay the price.
I am not sure if my parents even had a mortgage. Their philosophy and the outlook of that generation was to “pay as you go”, shelling out cash on the table for every purchase.
Great mirth is aroused these days when anyone mentions De Valera’s St Patrick’s Day address from, I think it was 1943, where he extolled the merits of a society based on “frugal comfort”.
Now many people are getting used to the idea of frugality – without the comfort.
It seems that, in Germany, people would rather cut their hands off than owe money on their credit-card. That’s no doubt a legacy of the hardship years after the first and second World Wars.
It looks as if we have no other option in the future but to adhere to these Teutonic standards. “We all partied,” said the late Brian Lenihan. Now we must all become Germans. Oh, and here’s Dev’s speech from all those years ago:
The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age.
The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live.
With the tidings that make such an Ireland possible, St. Patrick came to our ancestors fifteen hundred years ago promising happiness here no less than happiness hereafter.
It was the pursuit of such an Ireland that later made our country worthy to be called the island of saints and scholars. It was the idea of such an Ireland – happy, vigorous, spiritual – that fired the imagination of our poets; that made successive generations of patriotic men give their lives to win religious and political liberty; and that will urge men in our own and future generations to die, if need be, so that these liberties may be preserved.
One hundred years ago, the Young Irelanders, by holding up the vision of such an Ireland before the people, inspired and moved them spiritually as our people had hardly been moved since the Golden Age of Irish civilisation.
Fifty years later, the founders of the Gaelic League similarly inspired and moved the people of their day. So, later, did the leaders of the Irish Volunteers.
We of this time, if we have the will and active enthusiasm, have the opportunity to inspire and move our generation in like manner.
We can do so by keeping this thought of a noble future for our country constantly before our eyes, ever seeking in action to bring that future into being, and ever remembering that it is for our nation as a whole that future must be sought.