With both the academic year and the harshest level of government restrictions drawing to a close, the past year for many third-level students’ is morphing into a beautiful, sepia-toned montage of their time in higher education. From losing your perception of time as you stare blankly at a computer screen, meandering from library-booked seat to library-booked seat, to the simple joy of sipping a flat pint in sub-zero temperatures, this academic year will be one us students may struggle to forget.
For the luckiest among us, the pandemic has provided a most infinite wealth of bragging rights. From life-changing manifestations they’ve undertaken from a TikTok guru that you just must try, to their ever-blossoming, ever-improving close-knit bond they have with their equally painful siblings, the eternal optimists in our midst have come out in forces to remind us all of truly lucky we all are to be living in a global pandemic.
And as the criminally pessimistic among us may find light at the end of this sterile, socially distanced tunnel, those leaning more toward realism have maintained something of a begrudging level of acceptance throughout this pandemic, punctuated by some run-of-the-mill doom and gloom and shouting at the sky to tide you over for when the good days come.
And then for the last proportion of us – for the Facebook fiends and the Twitter commentariat – this pandemic has provided a well-needed opportunity to point fingers and engage in the age-old sport of being a tattle-tale. Blessed be the pandemic for the finger-waggers among us, who at every hiccup and hurdle of this tragic time have found, thank god above, someone else to blame.
This pandemic has provided a well-needed opportunity to point fingers and engage in the age-old sport of being a tattle-tale
While, typically, these lovable lambasters may manifest as that one aunt who’s on the periphery of the family (for good reason, you might argue) or that one Twitter user you just can’t bear to unfollow, the finger-pointer of the week has come as a surprise to many amongst us – taking the form of actual government ministers.
Now, while elected officials – who seem to forget young people actually have a vote – haven’t exactly blamed the pandemic on the student population quite yet (although commendable attempts have been made), this week’s prize for “It’s-Your-Fault bingo” landed in the lap of unemployed students in receipt of government-issued Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) – as they are completely within their right to do.
And listen, it’s not that I’m no craic at all. I get it – it makes total sense. How could we schedule in austerity when we’re so busy leaving empty cans behind at the canal or, as the anonymous minister so lovingly put it, lazing our days away “lying in bed”? Who needs a steady income when you’re livin’ la vida loca in the fifth-most expensive city to rent in in Europe? How can we even find time to worry about the sector of industry we’re most likely to be employed in being closed for the majority of the year when there’s all this social-justice warrior business for us to be debating over?
Luckily though for all of us “low-hanging fruit” (who knew politicians had such a flair for imagery) there’s been a great sense of comradery in our transgressions, as we have all managed to band together in our ploy to milk the government, by fitting the criteria laid out to us in a scheme the government themselves created.
This week’s prize for “It’s-Your-Fault bingo” landed in the lap of unemployed students in receipt of government-issued Pandemic Unemployment Payment – as they are completely within their right to do.
How cunning, how innovative, of all 37,000 of us, to not only have found the same apparent loophole in the system that has led us to such perturbing lows as claiming welfare benefits during a pandemic, but to have done so in cahoots this entire time? Now that is surely only something from our Facebook finger-pointers’ worst nightmares.
And yes, we may have made fairly reasonable complaints about the funding of mental health services within third level, or perhaps had a moan here and there about learning astrophysics from a Zoom class that buffers every 30 seconds, but lest us not forget – we did it from the comfort of our own beds, wearing our government-funded, matching sweatsuit.
Even still, the sky’s not falling just yet. While many third-level students may not be kissing their Simon Harris poster before bed every night, many still may find solace in his assurance today that there is no plan to put us “sleepy students” on the PUP chopping board any time soon. He has also blasted the comments himself, but the damage was already done.
Like any welfare system, there are always going to be accusations of unfair exploitation when it comes to free money. Yet behind all the opinionated Twitter posts, third-level students have borne the same brunt of this woeful disease as everyone else, and often in their own particularly gruelling way.
Perhaps it may be time to put that pointed-finger down during this pandemic and allow everyone some breathing room
So, whether you’re at the soaring heights of incessant optimism, down in the gutter with the realists or mid-way through another rant in the comment’s section of an Irish Times article, perhaps it may be time to put that pointed-finger down during this pandemic and allow everyone some breathing room. Very few of us can come out of this as persistently squeaky-clean rule followers, but hopefully many more can come out with a great deal more empathy for their fellow student.
If they can manage to wake up from their third daily nap, that is.