What happened to ‘we are all in this together?’

It must be wonderful to be perfect.

It must be wonderful to be so sanctimonious in your selfless, yet somehow simultaneously self-satisfied state of self-isolation. Well done, you. I refer, of course, to all the finger-pointers, curtain-twitchers, and craic-less covidiots out there who are making this prolonged pandemic period so fucking unbearable. To paraphrase Joe Biden: Just shut up! Take a day off, please.

For the past few weeks now, I’ve been despairing of the public mood around the virus, which is here to stay whether we like it or not. (I fucking hate it; I do not doubt that you do too). But do you know what makes the whole sorry situation worse? It’s having to listen to people who think they are better than the rest of us droning on and on about how ‘selfish’ and ‘reckless’ we are being.

Since when did living become a crime? That is, after all, what those young people were doing congregated on Spanish Arch in Galway the last night. I live in Galway, and I was a student in NUI Galway, and nights out drinking have always been par for the course in most young Irish people’s experience.

Yes, some of them were pissing in people’s gardens – and that is disgustingly inconsiderate – but a minority of students have always been liberal with the contents of their bladders. This dates back to the ’70s and ’80s too. I know because there’s usually an article on it in the local paper. Oh, I shouldn’t say it, but perhaps the annual sprinkling of university urine is a sort of leveller for those lucky enough to own their own property in prime locations like the Claddagh and Newcastle?

If the pen is mightier than the sword, god love the young wans at Spanish Arch the other day. This is a compliment to the poet.

The Students’ Unions are generally fairly quick to call fellow students out on bad behaviour, and this year’s NUIG Student Union did so very nicely, while also pointing out the fact that NUIG officials were partly to blame for this in the first place, seeing as they told students to move down to Galway to pay for campus accommodation. It doesn’t take a cynic to wonder if this wasn’t all just a plan that badly backfired on the college, and now they have the audacity to think about giving these kids’ addresses to the gardaí. UCC has been talking about expulsion, like a child throwing its toys out of the pram. I thought people who run colleges were supposed to be clever? Teenagers are too young and powerless to be the scapegoats of an anxious nation; surely the presidents of our colleges realise that.

Did they think that students tentatively starting in-person (now online, now in-person) lectures in September would just move to campus en masse and stay there self-isolating like little monks and nuns? That was never going to happen. I am 26, and I find it hard enough when I can’t socialise properly. The temptation is there to say ‘fuck the lot of them’ and get plastered – especially when you’re young n’ sweet and, er, legal to drink at eighteen.

But here’s the thing; by ‘them,’ I realise I am referring to the frontline workers – the nurses, doctors, shopkeepers, emergency services, journalists, etc. I am also referring to people who have lost loved ones through coronavirus, or who are worried about losing them. That is not my intention, nor is it the intention of the youths drinking down at Spanish Arch the other night.

I think that it can be easy for people who are at a ‘fixed’ point in their lives – maybe they have children, or they have a partner and a good job they can still do in semi-lockdown – to point the finger of blame at “young people”. It’s easy to blame us for the virus spreading. It’s easy to see us as heartless hedonists who only think of quenching our vodka-thirst and having the craic, but that is not the case.

(More of a gin girl, me.)

Human beings are social animals, and we need to socialise to survive and thrive. During lockdown, nobody was thriving, and it’s a similar state of affairs at the moment as we find ourselves dealing with a limbo-like series of restrictions, many of which don’t make sense.

Let us live, Éamon. Also, congrats on missing the point.

Sometimes I look at the likes of the politicians and the NPHET members and the rest of the self-isolation preachers, and I think they have it easy with their big jobs and their marriages and their nice houses and their children. I feel as though my life has come to a standstill. My mother correctly pointed out to my brother, (20), and I that we are lucky we are not fighting a war. Lots of us are comfortable and safe, living off our parents while we wait for this spell to be over. We love our parents and grandparents and we want them to be safe.

I might add here that youth is a state of mind; I’ve seen plenty of people of “cocooning age” rail against their new-found victim status. I applaud them, and I hope they remain unscathed. The people just getting on with life are the reason I wash my hands and wear a mask when it comes down to it. I don’t have any more patience or sympathy for the finger-pointers – no matter what age they are. In fact, sometimes I think I could be tempted into giving some of them a good lick. Just to spite them. (I swear to god it has nothing to do with my not being able to date at the minute.)

There is a sadness about the whole thing as well as rage and frustration, for me. This pandemic is dividing all of us into self-interested (if not self-isolating) groups. The employed versus the unemployed, the protocol followers versus the anti-mask nutjobs, the young versus the elderly, the sick versus the rude of health, the publicans versus the schoolchildren, the meat-plant workers versus the tourists…

What happened to us? We are not all in this together anymore. That much is clear. Perhaps we never were. Not everyone’s interests can be accounted for, and some are bound to lose out. Society is cracking before our eyes.

In a sense, we are all victims of this virus. But we are fast becoming victims of lockdown, too.

As for the rowdy students? Galway being Galway, the rain is never far away. Sure, we don’t even have to pray for it!

Declan Varley has written many editorials on student life in Galway so he knows what he’s talking about