Category Archives: Opinion

The Big D

By Annabel Jeffery

“Not to be too deep”, but death is inevitable. We don’t know how, nor when, but it is unequivocally part of the human experience – something that nobody can escape. It is beyond race, class and gender.

Evidently, the worldwide pandemic has emphasised this more than ever: over 40,000 confirmed deaths just in the UK, with thousands more across the world, including those who have not had access to life-saving treatment for other health conditions. Multiply this and you are given the number of friends and families to be affected by this for the rest of their lives.

Yet, our society does not talk about it.

“Loss” and ” passing away” are prime examples of this, with many fearing the use of the word “death”, in particular amongst those who are grieving.

While we may talk about the death immediately after or for a few months after, inevitably life carries on, leaving friends and family members of the deceased to carry on alone, also cautious of upsetting each other.

As someone who has experienced this myself, I decided to start a poll on my Instagram in order to gain perspective on this issue.

Here, I asked my Instagram followers , ranging from the ages of 13-55, with the majority being of the teenage demographic, the following questions:

  • Would you know what to say/would you feel comfortable talking to somebody who is grieving?
  • If not, would you reach out for advice on how to talk to someone who is grieving?
  • How long would you say that the “grieving period” lasts for?
  • If you have lost someone, has it felt different to deal with during this lockdown?

The results were varied: Overall, 50% said that they felt comfortable to speak to someone who is grieving and of those who said they didn’t, 86% said that they would reach out for advice on how to talk to someone who is grieving. Considering that most people want to help, the generally well-intentioned results didn’t entirely shock me.

However, the responses to my third question were rather varied, from comments such as “A couple of weeks”, ” 1 year” and “3-4 years”; to “Forever”, ” It never ends” and “You can only learn to cope”. The general consensus I received was that it depends on the relationship between the deceased and the bereft.

Furthermore, in response to my final question, those grieving during lockdown gave comments such as: “There are no distractions from it.” and ” It hasn’t set in, it won’t until after lockdown” and many agreed that being at home where most memories are made escalated their pain.

The truth is that grief for most people, while a collective experience, is also extremely isolating and does not have an expiration date. Unfortunately, it is something that nobody tends to fully understand until they finally go through it. This does not mean, however, that it should not be talked about. It is a trauma that, in my opinion, needs to be addressed head on, now more than ever.

This social taboo does not end there. Sudden deaths, like those faced by many families during the pandemic, mean that these important discussions do not happen and many questions are left unanswered. We need people to feel that they can open up about death, even during a pandemic.

So, where does Plymouth enter into this conversation?

In October 2019, Plymouth became the first “Compassionate City” in England. According to the local hospice charity St Luke’s: “A compassionate city or community is one that recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility.”

Places such as schools and cafes have since been involved in this, with the aim of educating as many as possible about death and opening up the discussion.

Are you ready to start the conversation?

To find out more visit : https://www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/plymouth-a-compassionate-city/

Opinion: Are we living in our very own apocalypse?

By Lily Smith

As an English Literature student at Plymouth University I have the opportunity to read and study a wide variety of books and genres. We’re taught to analyse, look for the deeper meaning, examine the context. This year I’ve taken a module called ‘Apocalypse and the Modern World’ and enjoyed it so much it became a starting point for my dissertation.

Consequently, I’ve recently been reading a lot more apocalyptic texts, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The novel is set in the apocalyptic setting of the Republic of Gilead. Fertility rates have plummeted ‘past the zero line of replacement’ and so-called Handmaids (fertile women) have been placed in the homes of those deemed worthy to reproduce. I cannot recommend this book highly enough; Atwood’s writing is sublime and the topic so interesting and scarily accurate in our ever-changing political climate. Atwood’s clever style of writing gives us glimpses into the laws and ways of Gilead in which abortion has been outlawed and those who go against authority are subjected to public punishments and shaming.

Is anything sounding familiar? I’m the first to admit I’m not exactly politically minded but I don’t think the recent US abortion ban has passed many of us by. Five American states including Alabama and Georgia have recently banned abortion to some degree; removing the right for a woman to make a decision about her own body. The abortion ban is based on pro-life arguments in which the “baby’s” right to life is considered before the circumstances of the pregnancy and the wants of the woman. This has of course sparked debate on at what point a fetus should be regarded as a human life and has resulted in various bans being more or less extreme than others. Alabama is seen as having one of the most extreme bans, with doctors who perform abortions facing possible charges of 99 years of imprisonment.

Abortion was made legal in most US states in 1973 (via Roe v. Wade), meaning that abortions rights in the US have been recognised for a noticeably short time period spanning less than 50 years. Human rights group Amnesty International conducted an independent poll and found that 73% of Americans support the right to obtain an abortion and therefore disagree with the ban. This sentiment can be witnessed by many people my own age via their social media platforms.

Such widespread disapproval leads to the question: how have these laws been passed? The Washington Post suggests that abortion bans have been spurred on by evangelical supporters (who made up a majority of Trump’s election votes) and the appointment of pro-life judges. Much of Atwood’s novel hints at a religious precedent leading to its apocalyptic setting, which scarily mirrors debates within the US. Are we, therefore, living in our very own apocalypse? An apocalypse shaped by the political climate and shifts in those in positions of power and decisions.

Perhaps more importantly, we should be asking what we can do to help. Abortion is not just an issue debated in the US but discussions are taking place closer to home in Northern Ireland and across the globe. Ultimately every woman should have the freedom to make a decision about her own body. By supporting groups such as Amnesty International and the Centre for Reproductive Rights we can create a conversation, be heard and demand a response.

You can find out more about these groups here:

https://reproductiverights.org/
https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

Opinion: The More We Know

By Megan Dibben

Each day we hear about new wars, weapons and wins on every media platform available. Growing up in a society that is prone to such things is devastating. In the eyes of a teenager, a young girl who has been told we live in a big, bright, beautiful world repeatedly, these events are inexplicably disheartening.

We all soon learn, however, that with age comes understanding, and with opinion comes backlash. A protest is happening on every corner of every street defending or promoting new beliefs each day. And as days, months and years pass, we are exposed to increasingly explicit content, destroying our innocence.

But why were we ever innocent in the first place? Is it because we were children, unable to comprehend violence or anger – an emotion we all naturally experience from a very young age? Indeed, wars cannot be justified by suggesting that anger is a natural human emotion. It is common knowledge that violence should never be praised, but is hiding our children, the children of the new generation, ever going to change what they see and learn?

For example, the age range for owning gaming consoles is lowering every day. There are primary school children playing video games, which is contributing to their knowledge on conflict, even if it is fictional. So, my question is: how can we allow an eight year old to play games where the actual aim is to kill as many people as possible, but at the same time restrict them from learning about the Sudan Crisis? Surely, if they can accept the violence and gore on their screens daily, they can handle a story about real life issues in the world they live in?

It’s a completely contradictory society, especially with the debate over who should learn about conflicts and who shouldn’t. And although many may argue that children are unable to cope and will be overcome with worry if we do expose them to such content, have you ever met a fully grown adult who didn’t worry about current issues in the world? Why do you think they hide this information? Because it scares them just as much as it would scare any child.

On the other hand, perhaps exposing children to this kind of content through fictional games can be used methodically to prepare them for when they eventually do hear about real life wars and conflicts. While we are allowing them to have fun playing video games, we may also be helping them to understand that the things on their screen also happen in real life.

While the Xbox version may not be real, it’s based on real life issues. This may help reduce shock or confusion when real events are explained to them – majorly decreasing the risk of being traumatised. This may also spark an interest in learning about current issues, expanding their knowledge as they get older. This in turn may open up career options or simply help them to become activists for what they believe in. In my opinion, it is important to stand up for what you believe in – even if you are reprimanded for it.

Whichever side you choose to take, someone will have an opinion on it. But in a society of people with many different beliefs, we should not expect our children to go through life oblivious to what is happening in the world around them.

It happens too often, even carrying on into a child’s teenage years. For me and many other 15/16 year olds, we are now expected to have an opinion on politics, which is something we have never been taught about. The majority of people my age have no say in the future of our country – but what does it matter? We have no idea what is going to happen anyway because we don’t have the knowledge – not even the basics for many. From a personal opinion, I wish I knew more about the world. But, should we trust that adults are protecting us for as long as they can?

So, my final question is – should we be protected or taught?

Opinion: Scared of the Dark

By Lacey Mannell

I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the panic that sets in when you’re walking home in the dark, and the person in front of you starts to slow their pace. Perhaps they’re looking down at their phone to read a text message, or maybe it’s a ruse to get you to catch up with them, where they suddenly grab you and throw you into a van parked conveniently on the corner.

It’s like a fight or flight situation, except all you can do is carry on walking whilst your heartbeat can be felt in your fingertips.

I recently made a voting poll on Instagram, where most of my audience are teenage girls from Plymouth, asking if people are scared to walk home alone in the dark. 79% of voters on the poll said they were, 38 out of 48, with most of the voters being female.

The question is, why should people (women and teenage girls in particular) feel afraid to walk in their local area at night? Is it some societal rule that’s been hammered into them by the constant mantra of ‘stranger danger’?

I asked some of the individuals who voted in my poll why they’re afraid to walk alone in the dark, and a common theme was the fear that they’d be murdered, raped or kidnapped. A lot of this fear stemmed from news stories, and also from their own interactions.

I created another poll surrounding the idea of catcalling and being approached by strangers. 89% of people on the poll said they’d been catcalled, shouted/beeped at or talked to inappropriately on the street — that’s 41 out of 46 people, and the majority of those that voted were 16 year old girls like myself.

Now, some might feel flattered at somebody shouting about how attractive they look, but for most girls, it makes them rather uncomfortable.

This gives you an idea of why, perhaps, a lot of people are afraid to walk home in the dark. I myself have been catcalled and approached by a man on the bus when the top deck had near enough emptied. It can be quite frightening, and you usually always assume the worst possible scenarios. Maybe he’ll get off at the same stop? Maybe he’ll chase after you?

Girls just simply don’t feel safe because of the environments they’re placed in, where some individuals think it’s okay to shout at young girls when they’re just trying to walk home.

Where the news is filled with stories of missing persons, kidnappings and rapes until the reaction is no longer one of shock and disgust, but rather something that’s become familiar.

Girls should feel safe walking home in the dark, or walking the streets in general, without being catcalled. And it’s not something that can be fixed by the council nor the government, and especially not teenage girls themselves, but by individuals. The individuals who think it’s okay to behave in a disrespectful way towards women.

News flash: it’s not okay to comment on somebody’s body from your car window.

Life Hacks for Being a Student in Plymouth

By Lily Smith

We’re often told that your student years are ‘the best years of your life’, which puts a bit of pressure on students to make the most of all that university life has to offer. As a current student finishing second
year at Plymouth University, I’ve had the opportunity to properly experience Plymouth’s unique student life. Plymouth is such a lovely place to be a student with plenty of different activities on offer. It’s also a city by the sea, meaning that you get the shops and nightlife of a city with the added benefit of waterfront areas such as the Hoe and the Barbican. Here are my life hacks for first and second years at Plymouth University:

If you’re a Plymouth University 1st Year

1) Get on Facebook
Facebook is where you’ll find all the pages where freshers can connect (even before arriving here!) Plymouth University invite you to like specific Facebook pages once you have your accommodation confirmed, allowing you to find your future flatmates. This means you’ll be able to chat and get to know each other throughout the summer before moving into halls. It definitely makes that first meeting so much easier.

It’s also great to have a group chat for those ‘should I bring this?’ and ‘anyone fancy [insert freshers event here]?’ questions.

2) Over pack
I know, everything else you’ve read online has probably said the exact opposite. The last thing you need, however, is to arrive in Plymouth and realise you could have done with that thing you left behind. I’m not saying you should take a truck load, but packing that extra cushion or the fancy dress outfit that you might never wear won’t really take up that much room. The best thing about Plymouth University’s moving in process is how helpful the student ambassadors are. They helped me to carry my bags up the four flights of stairs to my new flat (I only carried my handbag!), meaning I didn’t have to worry about lugging all my stuff about.

3) Say Yes
Say yes to that cup of tea when you move in, the night out, or even be the person who suggests activities. The people you’re moving in with are more than likely going to be complete strangers, but the best way to get to know people is by spending time with them. Plymouth has so many great places to explore together. The Hoe is so beautiful and, as someone who comes from a small landlocked town, such a great place to explore with new friends.

If you’re a Plymouth University Second Year…

1) Make your new house a home
Your second year means you can move in with the friends you made from first year and create the house you want to live in. Student housing is still pretty basic but popping photos up or decorating with cushions is a great way to make it feel like your own. Plymouth has so many places to pick up house basics in a variety of prices ranging from Primark and Wilko or the slightly pricier Paperchase and Cath Kidston.

2) Manage your time
In second year, the workload increases and deadlines are often closer together. This means it’s important to get everything done on time and to a standard you are happy with. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your social life or your nights out (I’ve been out more this year), but make sure you find that hangover cure that allows you to keep going.

3) There’s still time to explore
Moving into a house usually means you’ll be in a new area of the city. This year I’ve been living in Mutley. Explore the area around you; Mutley is a popular area for student housing meaning that there is so much going on around you. For somewhere to eat, Café Sol and Hyde Park are nice and local. Central Park is also a beautiful place to visit if you need to escape the deadlines for a bit.

My overall life hack for a Plymouth Student is to make the most of the beautiful city and the surrounding area. There is so much to do and see, and it’s important to have a balance between work and social life. I’m now off to search for my own life hacks for third year, wish me luck!