Saturday, November 10, 2012

Toilet theme park and other mini posts/links

When multiple people send me something, I have to include it. (Thanks Howie and Holly!)
South Korea recently opened a theme park/museum in memory of a past mayor, who was so concerned with good public toilets that he built his house to look like one. The park includes a bunch of statues that show people defecating in various postures, including (I think my favorite) The Thinker.


Also included in this week's list of links is a podcast from Freakonomics, in which they discuss how the French tried to take care of the rats in the sewer problems in the French quarter in Vietnam, and how they utterly failed. (It's several minutes in to the podcast.) The French attempted to kill off the rats by placing a bounty on rats. However, this made people bring in rats from the outside to collect the bounty. This sort of fear of rats coming through the toilet, incidentally, seems to speak to our fear of things coming up the down hole in the toilet. (Think of those python in the potty urban legends.)

Here's a short but interesting article on a village in India who is trying to use public shame--including drums and whistles--to stop public urination. It includes this interesting quote:
"Officials say cultural and traditional factors, a lack of education and too few toilets are the prime reasons why millions of Indians defecate in the open."
Too few toilets--very true. 1.2 million people do not have toilets in their homes in India. But "cultural and traditional factors"? I may not object to their blaming "culture" (whatever that is) if they at least went into a little bit of detail about what they mean. Unfortunately, "culture" is often used in this sort of short-hand way to obviate responsibility for poor infrastructure. Because in many cases, can you really say it's a "cultural thing" when people don't want to use latrines because they're smelly? I remember going into a public restroom in San Diego by the sea shore where there were no doors on the stalls, because I didn't feel comfortable being that exposed. This is very easily a "cultural thing" (body shame in American culture), but how often would people call it that?
Secondly, it would be interesting to examine who is shaming whom. How do other power structures--like class and caste--play into this use of shame? This is very much an example of the sort of thing that Community-Led Total Sanitation advocates--community shame used to create public health change. But is it effective in the long run, and is it ethical?

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