Celebrating the Grand Poobah of Poop on World Toilet Day
Photo by Lauren Ishak
The distinct smell of human excrement was in the internet air today in honor of U.N. World Toilet Day. Irony of ironies, VICE waxed earnest about the event with an op-ed entitled “Today Is UN World Toilet Day — and It’s No Laughing Matter.” Elsewhere, the online conversation seemed to indicate otherwise: The global sanitation crisis seemed very much a laughing matter.
Just a few of today’s headlines that honored the global bowel movement:
- NPR urging you to “take the plunge into World Toilet Day”
- The Guardian asking whether you are “flush with knowledge” of toilet sanitation
- The Washington Post inviting you to take their “Game of Thrones” quiz
The lighthearted tone of the conversation is largely thanks to “Mr. Toilet,” 57-year-old Jack Sim who founded the World Toilet Organization (WTO) in 2001 to draw attention to the 2.5 billion people who go without proper sanitation access. Sim’s enthusiastic urgings helped prompt the United Nations General Assembly to devote a day on the calendar to the global problem last November. But Sim’s genius isn’t in policy-making as much as it is in narrative-making. In talking about toilets, he embraced the embarrassment many of us have about discussing the issue by blending comic moments with harsh facts. (In an interview published today by NPR, he says he’d like to someday work with Adam Sandler.)
The narrative shift stripped away the taboo around “dirty” disposal devices much in the way Lenny Bruce stripped away the taboo surrounding dirty words nearly a half a century ago. Obviously, the sanitation crisis is a fucking mess, but talking about that fucking mess has become a sheer delight. The world is unabashedly talking about sanitation and having fun doing so.