Poop, People and Privilege

November 20, 2014

Pooing is the great equalizer. No matter who we are, where we live or how much money we have, we all do it. It's a fact. Wiping your butt tends to lend itself towards humility. My guess is that either made you laugh or a little uncomfortable. Which one?

November 19th is the UN’s world toilet day. I know it sounds funny, but is quite serious on almost every level. How is it that something so simple, important and healthy is an issue for about 2.5 billion people around the world? Access to toilets and ultimately clean hands and bums shouldn't be that hard.

Poo is a great word. It shows up in pool, poof and poor. Who knew? Having kids has reminded me of all that’s funny about fart like, scatological references. ‎Try tooting in a room in the near future and see the smiles it creates.

In the 19th century there was an entertainer in France called Le Petomane. He was a flatulist. Yes, you read that right - a professional farter. His name was Joseph Fajul. He had musicals written about him, and was a stage performer that could blow out candles from a distance merely by farting. Now that’s entertainment.

At a board meeting in Cambodia recently I quietly moved on a wooden chair and the angle of my rear end on the teak seat created a streak like noise of sorts. It sounded like I'd just let go of a pressurized doozie. I immediately had to respond to the two funny, embarrassed looks and comments from a Cambodian and Canadian across the table. You gotta say something. I back-pedaled, laughed and wondered what the Khmer translation for "He who denied it, supplied it” was. Cross cultural sensitivity indeed.

Going to the washroom several times a day in a quiet, safe and relatively peaceful environment should be a right. A human right that we should all be able to access and enjoy. There's a lot of talk right now about clean water. Without a doubt it's an important issue, but what about the other implications of the water and sanitation conversation? Clean drinking water is no good to you if you're dying from a water related disease that might have been attended to through‎ easier access to wells, washing your hands and proper sanitation.

We have a book in our washroom called: "What's your poo telling you?" It's a fun read - a comical and clinical take on maintaining healthy bowels. Important for all of us.

Thomas Crapper apparently did not invent the flush toilet, but he did do a lot to popularize its use. I know. Pretty funny. He was a plumber who worked on all things toilet related. We have plenty to thank him and his company for. I wonder who, like Tom, will take it to the next level and help spread the word about the importance of the not so present global crapper.

I'll have to ask my friend Romanea to translate the word into Cambodian. Either way I bet it will make him laugh.

David Peck

November 2014

David Peck David is the founder of SoChange, a social enterprise that, works alongside members of the corporate and NGO community in areas such as fundraising, advocacy, and donor relations.
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